Rancho Recall: The End of Sonoma County Beef?

This isn't okay, folks.

Racho Meats in Petaluma
Racho Meats in Petaluma
Rancho Meats in Petaluma

(This article was written on Feb. 10, just as the news of the recall was hitting the national press. I wrote this piece to inform people of what we knew at the time — which was very little. I hope you’ll continue to follow the Press Democrat’s great reporting on the Rancho recall here…)


The headlines are terrifying: 8.7 Million Pounds of Possibly Diseased Meat Recalled.

Petaluma’s Rancho Feeding Corp. is under fire after two recalls, the latest involving millions of pounds of “possibly diseased meat” according to the US Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS). It received one of the most serious warnings, a Class 1 Recall, a health hazard situation where there is a reasonable probability that the use of the product will cause serious, adverse health consequences or death.

But here’s the thing…no one is saying the meat actually was diseased. And no one has reported any illnesses from the beef, most of which has already been sold and consumed according to producers.

The issue at hand is that the meat “did not receive a full inspection” from a USDA inspector  It didn’t get a stamp of approval from the USDA. For a year.

“We suffered through this a month ago,” said Tara Smith, owner of Tara Firma Farms in Petaluma, describing the recall of 40,000 pounds of Rancho beef in January. Smith was among the producers directly affected, losing about $8,000 of beef which she claims was organically raised and processed according to proper health and safety procedures.

“The USDA guy practically lives there. He has to be there whenever processing is going on,” said Smith. “If there was a sick cow that showed up, they would turn it away,” she added. “There should have been no recall,” she added, saying the media hype is not only unfair to Rancho, but to the many producers who now have to inform their customers of the recall affecting more than a year’s worth of meat.

She also clarifies that the meat in question wasn’t hamburger or steaks, but offal and carcasses. Meaning you probably didn’t cook any of the meat in question on your barbecue last summer. So don’t freak out. (Here is a list of retailers who carried the meat).

Worst case scenario? We lose the last USDA-certified beef processing plant in the Bay Area (we’ve already lost chicken processing), leaving many local ranchers with no choice but to haul their animals several hours away–stressing the animals, creating higher carbon footprints and crippling extra costs for artisan meat producers throughout the North Bay and beyond.

“This isn’t going to kill the [locally sourced meat] movement we have going on, but its a massive inconvenience and could put some people out of business,” said Adam Parks of Victorian Farmstead Meats, based in Sebastopol. Parks sells chicken, pork and beef from his own farm and other local producers.

Parks is among several local beef purveyors who used Rancho’s facility for “custom cut” (small scale client who can specify how the meat is butchered) and will now have to recall all of the meat they’ve sold in the past year. “Honestly 99 percent of that meat has already been consumed and no one ever got sick. But I’ll have to find the bar codes for all of the beef sold in the past year and contact all of our customers. That kind of paperwork puts a lot of stress on small producers,” Parks said.

Though there’s not yet any official accounting for what amount of the 8.7 million pounds of recalled meats is still in existence, Parks estimates that only about 100,000 pounds of meat sold between Jan. 1, 2013 and Jan. 7, 2014 (the official dates of the recall) havn’t yet been eaten. “It’s a big shock value to say 8.7 million pounds but the vast majority of that beef has been consumed,” he said.

As to exactly what might have happened, Parks echoes other local producers who say the facility was clean, had a vet on staff to monitor the welfare of animals and was family-run operation with deep roots in the community. “These folks are family friends. This isn’t a factory farm, this is a local business,” said Parks. “Did they make mistakes? I’m sure that they did. Its’ impossible to wade through all the stuff the USDA requires.”

“It seems politically motivated. It seems like the USDA is saying to Rancho, ‘We want you out of business’,” said Parks.

Whether the recall will affect his customers’ confidence, Parks says he isn’t worried. “My commitment as the owner of Victorian Farmstead Meats is to my customers. If I say the meat is good, it’s good. If I way it’s well slaughtered, it is. The bottom line is that I’m confident about my meat,” Parks said.

With a dearth of USDA inspectors this situation seems almost inevitable. The USDA’s own 2013 report regarding pig processing states that “some inspectors performed insufficient post-mortem and sanitation inspections, its programs lacked sufficient oversight and the FSIS could not always ensure “humane handling” at slaughter plants. Producers say USDA inspectors were always present during processing at Rancho, leaving the question as to exactly what wasn’t inspected.

Rancho owner Jesse “Babe” Amaral has not spoken to reporters about the closure, but Smith, who said she has spoken at length to him, claims he doesn’t even know why the USDA is doing the recall and has not received any official documentation with details of the alleged transgressions and how they might be rectified.

“I don’t believe the USDA is here to help us as farmers. They push a set of procedures that make food efficient, regardless of all the other things that matter: The nutrition of the food, the land, the life of the animal,” said Smith.  “As family farms, we’re not able to turn the tide on this,” she said.

Let’s hope a solution comes soon, because as one of the world’s leaders in local, sustainably and humanely raised food, Sonoma County MUST continue to have a way to process meat in a financially stable, environmentally sane way.

So is Rancho off the hook?  The Rancho meat processed in the last year may have been unfit for human consumption. But so far, we don’t know whether it was a clerical error by the USDA or something more worrisome. We just don’t know.

What I’m saying is that unless people have been sickened and/or there is concrete evidence of grave unsanitary or humane practices (which have not come to light), it isn’t to our benefit to jump to conclusions and cheer the closure of our last local beef processor.

Because if Rancho closes, expect your local meats to be, well, not so local. And some small, artisan beef producers to be, well, out of business. And what little local beef processing remains to either go underground and be non-USDA approved (frankly, I trust local ranchers more than large-scale corporations) or become so prohibitively expensive that factory-farmed meats from far flung countries will start looking pretty darn good.

At least that’s how I see it. What’s your take?

USDA: The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), also known as the Agriculture Department, is the U.S. federal executive department responsible for developing and executing government policies that will help farming, agriculture, forestry, and food communities thrive. It’s overall goals are to meet the needs of farmers and ranchers, promote agricultural trade and production, work to assure food safety, improve nutrition and health by providing food assistance and nutrition education, and protect natural resources, and foster rural communities. (source)

FSIS: The Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) is the public health agency in the U.S. Department of Agriculture responsible for ensuring that the nation’s commercial supply of meat, poultry, and egg products is safe, wholesome, and correctly labeled and packaged.

FDA: The Food and Drug Administration (FDA or USFDA) is an agency of the United States Department of Health and Human Services – which is one of the United States federal executive departments. The FDA is responsible for protecting and promoting public health through the regulation and supervision of food safety, tobacco products, dietary supplements, prescription and over-the-counter medicine, vaccines, biopharmaceuticals, blood transfusions, medical devices, electromagnetic radiation emitting devices (ERED), and veterinary products. The FDA also enforces other laws, including sanitation requirements on interstate travel and control of disease on products ranging from certain household pets to sperm donation for assisted reproduction. (source)

NACMPI: Established in 1971, the National Advisory Committee on Meat and Poultry Inspection (NACMPI) advises the Secretary of Agriculture on matters affecting federal and state inspection program activities.


