Certified MBN/MBA judge here; judged too many to count (60+). Like with anything, there are good judges and not-so-good judges. However, in all of my judging, sanctioned BBQ or not, I dont recall ever a time where I saw or felt like a judge was showing some favoritism. Ever. Hasn't happened. Whether they socialized with teams or not, I've never seen even a hint of it. After judging/scoring is over, we'd THEN (and only then) discuss them. Come to find out. 90% of the time we all agreed on which one was best. The other 10% were when there were 2 great Q's at the table and they'd reverse the order of first to second. That's it.
Many of the judges also compete. Some of us, dare I say it, also compete in other
non-BBQ sanctioned competitions. Me; I'm a CASI chili guy.
Anyway, I can tell you, unless the container is marked (which is an immediate disqualification in any type of a sanctioned event), there is no way to discern one
product from another; not when sitting at the judges table.
Side note, as earlier stated, MIM/MBN also has on-site judging. Yes, I can see where
it's possible here to show favoritism, and that's one reason I dont care for that
portion of MIM/MBA. However, I can tell you, none of them have ever won a contest
as a result of their on-site scores. So, in fact, it matters not. The only way it could
matter is if you're scored WAY WAY WAY down (on-site I mean) so that your product
doesn't make it to finals table. That *could* happen technically, but again, as 3
judges judge each, and things that *stand out* are thrown out, I doubt that it's ever happened.
I now also compete, and I'll guarantee that my buddies cannot tell my Q from anyone
else's when it comes across the table.
Just my humble opinion.