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(Retired) Meat Inspector, Specialist Three
Ricky LeBlanc stumbled into the meat inspection trade early in life as a way to support a family while pursuing his passion, horse training. While he doesn’t come from a long line of meat inspectors, his job covers some familiar ground: growing up, his family raised its own livestock to eat and even made their own boudin. As the decades progressed, Louisiana’s meat processing industry changed, and along with it Ricky’s job. When he first began inspecting in 1976, there were several custom meat processing plants in the New Iberia area where he grew up and still lives. Now, none remain. He has to drive longer distances between inspections and log more hours. Mom-and-pop boudin producers (his favorite inspection stops) are also fewer and farther between than ever before. The fault, says Ricky, is partly his own: increasingly stricter inspection codes create hardships for small operations, and many of them do not survive. Still, a few old-fashioned, family-run slaughterhouses endure. Ricky accompanied us on a visit to one of them, C. Hebert’s in Abbeville, where part of his job is to oversee the collection of blood for making blood boudin, or boudin rouge.