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110 thoughts on “Rancho Recall: The End of Sonoma County Beef?

  1. hi!,I really like your writing so much! share we communicate more about your post on AOL?
    I require a specialist in this area to resolve my problem.
    May be that’s you! Having a look forward to see you.

    1. Read it. Sorry, but what is “It is pretty clear that carcasses went out without the stamp or inspection” based on. From what I’m reading, you have a FSIS inspector accusing a USDA Vet of giving the stamp of approval unjustifiably, but the stamp was given none-the-less. Really, I’d like to know the premise of this conclusion. I’d also like to know what you propose doing with the local culled dairy cows if Rancho could/should only process custom kill. Send the culls, and just the old, sick, and lame, on a long road trip the Central Valley, exasternating their anguish? Why?!! You make no sense. Maybe we should have a Culled Cow Cemetary sponsored by Open Space District.

      Stand by the industry Adam, not just your piece.

      1. exasternating??? I tried to look it up, but it doesn’t seem to exist. You know why there hasn’t been a single comment in any article from a local dairy farmer? Most of them take their cows to the auction yard to get a better price! I know because I actually talked to some of them. Rancho was a place of last resort. What percentage of dairy cows killed at Rancho came from the county (feel free to add in Marin, Napa and Mendo if you want)? Go ahead, take a guess genius! Hey Nancy…SHHHHHHH.

  2. Heather, thank you so much for putting out perhaps the most comprehensive assessment of the situation I have yet seen. I just want to add that people need to also understand that the USDA and FSIS will NEVER assume food which they have not inspected to be “safe,” even though it very well may be. It’s a “guilty until proven innocent” model, which is generally a good thing in terms of public health and safety, but bad in situations like this where fear mongering is being used to cover the Fed’s ineptitude; a red herring/smoke screen that gets people like our friend “Nikki” here running amuck with “opinions” based on inaccurate information and ill-informed conclusions. (And Nikki, I would LOVE to know what your family’s meat and butchering business was called and when/where they operated, because frankly, I think your lying!) I’d also like to know what you propose doing with all the culled dairy cows, many of whom are perfectly sound, just older and not producing yield, if not processing them to be made into Hot Pockets?! Frankly, I feel better about Hot Pockets knowing they’re using meat from our Clover Stornetta and Organic Valley dairy producers vs Land O’ Lakes and Lucerne from the Central Valley. We know what our dairymen feed and how they treat their animals. But you say “ground beef made from old dairy cows,” everyone turns up their noses and assumes illness and disease. Ranchers need to cull those who don’t take to reproducing (that’s how we get milk BTW, Nikki), or produce low yield, or get lame from getting caught in fence trying to eat the grass (which is never greener) on the other side, or they need to reduce their herd due to feed vs milk prices…. there are a hundred reasons why dairy cows get processed. It’s not always because the are sick, lame, or diseased. However, the inspection processes would have you assume the worst, justifying their presence and judgement.

    Another thought…. Ranchers (and i’m not talking to distributers posing as “ranchers”… i mean Ranchers) BEWARE! Know your history on Petaluma Poultry and Fulton Valley Farms before assuming that Marin Sun Farm’s purchase of Rancho is a great thing. Already having an established vertical integrated corporation, I predict that within 10 years, local, small, and/or emerging producers will find themselves unable to access the facility without being a contracted producer for MSF. (Just like what happened to the chicken industry around here.) Then, the plant will be sold for big $$ to the likes of Coleman Natural or Whole Foods. Mark my words! Good luck out there!!

  3. Uh oh….It looks like your shoddy reporting is going to bite club you in the butt. The Chronicle is reporting Rancho was processing cows with cancer. Chopping off their heads so the eye cancer couldn’t be detected.

    This, folks, is why you don’t want a blogger as your primary source on actual news stories. Yeah, they write quick and compelling stories. They get it out first. And boy do they rile us up! They demand real justice! And then we all grab our pitchforks and torches to hunt down the object of their scorn.
    But guess what? Real reporting, that leads to actual accountability, takes time. Not just a few phone calls to your friends in the gourmet food industry. Leave the reporting to reporters, and let the bloggers blog about wine specials, restaurant openings, and their favorite local chefs.

    1. Well there, Johnny-on-the-spot. You should have reported that “Rancho WAS PROCESSING cows with cancer,” but rather, that’s the most recent development in the anonymous “ACCUSATION!” Let’s get YOUR reporting on the report right before you start chucking your stones at bloggers! As I said before, in food-safety protocol product is assumed tainted unless approved to be otherwise. BUT, in a court of LAW, we are still suppose to be innocent until PROVEN guilty. I’m not saying Rancho did (as you wrote) or didn’t do this, I’m saying this is the most recent ALLEGATION made by a single disgruntled employee. And do keep in mind a few things 1) heads are ALWAYS cut off. To say it was to HIDE evidence of wrong-doing or disease is still a presumptuous allegation. 2) even in a custom kill, heads don’t directly correlate with bodies. Take in 10 cows, you get back 10 heads and 10 bodies, all of which are yours. But which head goes with which body, you won’t know unless you correlated ear tags and branding which is essentially never done. So to say they “cut off the heads so they can put the carcass back into processing” is misleading and again, presumptuous. 3) Cancer of the eye does not equal “tainted carcass.” Yes that cancer could have spread, but that would have been seen in the carcass, kidneys, and most notably the liver, and rejected IF the cow wasn’t already rejected on site inspection. Just like a cow with mastitis (a very common “disease”) makes a perfectly acceptable chuck roast! The quality of the titties rarely have anything to do with the quality of the shoulder. Be VERY VERY CAREFUL to misrepresent failure by the Feds and the allegations of 1 (NOT MULTIPLE- ONE!) as covert misconduct by Rancho.

      Hope this helps to clarify the “reporting.” FYI, I’ve been on a kill floor a few times in my life.

      1. Thanks Nancy. I do feel like folks who have been in the “biz” have a much clearer view of the process, and things that might horrify or confuse the average consumer are everyday practices (for good or bad) among those in the processing industry, and are better in context.

        I mean, you say, “cancerous eyeballs” and “cow heads” and people go nuts. I really don’t think most people have any CLUE what happens before they pick up their ground chuck at Safeway. You eat it, you better get real about how it got to your table.

        Also, as you pointed out, there is a difference between ranchers who shepherd the process from birth to processing and those who work with other ranchers to market their meat. However, I will say that especially in the case of Victorian Farmstead, Adam has personal relationships with the ranchers and both knows and understands the process, works directly with the ranchers and their animals, and most importantly, stands by all of the products he sells with conviction.

        What’s tragic is that it is impossible (as I know you know) for a family ranch to sustainably raise, humanely kill onsite and sell their product to the public legally. That would be the best of all worlds in my mind. There are some incredible meat producers in the county who do all of that, but only sell on the black market because they can’t get USDA certification (and really, does it make you feel any better these days to have a USDA stamp?) I’d rather buy my meat from someone I know and trust.

        I don’t know the answer here. I just know that there are really good people out there fighting an uphill battle to make the food we all eat better. Most are barely hanging on, and need our support rather than condemnation before we know the details.

