Beef recall leaves ranchers in a lurch

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is continuing its near-silence regarding an 8.7-million-pound recall of products distributed from Rancho Feeding Corporation, a Petaluma slaughterhouse supplying grass-fed beef to many local retailers.

But local cattle ranchers are not so quiet about it.

The North Bay’s only USDA-inspected slaughterhouse has voluntarily closed its doors as a result of the double-recall. The first closure came in January after federal agents raided the slaughterhouse and recalled 41,683 pounds of beef products reportedly produced on Jan. 8. A month later, after further investigation, the USDA expanded its recall to encompass more than a year’s worth of beef products – totaling 8.7 million pounds – that were shipped with the USDA seal of approval to distribution and retail centers in California, Florida, Illinois and Texas.

Details on the case against Rancho are contradictory and hard to come by. To date, there are no reports of anyone becoming ill after eating the meat.

Since the expanded recall, Rancho Feeding Corp. says it has worked to track down the recalled products, and a federal investigation of the slaughterhouse’s practices – conducted by the USDA Office of the Inspector General – was announced Feb. 11. But other than a vague explanation from the agency’s Food Safety and Inspection Service, little is known about the circumstances that led to the massive recall.

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