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Lee deer processor denies claims

Boxes of processed and packaged venison are stored in a freezer at Hardwoods Deer Processing on Philema Road Wednesday afternoon. The facility has been shut down while a claim of rancid meat is investigated.

Boxes of processed and packaged venison are stored in a freezer at Hardwoods Deer Processing on Philema Road Wednesday afternoon. The facility has been shut down while a claim of rancid meat is investigated.

LEESBURG, Ga. — The owner of a local deer processing business said Wednesday he’s “done what I’m supposed to do” in an effort to get a valid business license in Lee County, and he denied a claim that “rancid meat” had hung in the cooler at the business.

Chris McLendon of Cataula, the owner of Hardwoods Deer Processing on Philema Road in Lee County, made the comments in response to an article that appeared in Wednesday’s Albany Herald.

In that article, Chief Lee County Marshal/Code Enforcement Officer Jim Wright outlined complaints against Hardwoods that led to a pair of citations against the business and sparked an investigation by the Department of Natural Resources.

“I invited you out here today to see our facility for yourself,” McLendon told a Herald reporter. “There is a smell here, but it’s not a strong, rancid smell as it was described to you. It’s a smell that’s associated with the butchering of meat. And, as you can see, there are no blowflies in here.

“We’ve spent hundreds of dollars on bleach since we opened here (in September) because one thing I’m adamant about is cleanliness. Frankly, I was kind of shocked to read what (Wright) said about our business. I wouldn’t serve my kids meat that’s bad, and I certainly wouldn’t serve anything like that to yours.”

Hardwoods was cited twice by Lee Code Enforcement — on Dec. 28 and on Monday — for operating without a valid business license, and McLendon said his failure to obtain the license was the result of a “misunderstanding.”

“I had a business license to operate in Harris County, but I was told that I would need a separate one in Lee County,” he said. “When the people from the fire department did their electrical inspection, they said they saw a couple of minor problems. I barely know how to screw in a light bulb, so I had an electrician out here to address the problems on Nov. 4.

“My electrician did everything he was told to do, and we’ve since tried several times to get them to come back out here and follow up. We haven’t heard a word from them; they haven’t returned a one of our calls.”

Lee County’s chief building inspector said Wednesday he has no record of a call from McLendon or anyone associated with Hardwoods.

“I can promise you I did not get a telephone call from them, and we did not get a call from them at this office,” Joey Davenport said. “Our response time might be delayed if we’re backed up, but the way this office operates is we return calls.

“Myself and (Lee Fire) Chief (James) Howell went out to that location personally, and we found a lot of electrical and other issues that needed attention. We told them to fix everything that was wrong and we’d come back. The guy said he had customers with meat in their cooler, and in trying to be business friendly we told him we’d give him a little more time to get things done. But it went on and on, and we pretty much felt like we were being ignored.”

Wright, who cited both McLendon and his managing partner, Joe Aldridge, said Wednesday representatives of any business are responsible for making sure it is in compliance.

“Before he even starts operating, it is his responsibility to make sure he’s done everything he needs to do,” Wright said. “He’s the one who failed to do that.”

McLendon, who works in sales, had previously opened a similar processing facility in Columbus.

“I’ve never had an issue like this before,” he said. “Frankly, I thought we’d done everything we were supposed to do. I’m not calling anyone a liar, but it seems we have a case of a ‘phantom odor’ here. I’m disappointed and really shocked by all this.”

Asked about a report that Hardwoods’ cooler had malfunctioned during the Christmas holidays, McLendon said the cooling system was not out long enough for meat to have spoiled.

“Our cooler was down for about four hours on Christmas Day,” he said. “The temperature may have gone from around 34 degrees to close to 50 in that time, but it was not long enough for the meat to have been affected.”

McLendon said he’s closed Hardwoods for the season but will keep his cooler running long enough for hunters to claim the meat they’ve left for processing.

“I’ll call everyone and remind them that their meat is ready,” he said. “If anybody’s panicked (by the report) and doesn’t pick up their meat, I’ll donate it to a food bank. I’m not going to let it go to waste.

“One thing I do plan to do, though, is take the meat we have here and get it tested, if only for my own satisfaction. I’m sure I dropped the ball by not being here a lot of the time, but I honestly believe I tried to do everything the way it should have been done. I believe a lot of this was just a case of miscommunication. I’d certainly come back here next year and re-open if we can work this out.”

McLendon and Aldridge have appearances scheduled in Lee Magistrate’s Court Feb. 7.

Comments

ObjectiveEyes 2 years, 8 months ago

I don't know Mr. McLendon, but, have had numerous encounters with the LC inspection department. They can be VERY difficult to work with...ask any construction contractor. They find one issue, you fix it. They find another, you fix it. Repeat.

