Rancho Feeding Recall: Why Sick Dairy Cows Might Be to Blame

Categories: Featured, Recalls

The USDA has so far identified companies in 19 states that received the product. (None are in the northeast; the agency is updating its list of distributors and retailers on an ongoing basis.) But most of Rancho's recalled meat can't be removed from the food chain because most of it has already been consumed.

Meat-industry insiders say the 8.7 million-pound figure is misleading and only serves to sensationalize the recall.

Jake Dickson
"Those numbers make the USDA look good, like they're doing their part," says Jake Dickson, a New York butcher and founder of Dickson's Farmstand Meats, who spent about six months working in a USDA-inspected slaughterhouse in upstate New York. "But the amount of meat that's recovered is a tiny fraction of what was recalled. That's the myth of these recalls."

Joel Salatin, a sustainable-food advocate who has spent half a century farming and slaughtering livestock at Polyface Farms, his own USDA-certified operation in Virginia, says that the U.S. food-inspection bureaucracy uses recalls to "create the sense that they're really doing their job."

Mind-boggling recall figures "give Americans a false sense of security" about food safety, he contends, and small farms and slaughterhouses are easy targets because they can't afford attorneys and lobbyists to orchestrate damage control. Salatin recalls a visit with a lobbyist for a fast-food chain who laid it out for him: "'If you have an overzealous bureaucrat or unreasonable inspector,' he said, 'you don't have the resources to call me to fix it -- to get that inspector fired, transferred, or called off.'"

In sum, Salatin says, "Those of us who are trying to maintain small, community food systems are being suffocated out of business by oversight, which routinely grants concessions to the big players."

In 2008, Salatin spoke at a Congressional hearing on meat-industry safety and transparency, convened after activists released video of a downed dairy cow being pushed by a forklift at a California slaughterhouse. (What followed was the largest meat recall in American history: 143 million pounds, some of which was bound for school lunches.) Salatin says he was floored by testimony from Dr. Richard Raymond, then the USDA undersecretary for food safety and inspection. Raymond testified that economies of scale, coupled with a relative scarcity of inspectors, made larger plants more efficient than smaller ones.

A transcript of the hearing, available via the U.S. Government Printing Office website, includes testimony that corroborates Salatin's anecdote about lobbyists. Stan Painter, who chairs the National Joint Council of Food Inspection Locals, the union that represents government meat inspectors, described how his superiors would overturn citations and reports at the behest of the USDA and the companies being cited: "Sometimes, even if we write noncompliance reports, some of the larger companies use their political muscle to get those overturned at the agency level or by going to the Congressional delegation to get this inspection staff to back off," he said.

Jake Dickson cites other federal mandates that challenge smaller operations. "The USDA makes things very difficult for a small facility," he says. "They have developed a system of record-keeping, paperwork, and testing that's suitable for very large facilities, and it's very, very cumbersome for small operators to execute."

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Will be curious as to what is found. Have not seen such eye cancer in dairy cows that Niman is talking about. Have farmed for 50 years in rural NY

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"Niman says that after seven years in business, the ranch has yet to turn a profit." This is the issue, I have been farming like Niman since 1985 and never had profit, only now I see hope, the consumer waking up.

 I believe USDA is controlled by the big producers and the mandate to get rid of small farms. Big business wants to feed mankind a us small farmers in the way. I really believe this to be the truth. 

Maybe not conscious policy on the part of USDA,  but USDA the tool big is using for this purpose. According to my information, big producers have been buying up small plants now for decades and closing them down. I believe this to be deliberate on their part, to consolidate the meat industry, USDA helping by making it impossible for these small plants to meet their requirments. As I understand it, the big plants get all kinds of brakes while the small sloughterhouses get none. 

Custom slaughtering is an option, but the rules  confusing and one is a afraid the USDA might decide to come after one. The USDA seems to rule by  terror. I will put in a pamphlet from Oregon  state on custom slaughtering and how to circumvent the USDA.  The thing is, most of our customers are in the NYC  area, Manhattan, hard for them to buy more than 1/8 of an animal at  a time.


I will also put in the website for our farm. You can take it out if you want to



@Cortapescuezo En Chile eso pasa multiplicado x mil. O sea, ya has comido mucha carne de vacas con cáncer en los ojos y otras enfermedades


My bet is that executives at one or two of the big meat companies used their influence with the USDA to get the slaughterhouse shut down. 

They hate small producers because the little companies' products taste so much better than what's produced by the giants. They're afraid if more people have access to high-quality meat, they'll abandon the big company products.

It's a terrifying lesson in the evil nexus between government and big business—their products may be third rate, but their political power, and ruthless way they use it is second to none.


Kind of strange. I have been a dairy farmer for 50 years upstate, have not really seen eye cancers in our herd.