        1. Indeed, I know Adam has familiarized himself with the process and has close relations with those from whom he buys. I’ve seen him at the butchering facilities conducting a very good business. And you and Adam know I’m not saying anything I haven’t been saying for the past several years, and to Adam himself. He knows very well my thoughts and opinions. Yet, as of two weeks ago, no “Stemple Creek, Langley Farms, or Cornet Lamb” is posted ANYWHERE near his butcher counter. I walked in with an author writing a book on our story, showing her the “inside” to “artisan ranching/farming” and she concurred; to the average unknowing customer like herself, you had every reason to believe that Victorian Farmstead was THE farm and all this meat came from THAT farm- why? Because there was absolutely no labeling or literature to tell you otherwise. I then told her “watch this”… “Where’s your pork from?” knowing damn well myself. The poor kid responded,”Actually, I’m not really sure, but all our meat comes from within a 25 mile radius.” Maybe if there had been actual labeling or literature, like what you’d find at Oliver’s, Whole Foods, Bi-Rite, shoot…. even SAFEWAY for Christ Sake, the poor kid would have known as much as me, which would have been impressively more than the customer I brought him. After two years of buying Pete’s pigs and Chris lamb, you’d think VF’s website could say more than description “coming soon?” You’d think when he writes the price on the placard in the meat case he could also write “Stemple Creek Rib Eye?” I know these guys and I know they don’t give a damn if their name is up there or not- not as long as the supply and demand chain is working. But it’s for the CONSUMERS!! To educate the ignoramuses out there who want the perfect organic, GMO-free, pasture-raised, humanely-raised, antibiotic/hormone free, locally raised and processed pork chop at a “reasonable” price, what exactly it takes, how many cogs HAVE to be in the wheel, in order for that to exist- let alone getting all your meat and poultry options from one place. I DID DO IT. Yes, I know what it takes. It’s about setting REASONABLE expectations for the passionate but ignorant consumer and I think Adam could do a much better job at that, starting with- not being misrepresented as THE rancher. When the pigs bust through the door, it’s Pete that fixes it. When the cow is having trouble dropping her calf, it’s Loren with his hand up her uterus. When the sheep has a prolapsed rectum, it’s Chris that has to put a piece of pipe in its ass and puts a band around what’s hanging out in hopes that’ll fall off. They send their meat to the slaughterhouse in their trailers with their trucks, and Adam sells it once it makes it’s way back to Golden Gate. THAT’S the REALITY. Just paint a REAL picture so that consumers can have REALISTIC expectations. That’s all I’ve ever asked of Adam. Stand by being the guy who has a good relationship with those whom you buy from. Being THAT guy IS IMPORTANT and I support you in it.

          1. Sorry Heather, I tried…

            Wow, such vitriol Nancy! You should at least properly introduce yourself…Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you Nancy Preblich (sp?) of the former Gleason Ranch). Nancy, you have now proven yourself a liar AND a failure. It’s too bad because your passion, properly used, could be valuable to those of us that actually have a business in this industry and you could be a great advocate. You have great historical knowledge of our region and if it wasn’t for your propensity to tear down those that are succeeding where you failed, people would see you as an asset rather than a sad punchline. As anyone who has been to my shop will tell you, since early January there has been a 6’x4’ sign on the wall that not only tells my customers what rancher’s meat are in my case, but it changes if the ranch changes. It doesn’t change very often because I only use a few select ranches that I know and trust. You are right that my website is outdated (that is actually the only place you have been) and shame on me for that. Check it out next week as the new site we have been working on for several months will launch. There is zero chance you had that conversation two weeks ago. Here is why: two weeks ago you or your “author” friend would have spoken to only one of two people, me or Ian. Either way, either one of us would have leaped at the question “where does your pork come from?” How do I know that? It is our favorite story…you see Pete goes to Lagunitas and Redwood 101 Brewing Companies each week and collects their brewers grains to feed the hogs. Can you dream up a cooler story than that??? Do you think that anyone that works for me for more than 5 minutes doesn’t know that??? I’m so tired of you blathering on about the fact that I buy animals from other ranches and sell them. Here’s a news flash Nancy….EVERYONE KNOWS! I don’t hide it. Never have, never will. I know, I don’t raise everything myself so that makes me less of a rancher. How did that work out for you, by the way??? Stop hating the fact that I have a farm AND a business that works and spend your time advocating for what is important. You could be such an asset to our community instead of only getting 60% there (don’t worry, it will come to you later).
            Now, what is the truth? Let me state this very clearly….I DO NOT raise 90% of the meat I sell! Never said I did. I take responsibility for 100% of the meat I sell. It is really clearly highlighted at my shop. I absolutely went to Nancy and Cindy several years ago and asked if they wanted to raise pigs for me, and it was because pigs “are a pain in the ass!”. They declined, no big deal. The rest of your stories are crap. Never sold a Felton Acres/Green Star Chicken as my own, ever (feel free to ask Mark or Sarah). I did use Mark’s harvest rig for a long time, so maybe that is where you’re confused. I don’t have a single production animal on my Christmas tree farm. All the animals there are my wife’s for school tours/field trips. By the way, they are all rare breeds she is propagating to help continue the heritage breed. The black pigs you can see from Mill Station Road (you know Nancy, where you used to pull over and park to count my chicken tractors to see if I was raising everything I was selling?) are a pure bred pair of African Guinea Hogs. I do manage 20 acres up the road where my chickens are pastured. Do you want that address so you can check it out? I normally don’t get involved in the inane ramblings of the crazy people that haunt these comment sections, but I can only take so much. My history stands on its own. Nancy, you should worry about your own legacy.

    2. John, if we should leave the reporting to the reporters then perhaps we should leave the coments section to those who actually read the article. If you had read it you would have noticed the parts about not jumping to conclusions before all of the information has come out. You read the headline and then grabbed your pitchfork didn’t you?

      1. I’m used to trolls not reading article and then waving their little fists around like idiots. Kinda reflects on them, not me.

        The REAL story about why I wrote this piece almost two weeks ago? The local and national news weren’t covering the story of local producers being screwed in this process. All people saw was the recall information and a lot of panic. No information had been released other than the recalls and I asked that people support their local producers and know the accurate details before panicking and killing our great local meat producers.

        I felt it was important to have a conversation. And to let people know there was more to the story. I worked closely with the news reporters to get as much information as quickly as possible about Rancho and the “custom kill” producers.

        It was my personal mission to make sure that the story didn’t die with the scare tactics. As you’ll probably notice, not many national news sources have kept up with the details (although I suspect the “cancer heads” will get some renewed interest).

        There have been many, many allegations of what happened. NOTHING has been proven yet. I’m NOT here to misrepresent anyone, but what I’ve called for is accurate and balanced reporting. I’m proud of what the Press Democrat has done (for the record, i am NOT a newsroom reporter, I am a blogger, and I don’t pretend to be anything else, although I do occasionally write pieces for the paper).

        If Rancho did do what has been alleged, then there needs to be clear accountability. I am glad to know that Marin Sun Farms may take over the operation for custom kill, which I have a lot of faith in.

        We all need to keep following this story, use our brains and support the good practices of responsible meat producers.

