L AKE CHARLES — Lane Sonnier, 45, has been cutting meat since he was 12.
After working 21 years as a butcher at a chain grocery store, Sonnier opened his own store four years ago. Sonnier’s Sausage and Boudin is now at two locations in Lake Charles — 1217 Mill St. and 1224 N. Simmons.
A normal day for Sonnier starts at 4 a.m. loading and lighting the smokehouse. Sonnier begins cutting around 5:30 a.m.
He starts with beef and moves on to pork. After lunch, he’ll cut poultry and turkey products. He concludes each day preparing sausage and boudin.
“It’s something I wanted to do all my life. I grew up in a family store, and I was raised cutting barnyard animals,” Sonnier said. “When I was 16, I was cutting meat. When I was 19, I was running the family store.”
He said after the family sold the store, he went to work for Market Basket for 21 years.
“I was ready to go back to a Mom and Pop store instead of working for a company,” Sonnier said.
From the cheaper cuts of meat to the most expensive, Sonnier said “freshness is the key.”
“A lot of your meat cutters and your big chain stores don’t know how to cut hanging beef,” Sonnier said. “Everything they get comes in a box, and all they have to do is slice it.”
He said hanging meat is fresher.
“I’ve actually gotten a side of beef that was killed two days before — that’s fresh,” he said.
The “local butcher” is becoming a thing of the past, Sonnier said.
“It is definitely a dying trade,” he said. “The younger generation that is getting into my field won’t have it much longer.”
He said what scares him most about the industry is that hanging meat will “eventually be a thing of the past.”
“Everything is going to boxed beef because the industry is pushing toward boxed beef,” he said. “The only hanging beef will be at the main factories or processing plants. Everything will be broken down and vacuum packed and put in boxes and shipped to larger retailers.”
Sonnier gets his meat from Eunice and Opelousas. Sonnier said he takes pride in the fact that all of his meat is “Louisiana grown.”
“My customers like knowing that everything I buy and sell is from here,” he said.
Sonnier said he will not do any shortcuts and will stick with his old-fashioned way of being a butcher.
“Old fashioned ways — that’s what sets me apart,” he said. “If I’m not going to eat it I’m not going to sell it.”
If it smells like it has chemicals in it, then it probably does, Sonnier said. He said a lot of boxed meat has amino acids, steroids and preservatives.
“All of those preservatives can’t be good for you,” he said. “I’ve seen chickens with breast cancer. I’ve seen pigs with lymph node cancer. It is the way mass production of animals is being done these days.”
Sonnier said his favorite aspect of his business is working for himself.
“I love not being a number anymore, and I treat all of my employees like family,” he said. “I can do more for the public as an independent business owner than I could working for a chain company. I’m not stuck inside of a box.”