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Petaluma slaughterhouse ceases operations (w/video)

  • Employees break for lunch at Rancho Veal Slaughterhouse in Petaluma on Monday, January 13, 2014. Rancho Veal is the last remaining Bay Area slaughterhouse and recently had USDA agents and Petaluma police serve a search warrant. (Conner Jay/The Press Democrat)

Robert Singleton, who owns Rancho with partner Jesse "Babe" Amaral, on Monday night said the company undertook the recall out of "an abundance of caution" and regrets any inconvenience to customers.

Singleton confirmed the company had voluntarily ceased processing and was compiling a list of affected companies. He declined further comment.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced the expanded recall on Saturday, saying Rancho "processed diseased and unsound animals" without a full inspection. The meat products are "unsound, unwholesome or otherwise are unfit for human food" and must be removed from commerce, according to the department's Food Safety and Inspection Service.

The recall affects all beef processed at Rancho between Jan. 1, 2013 and Jan. 7, 2014, a USDA spokesman said. The carcasses and other parts, commonly referred to as offal, were shipped to retailers and distributors in California, Florida, Illinois and Texas.

Some North Bay ranchers and meat purveyors questioned the logic behind the far-reaching recall, given that most of the beef was long ago consumed and there are no reports of anyone becoming ill after eating the beef.

"There should have been no recall," said Tara Smith, owner of Tara Firma Farms in Petaluma.

Smith was among the producers directly affected from the original Jan. 13 recall by Rancho. She estimated she lost about $8,000 worth of organically raised beef that she claimed was raised and processed according to proper health and safety procedures.

The extensive publicity was unfair not only to Rancho but also to the many producers who now have to inform their customers of the recall, Smith said.

Rancho has long been the only federally-inspected animal processing facility in Sonoma, Napa, Marin, Lake and Mendocino counties, with the exception of a small plant for sheep and goats near Occidental.

The plant serves a growing, high-end beef market, including grass-fed and organic cattle. Those ranchers use Rancho to kill their animals, who then take the carcasses for butchering and sale via markets, restaurants and farmers markets. As well, Rancho buys and slaughters older dairy cattle.


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