EDITOR's BLOG: Weathering the storm

by Lawrence Aylward
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Last month I visited New Orleans to interview several processors about the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. MEAT+POULTRY editors thought it was important to spotlight a handful of the operators and their businesses a decade after the costliest and one of the most deadly natural disasters in US history.

When I called to schedule a visit with Cody Chisesi, representing the fifth generation of his family that has operated Chisesi Brothers Meat Packing Co. in New Orleans, I told him that I couldn’t believe it had already been 10 years since the storm. Chisesi answered, “It doesn’t seem like that long.”

My comment to Chisesi was probably a stupid thing to say, which I realized after his reply. I also realized that I can’t fathom what Chisesi and others who endured Katrina actually went through. I can sympathize, but I will never be able to understand the courage and fortitude they needed to find within themselves to save their businesses and withstand the upheaval that the storm created in their personal lives.

Jay Manuel, the owner of Eagle Packing Co., located in St. Bernard Parish, lost his home and most all of his possessions in the flooding that occurred after the hurricane knocked down levee walls. While speaking to Manuel at Eagle Packing, which is located a mere 30 feet from a levee holding back the mighty Mississippi River, I was impressed by the way he has forged ahead with this life and his business.

Manuel called Hurricane Katrina and its impact a “huge inconvenience,” but he did not let it get him down for long. He plowed ahead, purchased a new home and put his life back together. He did not dwell on lost possessions; he was more concerned about the safety of his family members, including his wife and two children.

“I don’t have anything to complain about,” Manuel told me. “I didn’t lose any loved ones. Others did. Others had it a lot worse.”

In this two-part report, which begins in the September issue of Meat+Poultry and continues in October,  Manuel and other processors discuss how they weathered the storm, literally. In my book these are heroes – role models for us all. They went through something that most of us will never have to go through in life. The mettle they showed and continue to display is absolutely extraordinary.
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