New Savannah Road is typical of Augusta: two lanes of asphalt flanked by ponds and kudzu-dotted forest. On this ordinary road, FPL Food is doing something exceptional.
“I moved to Augusta in 2004, after travelling all over the world for work,” François Léger, founder and president of FPL Food, explains. Genial and high-energy, Léger’s lively accent cuts a wide swath through the din of southern drawls.
“In France, we would raise the cattle, feed them and harvest them all in the same area. Looking around, the environment in Georgia is similar to many successful cattle feeding regions I’ve seen around the world. I started to think ‘why are we not doing this here?’ So that’s what we did.”
Carrying this passion of provincial farming to Georgia, Léger has established FPL Food as Georgia’s best-kept secret: a distinctly local product of—and for—the Southeast.
As the number-one privately owned processor of fresh beef in the region, FPL Food delivers products from Georgia-born, bred, fed and processed cattle direct to regional retail and foodservice operations. And frankly, the simplicity seemed a bit crazy at the inception.
“Here in the states, industrialization has led to the beef industry being very segmented,” Léger said. “Transportation is the big thing. You raise cattle one place, then for grain, you transport them to the Midwest to be finished and processed. After all that work, you finally have product sent back.
“It’s exhausting, for the cattle and for the business. I saw the opportunity to acquire our facility in Augusta and take a more comprehensive approach. It just made sense.”
While FPL Food was making a name among retailers as a ground beef operation, Léger and his team of globally-recruited experts began perfecting the art of raising cattle in the Southeast. A constant student of best practices, he worked on developing local forage and grain-growing operations. “At its heart, it’s about the breed, the feed and the care.”
Now in its 13th year, FPL Food spans three locations and boasts a variety of Georgia-grown beef products. As the only source for cattle processing in the region, Léger has a deep commitment to continue fueling the local economy for cattlemen and the more than 700 employees at FPL Food.
“It’s really great to do so much with the tools and talent we have. I am lucky enough to have found a situation, found a place, where I can realize a dream of mine and help be part of something bigger.”