  4. I’m not surprised there was animal abuse reported. Now what? I guess if you are going to eat locally grass fed beef, you are going to have to accept the fact that the animals were potentially frightened, harmed, and physically abused before that meat was placed in front of you. There is no getting around it. I bet you anything that female inspector had sleepless nights and will be haunted by what she saw. I’m glad there is a criminal inspection and there should be stiff penalties for employees that threatened her or dissuaded her from reporting.

    1. I think, unfortunately, that was what small local producers were trying to avoid. By not having to transport them long distances, raising the beef locally on ranches rather than in crowded, abusive situations and by having a personal stake in making sure the meat is well-processed, the idea is to have a more humane treatment of the animals.

      Yes, when we eat meat, we have to take into account that an animal was killed. Probably in a way that isn’t easy to see. Death is a brutal thing.

      But by supporting producers who take care in their animals, the process is far less inhumane.

      What happened at Rancho is unfortunate, and we still don’t have all the details. But it appears that it was the dairy cattle that were questionably processed rather than the custom kill animals.

      1. Yes, it unfortunate that a cow was hooked and still conscious and bolted repeatedly and a baby cow was sprayed in the nostrils so it would submit to being killed. You are right Heather this is what you are participating in when you eat meat. When we now know without a doubt that animals have the same emotional intelligence as us that is they feel pain, grieve, bond, etc at the same level and in some cases deeper than us, this is an not only “unfortunate” . It is tragic and hits you in the gut with full force, By the way Heather you do have details, you have a report from a female inspector who was an eyewitness to the abuse.

  5. 286,000 Hot Pockets recalled by Nestle after one of their distributors confirms their meat was processed through Rancho. And you call yourself local?? “Local” means “Not IN business with BIG business”. I don’t buy for one second that Rancho was unaware of the primary funders of their larger clients. This is a pretty weak claim to “local” status. You’re funded by the same idiots you’re condemning which makes you a vital cog in the whole corrupt wheel. Stop pretending to be something you’re not.

  6. I had meat that I had to turn in for this recall. Thank you for helping me understand the absurdity of this recall. What can we do to save this local business? Is someone mobilizing against the USDA action?

  7. Prion disease takes years before it turns your brain to mush and kills you… the fact that no one is ill yet is meaningless. Look at the UK’s experience with mad cow disease… people were dying a horrible death from it many years after the diseased animals entered the food supply. This article was written by an ignorant/uninformed person.

    1. I want justice. Tell me everything! The people of the United States deserve to know the truth! Isn’t that what America was founded on? The truth? We didn’t come here to get lies thrown in our face! We came here for truth, freedom and equality! So give us our freedom, our truth and our equality! If the government can be truthful about MEAT, how can we trust them about anything else? Chew on that.

    2. “…the fact that no one is ill yet is meaningless. Look at the UK’s experience with mad cow disease…”

      Has there been so much as an allegation that mad cow disease was involved?

  8. The human varation of Mad Cow has an incubation period of years, so if that’s the issue here that would explain why no one has gotten sick.

    1. Really?? Mad cow is from cows eating cows. It is impossible to have Mad cow in meat from cows that are organically raised and eat what they are supposed to eat…grass. If you want to worry about future health problems go ahead and eat conventional beef that is loaded with glyphosate (Roundup), antibiotics, e-coli, and are still fed beef fat along with grains and finished in deplorably unsanitary conditions.

      1. Incorrect. Creutzfeldt-Jakob variant is the human form of Mad Cow (bovine spongiform encephalopathy). BSE is believed (and it does) to cause CJvD in humans.

  9. It’s karma. . People who get rich off of having others kill innocent animals. Talk about slaughtering them like they are just a piece of nothing. This my friends, is just the beginning.

    1. Theresa , Karma? innocent animals? Karma no! innocent animals well maybe ,but this has been going on for eons. God provided us with all things to keep us fed either the fish in the sea birds in the air, and the animals that provide milk and meat. Read the Bible you might have a better picture of life

  10. Does this sound anything like the Drakes Bay Oyster farm and BIG GOVERNMENT? These people have too much time on their hands. Het, I know where there is a 10 year olds lemonade stand you might want to investigate!

    1. We should all contact our representatives and demand accountability for this. To me it is outrageous that the the USDA can say “we screwed up our inspection (we aren’t going to say how) and because of it you small meat producers must suffer financial hardship”.

      1. Welcome to the new america sold out to world multi national corporations. George Washington is dead.
        We the People are we the peons, slaves of a tyrannical system of endless greed.

        REPRESENTATIVES? We have taxation without representation. We are not represented unless we are a huge corporation.

        When was the last time any government told the truth?

        OUTRAGEOUS IT IS. Contact your BS representative. See where it goes. File 13 by some low paid clerk that barely speaks English.

        You think “they” care about suffering? They CREATE SUFFERING.
        Hope and Change has exponentially eroded many many more of your “rights.”
        Your food supply can be confiscated, your home sold for eminent domain after you are arrested and disposed of. Representatives? Represent yourself and loved ones.

  11. Classic FUD. Fear-Uncertainty-Doubt. The powers that be take actions releasing too little information but sensationalizing it for maximum impact. Sadly they kill off small farmers and small local butchers in the process. The Press Release from the USDA is devoid of sufficient information to actually know what they’re talking about.

    1. Indeed, “The Press Release from the USDA is devoid of sufficient information to actually know what they’re talking about.”

      It follows that many of the commenters here don’t know what they’re talking about; and their comments at this time are idle speculation.

  12. Any further trolling or flame wars will be deleted. Fair warning. This just depresses the hell out of me. Respect opinions that aren’t your own or keep your nastiness to yourself. Period

    1. Holier than thou commenters have no shame. “They” are above civil communication as “controllers.” As a retired police officer…I loved to arrest the “chosen” people.

      Certainly is a welcome note for Geoff to TELL US what to say and when to say it.

  13. This is ridiculous. USDA inspections seem to be more about fee collection and control of the food supply than about food safety.

    1. I agree 100% It’s always about money.
      They let us eat GMO’s…It has nothing to do with safety.

    2. USDA,FDA Permits/OK’S endless toxins in our food supply….Aspartame, SUGAR, lethal %ages of round up, fluoride in the water supply, mercury,mighty fine for tooth fillings. GMO…YES!

      Thousands of highly toxic pharmaceutical drugs that cause a litany of worse diseases than the ones they are supposedly addressing.

      Labeling NO! Easy to write volumes on our governmental agencies runs by/headed by past CEO’s of horrid mega corporations. Nestles, Burger King (Head of USDA) was CEO of Burger King!

      Laughable if it weren’t genocide on the masses for unimaginable profits. Precisely what it is.

      Go to any Sams’s or Walmarts or Costco’s and study what the drones put in their carts.
      They pack their mouth’s with Dempsy Dumpster’s full of toxic waste that “tastes good!” Most are obese. Sickening to view. Cast personal responsibility OFF as a paid job for others.

      Scary, very, very scary. Need no Hollywood Movie to watch the Zombies shopping for their next “Degenerative Disease.” OH, Tastes So Good…I will eat the entire box full and buy more tomorrow.