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mik178 2 years, 8 months ago

I HAVE TO AGREE. LEE COUNTY CODE ENFORCEMENT IS DIFFICULT TO WORK WITH. AS FAR AS THE TAINTED MEAT GOES I THINK THAT THIS WAS A CASE WHERE THE HERALD WAS EAGER TO PRINT ASTORY EVEN WITHOUT SOLID FACTS.IF ANYBODY HAS EVER BEEN TO A MEAT PROCESSOR YOU KNOW THERE ARE A LOT OF FOUL ODORS, IT SEEMS TO ME THAT THE HERALD IS PUSHING THE ENVELOPE OF SLANDER AT THIS POINT ESPECIALLY IF IT TURNS OUT THE THE MEAT IS NOT TAINTED. MR. WRIGHT IS NOT A HEALTH INSPECTOR AND IN A CASE SUCH AS THIS I THINK IT IS RESPONSIBLE TO WAIT ON THE FINDINGS FROM THE DNR BEFORE COMMENTING. THIS JUST DOES SEEM TO BE RESPONSIBLE JOURNALISM.

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Sister_Ruby 2 years, 8 months ago

Carlton Fletcher, you had better get this story absolutely right because someone's livelihood is at stake. I would hate to think the worst.....that you have got a buddy or two out there who would profit from putting this guy out of business. Something like that could get you fired.

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The_Dude 2 years, 8 months ago

Hey sister, why don't you worry about your own job and stop telling people what they better do with theirs, especially with the insinuation you made that is likely nonsense. Unless you have some proof about motives in this situation... in that case, let's hear it.

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DoctorDorite 2 years, 8 months ago

I wonder if Mr. Wright called the Herald in ? maybe to stifle competition for the local processors ? He needs to spend a little time with a wildlife camera at the Dixie ball fields to catch the continuing problem of illegal dumpers. A little cheap technology will pay big dividens.

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bubbavet 2 years, 8 months ago

I TOLD YOU WHEN THIS FIRST CAME OUT ABOUT THE GOOD OLD BOYS. WRIGHTS NEW MAN CAME FROM DNR. GIVE THEM A UNIFORM, A BADGE AND A GUN AND WATCH OUT. SOONER OR LATER THEY ARE GOING TO SHOOT SOMEONE. REMEMBER THIS DAY.

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BULDY 2 years, 8 months ago

YA'LL ARE WRONG I LEFT MY DEER THERE OVER TWO MONTHS KEPT CALLING NOT READY. FINALLY PICK UP LAST WEEKEND SALAMI AND SAUSAGE SPOILED WENT BACK WAS TOLD I WAS NOT ONLY ONE WITH PROBLEMS WILL NOT GO BACK NEPHEW STILL HAS 2 THERE GOOD LUCK. DID STINK DEER ON FLOOR OF COOLER WERE BLACK SLIMEY LOOKING FEEL SORRY FOR BOYS WORKING THERE THEY SEEM TO BEE GOOD BOYS CAN"T SAY SAME FOR MANANGEMENT

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HeatherS 2 years, 8 months ago

" I'll call everyone and remind them that their meat is ready"...uummm...how about you call me about the deer that I dropped off with you before Thanksgiving! We have called and stopped by there trying to get our deer/meat and our cooler (that they claim not to have) and it is excuse after excuse as to why it's not ready or why we can't pick it up! We have given up!

And he claims to have no spoiled meat?? I know a guy that picked his deer up (after he had been calling and stopping by for a month trying to pick it up) and went home and immediately cooked it to make sure it was okay and it was spoiled! In my opinion, this "business" needs to be shut down!

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Amazed2 2 years, 8 months ago

Let me ask you guys above, did you take any deer to this place?? If so wouldn/t you want it too be clean?? I am not taking up for Lee County Building Inspection Dept. but the people that opened this operation did so without even obtaining a License. From what I read they only applied for a License after getting caught operating in violation and even then Lee County gave them time to bring some things into compliance. Before officially opening a business it is best to go meet with the local officials and find out. These guys just decided since it was deer meat they would open without a license. Tell you what if someone gets sick from tainted meat and suffers kidney and liver damage, etc or worse death you guys won't look so good talking about the need for a Business License and DNR Inspection. This ain't nothing to play with. WALB is the best way to get the word out. Would you want your 5 year old to eat tainted deet meat and die!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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Opinionated 2 years, 8 months ago

Having had the opportunity to work with Mr. Wright's office on code compliance issues, I can tell you that he performs his duties with the utmost professionalism. He works diligently with both sides of an issue to get a suitable resolution. The only complaints I seem to hear are from violators. As I recall, the question of sanitation issues came from the DNR officer who investigated the facility, not Mr. Wright.

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wonderbread 2 years, 8 months ago

I wonder if the deer processor was using bad well water because he was close to the closed landfill.

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