Meet the ‘meat lady’
Kayla Pauwels, a Chico State agriculture student, is known as the “meat lady” among co-workers. Being the only female employee out of seven at the Chico State farm’s Meats Laboratory, Pauwels has worked at the front window two days a week selling cuts of meat harvested from the school’s supply since May. Helping customers with items like chuck roast, pork spare ribs or jalapeño cheese bratwurst, she knows her cuts. All proceeds go back to the program for student salaries and new equipment. The Meats Lab is located at the University Farm, on Nicholas Shouten Lane off Hegan Lane in south Chico.
Why are you called the “meat lady”?
My main job is to sell. So Thursday through Friday when we’re open to the public, the public is my first priority. If we’re packaging, or if I’m cutting, or if I am doing anything else, and they see someone come in the door, they yell, “Meat lady!”
What do you have to know to sell meat?
When I started working here, I didn’t know very much. I’d never worked in a place like this before. I grew up on a hog farm, so I had knowledge of hog operation, but not the meat-cutting side. Basically, the boys just threw me right in and said, “All right, here’s what you do!” I am in charge of the whole freezer, and so I organize the food, take inventory. I also have to do all the cutting and packaging and the meat identification, which is crazy. They handed me a lug of cuts and said, “OK, package these.” I didn’t know what any of them were at all. You kind of catch on really quickly.
What kind of people do you serve at the meats lab?
I have such a variety of customers. I have people who used to be vegetarians. I have older people who ask about mutton and lamb. Then, I have younger students who come in to buy ground beef and tri-tip for hanging out on the weekend and they want to barbecue. I also have regulars who come in every week.
What do you do on an average day?
I generally don’t get customers until 10 o’clock, but I have some who come right at 8. I make sure my freezers OK. I will organize it if I need to. And then, we’ll start cutting and packaging. Everything is organized by the cut. If I am not doing any cutting or packaging, I’ll go and do the laundry. It’s amazing how much laundry they go through here. Then, if we have students come in, it’s teaching them how to package.