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Marin Sun Farms moving 35 jobs to Petaluma in consolidation

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Meat processor Marin Sun Farms is moving its “cut-and-wrap” butcher operation from San Francisco to the once-shuttered Petaluma slaughterhouse that it purchased and reopened last spring.

The San Francisco-based company, owned by fourth-generation rancher David Evans, on Friday announced that at year’s end it would consolidate “all harvesting, processing and distribution operations” at its plant on Petaluma Boulevard North.

“It’s going to bring about 35 jobs to Petaluma,” Evans said Friday.

He acknowledged the consolidation would save the company some money, but said the larger benefit would be to have his operations less spread out and closer to the North Bay ranchers who raise pasture-fed beef and other animals.

“And,” he said, “it fits better with the culture of Petaluma and the North Bay than it does in downtown San Francisco.”

A Sonoma County farm official and a local rancher applauded the news for bringing jobs and production that will add to the area’s specialty food sector.

“I think it’s just really good for Sonoma County and its reputation as a regional food center,” said Tim Tesconi, executive director of the Sonoma County Farm Bureau.

Evans, who was named the North Bay’s Outstanding Rancher last year by the Sonoma County Fair, started raising pasture-finished beef in 1998. He opened a butcher shop and restaurant in Point Reyes Station in 2005, later added another butcher shop in Oakland and in 2013 took over what was San Francisco’s biggest facility for cutting up, or “breaking,” animal carcasses.

In so doing, he pursued vertical integration in his business, essentially controlling as many steps as possible of meat production, from raising the animals to killing them, cutting up the meat, packaging it and selling it directly to customers.

Now the packaging operation will be in Petaluma rather than San Francisco.

Evans in February announced he had put together a group of investors to purchase the troubled Rancho Feeding Corp. slaughterhouse, which recently had closed following federal allegations that cattle were processed there without full inspection.

Prosecutors in August unveiled charges against four people with Rancho they said circumvented the federal inspection process, processed diseased cattle and tricked inspectors by swapping out the heads of cows with eye cancer. One of the company’s two owners and one employee each have pleaded guilty to one count of distributing tainted meat and are expected to cooperate with prosecutors.

By reopening the Petaluma plant, Evans spared local ranchers from having to haul cattle for hours to the next-closest slaughterhouse.

Without it, “we would be out of business,” said rancher Tara Smith of Tara Firma Farms near Petaluma.

Marin Sun’s consolidations, Smith said, will help reduce costs and mean savings for ranchers “and the consumer.”

You can reach Staff Writer Robert Digitale at 521-5285 or robert.digitale@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @rdigit.

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