Feds break silence on Rancho meat recall

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has finally given a reason for its enormous recall of beef products from Rancho Feeding Corp., accusing the Petaluma slaughterhouse of dodging federal inspection rules.

In a terse statement, released Thursday after weeks of silence, the agency alleged that despite the presence of USDA inspectors at Rancho “during normal operations as required by law,” the company engaged in “intermittent circumvention of inspection requirements.”

A USDA spokesman would not elaborate, citing an ongoing investigation, but the agency did post on its website a list of specific contaminated products that contained only organs and other offal, no actual cuts of beef.

On that same day, however, a ray of hope emerged for local ranchers with the announcement of the possible purchase of the slaughterhouse by a Bay Area meat producer.

Issues with Rancho first came to light in January, after federal agents raided the plant and recalled 41,683 pounds of beef products. Then on Feb. 8 the recall – conducted by the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service, or FSIS – expanded dramatically, encompassing “approximately 8,742,700 pounds” of beef products because, the agency stated, Rancho “processed diseased and unsound animals and carried out these activities without the benefit or full benefit of federal inspection.”

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