If you’ve driven along Highway 14 in Lake Charles, just north of E. McNeese St., you likely have seen a herd of cows idly grazing in a large pasture along the side of the road. What may surprise you is that the farm is owned by McNeese State University and the cows, as well as pigs and lambs, are all part of the education for the 400-some students in McNeese’s School of Agricultural Sciences program. This farm is the first step in the program’s Center for Advancement of Meat Production and Processing (CAMPP). From the McNeese Farm, the animals spend some time "beefing up” at Fuller Farm in Kinder, and from there they go to CAMPP’s meat processing and packaging facility in Lacassine for "harvesting.”
According to Dr. Chip LeMieux, the Lacassine facility is the only federally inspected red meat harvest facility in the state and offers several services to the community such as special orders, meat processing for private farmers, and community education through workshops, school field trips, and clinics for consumers and producers throughout the year. They are also available for tours for interested parties.
The greatest community perk of the CAMPP program is the meat market located in Room 121 of McNeese’s Gayle Hall on Ryan St. When the CAMPP Store first opened in 2012, it catered primarily to McNeese faculty. A couple years later, they opened it up to the public. They sell what they process and package at the Lacassine facility – beef, pork, and lamb. Typical cuts of meat available in the store include steaks, roasts, tenderloins, bacon, ground meats, and cubed meats for stews. Spencer Albert, a senior Ag Sciences major and CAMPP Store manager, especially recommends the steaks and ground meats, which are very lean.
Two things make CAMPP store products preferable to store bought meats, according to Albert. One, it is all locally grown and therefore extraordinarily fresh. The meats are fresh frozen and vacuum sealed to preserve taste and quality. Prices are competitive with local grocery stores. And two, there’s a sense of student pride associated with the products. Albert says once a customer tries CAMPP meats, they rarely go back to commercial meat products. "The quality of our meats is superb, bar none.”
Some area restaurant chefs have discovered CAMPP and their dining customers reap the benefits. Chef Lyle Broussard at L’Auberge’s Jack Daniel’s Bar and Grill recently got the tip from one of his local distributors. Broussard now often uses these products for his daily specials, such as Smoked Beef Ribs braised in Crying Eagle beer, Surf and Turf with New York Strip, Jack Daniel’s BBQ-Glazed Filet, and of course, Chef Lyle’s specialty, Smoked Brisket. Broussard says CAMPP meats have a "clean” taste. There are no hormones used in the process. The animals are grass fed initially, and fed grain without additives prior to harvest. Knowing the state of the art Lacassine facility is local gives Broussard confidence in their products. "You know where these cows come from. And if there are any concerns, you can go directly to the source. It’s a 10-mile drive down the road. As Lake Charles grows, we should be proud to have a facility like this so close to home.”
The CAMPP program is operated by students, with guidance and supervision from McNeese faculty. "They strive to put out the best product possible,” says LeMieux. "The fact that we can put out such a good product on the market for the community is something we are really proud of.”
For more information call the CAMPP Store at 337-475-5690. To place a special order, call the Lacassine processing facility at 1-337-588-5008.