(Retired) Meat Inspector, Specialist Three
Ricky LeBlanc stumbled onto meat inspection early in life as a way to support a family while also 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 from; they 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, there are none. This means that he must 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, there remain a few old-fashioned, family-run slaughterhouses. 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.