      That next ambulance siren you hear may be coming for a neighbor near you that has “O DEED DEAD,” via coronary on Durittos and diet cola. Sickest country on earth…American’s.

      Consume 80 % of the Vicodin! Health in a pill. Feel no pain now…time for a six pack of Budweiser.

      Horrid the abuses in the name of the USDA, FDA etc. Unimaginable terror in a Factory Farm Slaughter house. Innumerable toxins are the order of the day to prepare beef, sick beef full of stress, growth hormones, antibiotics…veritable cocktails to get the beef to the uneducated public. Market it as “Natural” & “Nutritious.” Feed it to your children. Sure, have another helping wanna be NFL Star that gets paid big money to advertise “Happy Meals” for McDonald’s. Train wreck ahead….WARNING, WARNING, WARNING

      As I give a heads up now and then…I sit back and watch the misery unfold. Statistics do not lie if the government does not recite them. “They” (US Government) is so very far over their heads….scrambling for the dollar, they never see the sun rise and set. They see $$$.

      This is ridiculous. USDA or FDA may well be NAZI CONTROL…Fascism, the new america.

  14. Has anyone contacted the Farm To Consumer Legal Defense Fund about this one??? They serve as legal advisors to small, local producers and have been successful when it sometimes looks like a one-sided government shut-down. Food freedom is where it’s at!!!

  15. Why would you have to go out of business?? This should be used as an opportunity to go back to a small, local producer, with quality product that isn’t packed with hormones and steroids needed to produce enough meat to satisfy the government’s demand. This should be looked at as a GOOD thing. You’re reputation will be healed because you’ll be able to focus your efforts on quality food that WON’T kill people. The USDA and the FDA has ruined their own repoutation, and sooner than later, people are going to demand better. The only way to get better is to shop local and support natural. The animals don’t deserve to be tortured and the consumers don’t deserve a product with unpassable byproducts that cause obesity, illness and death. Use this as an opportunity to start a new movement away from government-funded farming and slaughterhouses.

    1. Sorry, but you are utterly clueless. This facility DID serve the kind of smaller local producers of quality products are not “packed with hormones and steroids” you purport to be supporting. This was not a “government-funded slaughterhouse” and there was no “government-funded farming” involved here. Your comments show that you actually know NOTHING about the particular situation involved in this story and nothing about meat production in general or local meat/food production in particular.

      1. 8.7 million pounds of meat is not local. And I didn’t say they were government funded. I said this could be used as an opportunity to move away from that. Read and comprehend before you try to insult people. I was trying to send a good message that this is a chance to make a big impact on changing the path our country is heading down. But arguing with people like you who prefer to spread negativity towards others instead of focusing on the bigger issue is a wasted effort.

          1. It’s impossible for an opinion to be misinformation. Maybe that’s your problem. You don’t accept other opinions. You simply resort to name-calling and insults. Which is why there’s no point in debating this with you. The only facts are that 8.7 million pounds of meat were recalled, and the government organizations “monitoring” this production have lost all relevance. I live in a local farming market. Everything is on a much smaller scale and we all do perfectly fine, so I speak out of the understanding AND KNOWLEDGE that it’s possible to be successful on a small scale. And if we want our country to go back to any standard of food quality, that’s a BIG solution. The only reason to grow to that size is because they want to make the most money, which there’s nothing wrong with if that’s what you care about. And you may be ok for substituting quality for profit, but I’m not.

        1. Nikki, that would be a slaughter rate of about 280 head of cattle per week (assuming the 8.7 million lbs is one year’s worth at 600 lbs of salable meat per head).

          Roughly 8,700,000 divided by 600 divided by 52.

          Not a lot by industrial slaughter standards as some can slaughter up to 400 head per hour.

          They are by all definition a small local business.

          1. Did they say that was an annual number? I didn’t see that specified, and since they just underwent scrutiny a couple months back, my assumption was that this 8.7 million pounds recall was on product released over weeks and months, not months and years. That’s a very different number.

          2. Yes, it was clearly stated that the recall was for Jan 2013 to Jan 2014, a year’s worth of product, but what hasn’t already been processed further or already consumed is unknown. I’m sending good vibes to our small ranching neighbors to the south from HumCo. I just copied this article to Food Babe who was (unfortunately and out of character) spreading misinformation.

        2. Rancho Slaughter house, WAS the ONLY USDA APPROVED local facility to handle local, small family owned ranchers cattle in a tri +county area. Next

          “GOVERNMENT” USDA facility is in MODESTO.

          Crippling for local ranchers to absorb the high, high transportation costs. USDA ain’t stupid as a “controlling” agency for mega factory farming that calls the shots.
          8.7 million pounds has little to NOTHING TO DO with local produced cattle.
          You believer a holistic local, small, family ranch raises diseased animals to off on the public? Surely you do not.
          America was built on small family farms. MOST phased OUT by Corporations with their inhume FACTORY FARMS that very much supports the mega giants the Pharmaceutical industry.
          Little lesson in Economics 101 and graft/corruption …. advanced class.

      2. Hey Kathy, Nikki is on your side and makes a good point, the USDA is bunk and the local meat is better raised than the USDA certified slaughterhouse raised beef. Don’t hate on your teammate

        1. People on my side don’t call me names and insult me. And they may not be a government-funded slaughterhouse, but as I”ve said already, when you output that much product, it’s IMPOSSIBLE to guarantee that what you’ve put your name on is chemical-free, hormone-free, and healthy for consumption. The only way to guarantee that is to work together in smaller unions with checks and balances to ensure that every animal raised is done so to the highest standards. That enhances the reputation of local CLEAN consumption, which, in time, will hopefully result in the closure of these filthy government chophouses. But it will only work if people come together and fight the problems in Washington instead of spending their time being hateful and negative to others who, at the end of the day, have the hopes of the same outcomes, just so that they can be rightsayers.

        2. You are not understanding meat processing or farming, Jon and Nikki. The USDA does not own, fund or run farms or meat processors (slaughter, butcher, etc). The USDA regulates farms and meat processors. Small farmers must take their animals to a USDA inspected facility if they wish to sell the meat. (There are also state inspected facilities in some states but those are required to meet the same standards set by the USDA so it is really all the same thing.) So a small farmer raising pastured natural organic livestock has to get it USDA inspected. That’s the rules as set by Congress and the President long ago. You really need to get educated before you start spreading miss-information.

          1. Who said the USDA owned or funded anything? I said government owned as in companies like Monsanto that have very large, exclusive contracts to produce sub-standard, chemically-ridden crops that lead to sickness, illness, and a collapse in our agricultural infrastructure. And if you choose to follow this up with “The government doesn’t own Monsanto”, than you have sadly already been blinded by the propoganda. Perhaps you need to learn how to read before you start insulting anyone.

