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

Categories: Featured, Recalls

A BN Ranch publicity photo.
Bill Niman slaughters his cows in the summer, then freezes the meat for distribution throughout the year. Right now he's sitting on a pile of recalled beef, most of which has already been sold, although it remains in BN Ranch freezers.

"What would really be bad, and I don't know if I can recover from this, is if we have to take 100,000 pounds or more of meat, this wholesome, wonderful meat, and take it so some sanitary landfill and dump it," Niman says. "That is a travesty to me. And that's what I think is going to have to happen."

Niman says that after seven years in business, the ranch has yet to turn a profit. "We're just about to be there," he says. "Taking this kind of hit -- I doubt that our company can sustain a $300,000-$500,000 loss."

He's not sure Rancho Feeding Corp. can weather the storm, either. If the facility were to close down, Bay Area farmers would have to drive their animals hundreds of miles for processing. Transport increases costs and stress on cattle, two significant threats to a sustainable agricultural model.

In New York, Jake Dickson says growing demand for sustainably raised meat will require more slaughterhouses that can accommodate small farmers who demand personal oversight. "Slaughterhouses need to rise to meet the demand," Dickson says. "That was the bottleneck of the last five years. In the northeast, it's been eased a little bit -- there's, like, double the slaughterhouses open now than when I opened five years ago, but there are still not that many, and most of them are already booked. We need to figure out a way to scale the system without becoming too industrial. I think there's a sweet spot."

Part of the problem, and a larger issue with the industry, according to Dixon, is that people don't want slaughterhouses in their areas. "Even in agricultural areas," he says, "people are like, 'Not in my backyard,' and they put up a lot of roadblocks."

Jeff Renfro, whose wife runs a yoga studio next door to the slaughterhouse in Petaluma, says Rancho has been the site of frequent protests by animal-rights activists and that many residents view it as an eyesore: "There's a few people in town who won't walk into our studio because we're next to a slaughterhouse," he says.

From where he stands, the plant has been a fine neighbor, Renfro says, though he adds, "They don't like outside people in there, because it's a whole other world when you go into a slaughterhouse. It's not a fun place to be."

For an updated list of outlets affected by the recall, visit the USDA's food-safety news site.


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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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Karon Bihari
Karon Bihari

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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.