Tournament contracting and managerial ability - FFA edition

Yesterday I posted some thoughts on the book, The Meat Racket.  The book takes aim at poultry contracting, and in particular the use of tournament contracts to reward growers for performance.  People who abhor the tournament system liken it to a lottery, where only chance determines who gets bonuses and who gets penalties.

A former student read yesterday's post and passed along an interesting and highly relevant anecdote.  The student was a former high school ag teacher.  One of the jobs that comes with being an ag teacher is helping students prepare for and participate in various FFA competitions.  One of these competitions is a broiler competition.

The interesting thing about the high school FFA broiler competition is that it works very much like the Tyson contract tournament system.  All students are required to buy their chickens from the same place and grow the same number of days before competition.  Then there is a competition where there are only a handful of winners. Surely winning must be due only to luck - right?

Here's what the former FFA teacher had to say (with the school identity removed and replaced with "XXX"): 

Before grad school I taught at three different schools, one of which was XXX High School. They had a history of success in the broiler competition. My principal’s sons won grand and reserve grand in the same year! . . . Everyone registers for baby chicks. Everyone gets chicks 49 days prior to show day. Everyone has to provide feed and transportation to the show. XXX had to transport these giant birds (who seem to just look for ways to die) 4 hours while many of the [other schools] just had to drive up the road. However, the XXX High School kids (or ag teacher, principal, and dads) had figured out how to compete. They researched the ideal environment, feeds, and care. And they won. Another year before they had grand and reserve, they had 4 in the top ten, not to mention other years they won or were in the top 3. They did not get better bird; did not mix their own feed, or use drugs. Everyone in the state had access to the same feed and products and research as the people in XXX. (XXX isn’t the only program that excels; year-in and year-out it seems the same programs rotate the top spots)

Clearly, there are some difficult to measure managerial talents that help drive success in raising chickens.  How do we know this?  There is an FFA competition at the end of the year that reveals that there is a non-random component to growing successful chickens.  FFA kids know this.  So does Tyson.