    2. I think your heart is in the right place Nicki. But I don’t think you understand that all the things you want, no chemicals, small local producers, humane treatment, etc. is what we ARE doing, and doing it through Rancho. In order to bring the great local meats that sonoma county has to offer to the public, it has to be processed under USDA inspection. Rancho provides that and has for years. It is a clean and humane facility and I’m happy that my animals were processed there. The change needs to be made at te government level to seperate out small local producers from the factory raised stuff. It’s done by Rancho, as we have a whole seperate day when local producers animals are slaughtered one at a time, so as not to mix with the dairy cows that is their primary business. It is not separated by the USDA. That could take a business that harvests seasonally and freezes off their meat to sell throughout the year out of business That business now has to destroy as much as a years worth of production. I hope now you can see the real problem. This is pretty clearly a government issue, and it’s time to demand answers and hearings before such drastic and unnecessary measures are levied on a small local business and all the small local producers they support. Feel free to give me a call of you want to discuss further. The more discussion using facts as opposed to supposition or sensationalism the better!

      1. I wasn’t sensationalizing anything. I come from a family of farmers and butchers, and at no point do I think any company processing that much meat is working with the highest quality product or is able to avoid handling chemically and hormonally enhanced cattle. Bringing LOCAL emphasis back to these processes eliminates the greed factor, puts the importance back on the true definition of organic, and forces government and big business out of the equation. Either way, our perspectives may not align, but the ultimate solution is the same.

        1. Ok I tried to do this the politically correct way and directly address you points and I thought I did so rather well. Now it is clear that you are just commenting to see your name in print. There is no family from around here based in ranching and butchering that wants to see Rancho close. Feel free to correct me by giving a name to your claim. Your point about the volumn they process might make sense, except they process those dairy cows to pay the bills, as there is not enough custom slaughter business to support a facilites full time operation. I assure you that our perspectives don’t align, because you have none based on reality. Again, if you want a conversation based on the reality we ACTUALLY live in feel free to contact me. I suspect you won’t because you wouldn’t get to see your name in print.

          1. Yes Adam! I love seeing my first name in print. That was absolutely my whole intent. For the WORLD to see my first name in print. So smart!! I won’t be contacting you because you are obviously not comprehending my point, and it would be a wasted attempt to get you to hear anything outside of your own persepctive. OH LOOK! There’s my first name in print again!! Maybe CNN will contact me now. Have a great day!!

        2. Your lack of understanding of farming and butchering tells me that you either are lying about your family background or you missed the message when you were growing up. Or perhaps you haven’t done the math.

          8.7 million pounds is spread out over a long time period.
          At one year it is only about 35,000 lbs per work day.
          If they have ten customers then that is only about 3,500 per customer work day.
          If each customer brings in ten animals that is only about 350 lbs/animal/wkday.
          That is about half a cow.

          That would be a very, very small scale butcher shop.

          If the period were six months then it would be 700 lbs/animal which would be about a cow.

          When the USDA does a recall like this they like to make a big PR splash. They reach back as far in the records as possible and are as inclusive as possible of all the lot numbers they can do and they may claim back for many years. This means the numbers might only be a quarter or ten of the above.

          Stop sensationalizing.

          1. Wow Dillan. You’re just a nasty, negative individual, aren’t you. What a waste of time going out of your way to insult people. As I said above to Bill, nowhere is it specified in any articles I’ve read what amount of time that meat was produced. The implication is that it was over the course of months, which is a LOT different than over the course of years. SO my apologies for my misunderstanding of the duration. But you’re just a jerk who really needs to learn, along with quite a few other people on this page, that insulting people who don’t agree with your perspective doesn’t gain supporters. It just makes you look like a pompous a$$! Take care

          2. Are you saying that Rancho’s volume is that of “a very, very small scale butcher shop”?

            If that’s true, how can they stay in business?

            They don’t look like a boutique butcher, killing and cutting local organic grass-fed beef for the finest restaurants.

          3. Nikki, every single article I have read reported the dates of the recall as 1/1/13-1/7/14. Every single one. Most important of all there is no evidence to support a Class I recall. No one was sickened, no proof that a sick animal was even processed. All they have are some missing stickers on a few boxes is the rumor going around the farming community. The USDA is mute and the owners of Rancho are smart to stay off the record. We need to be supporting this local business. Why all the hate?

        3. OK I’m going to take another stab at this, Nikki. First, I apologize for the comments about getting your name in print. They were snarky, pointless and written out of frustration. Generally I try and stay out of these comment sections except to read them for entertainment purposes. The reason I joined the conversation here was that I thought you had the right goal but were not understanding that Rancho is a big part of us local producers reaching the kind of local foodshed you are advocating. You lose a bit of credibility in your argument because you continue to refer to Rancho as a “government chophouse”. It is true that they process old dairy cows and that quality of meat is sometimes suspect. They also process a lot of old organic dairy cows that are as clean as some of the custom beef that are slaughtered for us local producers. A proper analogy might be that Rancho processing old dairy cows is the same as a songwriter writhing commercial jingles to pay the bills. It would be great if there was enough volume of local, organically raised beef to keep a slaughterhouse busy full time but there isn’t. If they didn’t have the dairy cow business, chemically enhanced or not, they wouldn’t be there to process for us small guys. And the great thing is that our high-quality, well raised beef is NEVER commingled with the processing of dairy cows. In fact, “Custom” beef are harvested on a totally separate day just so we can be sure. Our beef are individually tagged and that tag stays with the carcass throughout processing so that we can be absolutely sure that the beef we took in is the beef we get back.

          For clarifications sake, the USDA recalled ALL beef processed by Rancho from Jan 2013 to January 7th, 2014. So that 8.7million pounds WAS basically their annual beef production. To put that into perspective, Harris Ranch produced 150 million pounds of beef in 2010. So, certainly by comparison, Rancho is very small potatoes.

          At the end of the day, I hope you come to realize that local, well raised, chemical-free meat is available right here, right now. There are a number of great local farmers and ranchers producing and processing at great local facilities. There is no need to “get back” to anything, we are already there. What DOES need to be done is for everyone to demand oversight on the government agencies that have the power to basically destroy a years worth of local blood sweat and tears because they can’t prove a negative. That is what this recall is all about. That is not speculation or opinion, that is from a USDA employee and is the only sensible explanation for a completely senseless action.

      2. For those of you that don’t read well…Adam is the same Adam that is quoted in the article. He is very well respected by his customers and by the community at large. I actually believe that other than the paperwork aspect, his customers are not going to be bothered by this because they trust him. He has earned that trust. We need more farmers like him…unfortunately, without Rancho that is going to be much harder to do. Adam -thanks for all you do for our community!

        1. One Tuesday morning my mother calls me as she’s leaving the ranch with the 300 birds we had just loaded up to go to Stockton for slaughter and says,”You have a friend, Adam Parks, down here. He’s on his way up.” Adam was no “friend,” but he was an acquaintance and I had an idea why he was dropping by uninvited. “I’m tired of raising pigs,” he said. “They’re a pain in the ass.” Not disagreeing, my sister and I looked at each other with the same silent thought,” When did you ever start?” “I was wondering if you’d be interested in raising pigs for me?” he asked. I sternly told him “No! I don’t do what you do. I raise what sell and sell what I raise. Now you’re welcome to go.” I was not about to raise and sell him my pigs just so he could show up at the same farmers markets I did and pitch them as his own and be my competitor with MY meat. If I knew my meat would be sold as Gleason Ranch meat, brought to you by Victorian Farmstead, a kind of collaboration i engaged in with several others, that would have been fine, but I knew that wasn’t what would happen. I had listen to the sales pitch too many times from across the farmers market aisle. I had read too many misleading articles. I cared about being properly represented and this was not it.

