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PETALUMA (KPIX 5) – New details are coming out about a Bay Area slaughterhouse at the center of a massive recall skirted inspection rules, according to federal authorities.
While the government hasn’t said much, it is investigating an apparent scheme to get sick cows into the system and onto people’s dinner plates.
The feds said what was happening at Rancho Feeding Corporation for an entire year was not always routine and deliberately so.
On Friday, the USDA said the Petaluma slaughterhouse was not just slaughtering sick cows, but added that “inspectors were present at Rancho during normal operations as required by law. The ongoing investigation is associated with the company’s intermittent circumvention of inspection requirements.”
Officials said it basically involved sneaking sick cows in, behind the inspectors’ back.
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All week, KPIX 5 has been trying to get Rancho to talk about the beef recall and slaughterhouse shutdown. The owners told the Press Democrat newspaper they did nothing wrong.
The trouble began last month, as a small recall notice, limited to beef processed on a particular day in 2013. But it quickly turned into an entire year’s worth of meat.
Products like some Hot Pockets had already reached hundreds of store shelves. The recall also included grass-fed cows slaughtered at the same plant.
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“The recall is far too broad, it doesn’t look at anybody’s individual situation, it just includes everything,” said Nicolette Niman.
Nicolette and her husband Bill Niman are among a small group of high-end local ranchers whose grass fed beef cannot be sold. The tainted meat they say refers to older dairy cows, used to make cheaper ground beef products.
The couple is fighting the recall with the support of politicians. But Bill Niman said, “Unfortunately even if you’re Dianne Feinstein and you call the USDA or you want to talk to secretary Vilsack, he’s going to say he can’t talk about it, so it’s really difficult to come up with a solution.”
The feds have been cagey about the details behind Rancho’s decision to recall all of the beef.
KPIX 5 has called the USDA multiple times, and they said they can’t comment on what will happen next.
So far, there are no reports of anyone getting sick from the recalled beef.