          I just read the article put out today by Michelle Anna Jordan, talking all about Adam and “his” meats. Read it. Then tell me, do you get the impression that Adam is “escorting his animals” through the slaughter process, or that Pete Langley is driving HIS pigs to Modesto, Loren Poncha is driving HIS beef to Eureka, Chris Cornett is driving HIS lamb to Occidental, and I don’t know who’s driving who’s chicken, but I know it’s not Felton Acres/Green Star Farms anymore because they got tired of you tearing off their label to sell their chicken as your own. When you say customers shouldn’t buy from meat from someone who’s farm they can’t visit, are you holding public tours Pete’s, Chris’, Loren’s, or any of the others, or are people reading that expecting to come visit your Christmas Tree Farm with a couple chicken tractors and a few sheep out back? YES I did also read the few references to “partners” like Salmon Creek, but you know the idea of expanding by adding partners is different from starting and existing under false pretenses. I’m not saying you don’t have a few sheep and a few chickens among your Christmas Trees. I know you do. I am saying that you know very well that on the whole, and particularly thanks to MAJ, people have the wrong impression, and that’s by design!

          Now let me be PERFECTLY CLEAR-Adam, you are a great salesman and marketer. You are a great distributor and retailer of local meats. I mean this! In THAT I wish you huge success because one of the biggest needs is farm-to-table process is trustworthy distributors and retailers. BE THAT! If you also have a few chickens in a brooder out back- cool! But please PLEASE STOP presenting and/or allowing others (like MAJ) to make you out to be THE source- THE FARMER! You do more harm than good. You set up false expectations by the ignorant consumers (like Nikki) and for actual farmers/ranchers trying to do the deed. Be the trustworthy middle-man you are- but own THAT. Yes, you have people’s trust, but for the wrong reasons. I want you to be successful, but for the right reasons. And obviously, I’m not saying this out of “competition.” I genuinely want the ranching/farming community of Sonoma County to thrive for future generations.

          (Hope I didn’t burst your bubble Hunter)

          1. Nancy – let me introduce myself. My name is Laura Parks and I am Adam’s wife. You will receive a response from Adam – trust me – to your bitter post, but I couldn’t resist.
            You see my husband and I started our company together – side by side, raising chicken and some lambs here on the Christmas Tree Ranch. We worked our farm and what seemed like a dozen farmers markets a week to get this business off the ground. We were very blessed and slowly growth found us. As you know, and reference so cleverly, we had a few chicken tractors and sheep here on our little farm – and yes, we even raised a few of our first pigs!
            We realized early on that we did not have the acreage or expertise to raise all of the animals ourselves, and we sought partnerships – the vast majority of which we still successfully work with daily. I take issue with your not only suggesting that we somehow mistreat or take advantage of the ranches we work with – but also find it insulting to them, that you hold such low opinions of these ranchers and farmers that you think they would allow such “misrepresentation” – I’m going to ask that you show our business partners more respect…and then of course there’s us.
            What you have done in a not just public, but an industry specific forum, is call us liars. I will use small words here – we are not. You see at each of those very first farmers markets and right up to today and going forward we proudly share where our meat comes from – that which we raised ourselves and that raised by others….so much so that there is a giant sign above our counter that shows every ranch in our case…I guess you and your friend never looked up? We are proud of the relationships that we have established and consider any success a shared success. I vaguely remember that you were once asked to raise animals for us – and I thank God that did not come to fruition, as I am sure you do. WHEW, right?
            I realize you have had difficulties, we all have, but lashing out with accusations and untruths does not lend itself to anything positive. I am glad that you ended your post with “respect” for my husband, because he deserves nothing less. I ask again that perhaps you extend the same to our business partners who you clearly think not as savvy as you – they work with us after all.
            Heather my apologies for my personal entry in what should have stayed on topic. Thank you for all you do.

    3. Nikki- the law is that any producer, regardless of size, has to have their animals killed and cut up in a USDA inspected facility. Rancho is the LAST independent slaughterhouse in the Bay Area that farmers can use. There is no “going back to a small, local producer”- they were the processor for the small, local producer. Now farmers will have to drive all the way up to Orland, to Fresno, or down to Paso Robles to have their animals slaughtered under inspection. BTW- the cost to open a new slaughterhouse in California is probably at least $3 million dollars. So much for keeping things “small”.

  16. What did the USDA say when you called them? I didn’t see any voices representing the government’s perspective. If they declined to comment, did you try finding or calling a retired USDA inspector to get their take? If they practically lived at the plant, I’m sure one of your quoted ranching sources could have given you a name. The absence of those voices gave this column a strong feeling of imbalance. I appreciate that you’re reporting against the grain, which was probably needed, but still seems like you did yourself and the column a disservice not providing that additional bit of reporting.

    1. That’s a great point. The USDA was contacted, and they have not yet released any info publicly . I was contacted last night by a USDA rep and I have asked them to contact me today for more info. I would love to know what they have to say.

  17. Heather,

    Good article.

    Why is it that there is a problem with a year’s worth of the beef that went through Rancho, but not the thousands of pigs?

    I have been in Rancho while they were processing and many other facilities in California. None are as clean and humane. This is ludicrous! If there really is a problem with Rancho, then the public should have a right to know exactly what it is. I would urge everyone to contact their federal representatives and demand a full investigation of the USDA’s actions with a full public disclosure.

    1. Are you a cowboy?..Do you want horse meat processing returned to Ca. for new ethnic culture majority eating?…Mexicans eat it too……I use to prepare and eat horse meat burgers from East side butchers in SanJose during the mid-1960’s..Ummh..flavorful..

      1. What is wrong with horse…or dog, for that matter? If you eat meat than it is hypocritica and disrespectful l to say some are “cuter” and deserves to live…and if you don’t eat meat, your opinion on the same subject means little to me. Remember when goat was gross? Now it is the most sought after item in the butcher shop. If it isn’t human (although…with fava beans and a nice chianti…), and is raised and processed as ethically as possible, I don’t have a problem with it being available for consumption. I know pigs and cows that are more friendly than horses and dogs…so why do they get short end of the stick?

        1. Not on topic, but it could save a life: Anyone taking meds that are an MAO Inhibitor could suffer a hypertensive crisis, if they ate “fava beans and a nice chianti”.

  18. OH, please close them down. I was over joyed when the Fulton Processors left. This location is disgusting, and it is way past time for it to be gone. Maybe the ranchers can grown grapes or pot instead of beef?

    1. Leave it to the uninformed people to suggest such a water-intensive monoculture to destroy the rest of Sonoma County. Perhaps they’ll be happy paying $20/gal. for water, because the grape growers have taken it all…especially in a drought situation. Pot farmers aren’t any better, although Paul “Ecoterrorist” Hobbs would be perfectly fine with ripping out redwood forests and mowing down anything not related to grapes in order to grow more of his crap.

    2. “Chicken Ghosts” at the Fulton Processing Plant want to talk to you during a dark, dark, dark, night.”…But we have lost a company that was not the best and neither the worst given the standard practice in Sonoma County.”..”No one wants an adrenaline pumped chicken to eat.” “No-one.”

    3. I think that the consumers might get upset about lack of beef production. The truth is that 95% of Americans eat meat and will continue to do so. Beyond that most of the pot being grown here in California is being grown by Mexican Cartels.

  19. Agenda 21 anyone? First Drakes Bay seafood shuttered now Rancho meats being recalled. Seems to me that Big Brother wants farming/ranching out of Sonoma County.

    1. …don’t forget Sonoma Artisan Foie Gras (RIP). We must save Rancho (and Drake’s Bay as well) or lose it all to Big Ag and their puppets in the USDA. This is affecting local, small, family-owned ranches who produce sustainable and humane animal products. Vegans can STFU – the families who will go out of business don’t need their proselytizing.

  20. Without local meat processing we won’t have the rolling hills we all enjoy nor the ranches of west Marin and Sonoma County. Without local processing our animals will suffer from longer transportation, our ranchers will pay more and our meat will have a bigger carbon footprint. The problem is how the the State along with USDA administers their health criteria. Other States allow such things as mobile processing which would solve many problems

    1. “Without local meat processing we won’t have the rolling hills we all enjoy”.

      No kidding? Closing Rancho would alter the physical geography of Sonoma County?

    1. I agree. This whole incident looks corrupt and rigged. The USDA in cahoots with the Big Four meat packers? Mike Callicrate has been saying so for years. People who want to wrest control of the food supply from the 800 lb corporate gorillas need to start paying attention to the nuts and bolts of how regulation is misused and abused instead of just being awash in warm and fuzzy feelings about “eating local” and feeling pious just because you shop at a farmer’s market or two.

  21. Hmmm!! The government is here to help you ?? In my opinion the government is here to help big business and by closing down local slaughterhouses, the farmers will be almost required to use large corporate facilities !!

    1. My 2 cents worth,…Sonoma County Health Dept. has no explanation for the high rate of Creutzfeldt Jacob disease in Sonoma County. My mother lived in Rohnert Park for 40 years and died in 2012 from this “rare” “one-death-in-a-million” disease. My family knows of another area victim. Past Press Democrat obituaries show more deaths from this disease. Scientists report no connection to the beef supply. I ask, “how do we know, what we DON’T know”? Just asking the question.

      1. It’s about sample size. The disease kills one person normally. Then one year it kills 3. Sure, it tripled. But the sample size is so small it’s not actually significant unless it becomes a continuing trend. Otherwise, it’s just an anomaly.

      2. Er … was your mother even eating locally produced and processed beef or was she just eating the usual supermarket stuff? I suspect the latter, and therefore Sonoma County meat production wasn’t implicated at all. Next.

  22. I’m kind of leaning towards the govt. shutdown where inspectors were not available on products needing their services: thanks law makers for that input.

  23. Since I know a lot of food types read this, if you’re a beef rancher who used Rancho, please email me at if you want to talk on record….

    I started working on this story and talking to folks a few weeks ago when the first recall happened, and spoke to a bunch of folks on background, but not for publications. LMK.

  24. Thanks Heather

    When I heard this I knew there were many missing pieces in the story. No way does a processor operate and ship all over the country without oversight from the USDA. We can’t even make a sandwich without the food police screaming about gloves. It’s a shame that such alarmist wording was used. Yes, I suppose it’s possible for tainted meat to get shipped. It’s also possible (likely) that the meat was fine. I just can’t fathom ANY business intentionally sabotaging themselves by supplying bad product. Seems to me the USDA completely dropped the ball here and Rancho is paying the price. I’m very curious to hear “the rest of the story.”

  25. Getting alarmist or paranoid about this will solve nothing. Heather’s article makes a number of good points, not the least of which is the fact that there have been no charges of disease being found or people getting sick. And the fact that main gripe from the USDA is that Rancho’s meat “did not receive a full inspection” from a USDA inspector, and that “It is not yet clear which part of the process inspectors missed,” it just seems to me that the USDA is (rightly so) simply levying a heavy consequence on a business who sidestepped an important part of the safety procedures required for them to conduct business, one they would be wise to not soon forget.

    Believe me, if the USDA had information that these abuses of the process had resulted in tainted meat being consumed and/or people getting ill from their products, the news would be MUCH different!

    After a recent infraction for a similar offense, with a much smaller penalty, it seems Rancho is being told, in no uncertain terms, we WILL put you out of business if this happens again!

    My thought is that, weighing all the information we have at the moment and the lack of specific charges of anything even as minor as unsanitary processing conditions from the company in its procedures, then we are looking at an example being made of Rancho, one that is meant to send a message to all meat producers everywhere: FOLLOW THE RULES OR WE’LL SHUT YOU DOWN!”

    For this reason, and keeping in mind that many of our local agricultural producers use this company and rely on it for affordable marketing of their products, and that our agricultural and aquacultural businesses are struggling enough to survive, I don’t think it’s necessarily prudent to overstate the situation unless and until more serious charges or information come out regarding Rancho’s procedures.

  26. Many thanks to Heather Irwin for providing some context to the alarming headlines. The lack of access to local processors has been a problem in dire need of solution for some time now, particularly in light of the dramatic growth of small-scale ranchers Irwin refers to. The North Bay Area is leaps and bounds ahead of the pack in growing a sustainable and humane system of animal husbandry – not to mention sustainable forms of ag in general. I do hope this lights some fires under the right folks to begin planning long-term for some form of cooperative local meat processing.

    Two questions for Irwin: could you elaborate for readers why this closure means Rancho is in “grave danger” of being permanently closed? and
    Who is cheering the “closure of our last local beef processor?”

    1. A Northern California firm that recalled 8.7 million pounds of beef products distributed in four states has been voluntarily closed, the plant’s quality control manager confirmed Monday.,0,6069493.story#ixzz2sy3LDt9s

      Also, if you read any of the comments on various news stories, many ignorant folks are making ridiculous and uniformed statements that have no bearing on the actual news. It sort of drove me to write this.

      1. Comment sections of online newspaper articles are LITTERED with uninformed, reactionary, small-minded illiterate blather. It shouldn’t surprise anyone that this issue would garner similar feedback.

        Then there will be the PETA types who will chime in from their perspective, the other vegetarian and vegan crowd who will also speak passionately against the meat industry, and many will have good, valid points of view and offer some insightful opinions, but there will always be the loudmouths and haters who ramble on and make noise, freaking people out. And then there’s Brad Pipal… wonder what he’s saying about this…

        I’m surprised the LA Times wasn’t harsher in their reporting, frankly. and more vehement about shutting Rancho down since they would most likely see more business headed to the producers in the valley, closer to LA. All in all, I think their article was pretty balanced and fair.

      2. Thank you Heather. I’ve had to stop reading other comments to articles such as the Huffington Post since the imaginations have gone wild. If only the reporters had detailed the kind of beef being sent here so those touting ‘buy local’ would wake up. This really does have the smell of a government shake down or corporate business push for Rancho to sell/close down. I just hope the truth comes out, but I won’t hold my breath!

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