Earlier this year, Rancho Feeding Corporation in Petaluma, California issued a beef recall on nearly nine million pounds of meat from thousands of stores across the United States. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) said the meat was “unfit” for human consumption, which launched a criminal investigation into the company to find out what went wrong and how the meat had made it into the marketplace. While the investigation is still ongoing, according to sources, federal officials have said the beef recall was issued due to diseased meat.
During the beef recall investigation, federal investigators raided Rancho Feeding Corporation and seized all of their records. In reviewing those documents, investigators now believe that the company was deliberately purchasing dairy cows that were cancerous, specifically with epithelioma, which is a cancer of the eyes. Company employees would then send the diseased cattle through the processing plant when government inspectors were not on the property.
As it turns out, Rancho tried to be clever and went to great lengths to cover up their indiscretions. After the cows were slaughtered, employees were instructed to hide any warning signs of cancer in the animals, and they did this by cutting away any part of the cow that showed signs of disease. In some instances, employees used fake USDA stamps of approval to pass the meat through the plant and if that were not enough, they would at times hide the diseased cow’s head and replace it with the head of a healthy cow.
While investigators know the beef recall was due to meat that was diseased with cancer, federal officials question how it happened and why USDA inspectors that were supposed to be overseeing the slaughter of the cows, processing of the meat, and consumer safety were absent from the plant. A possible answer came in the form of an email to the USDA.
According to an assistant plant manager at Rancho, other misconduct was taking place within the company. The email detailed an illicit affair between one of the inspectors, Lynette Thompson and the Rancho plant foreman, which goes against USDA ethics. The USDA does not allow inspectors to work at a business where someone with whom they are personally involved works.
According to the email, when confronted, the plant foreman did not deny the affair, and told the plant manager that he had on at least three different occasions went to Thompson’s trailer where they were intimate. Attached to the email was a list of text messages from Thompson to the plant foreman, which further proved that they were indeed involved in a relationship.
Following the beef recall, owners of Rancho Feeding Corporation sold the company. Speaking through his attorney, one of the former owners, Jesse Amaral, admitted that he had made mistakes in judgment but said he never intended to hurt anyone. In fact, his attorney said, he only wished he could have been able to better recognize the bad practices that were taking place at the facility so he could have responded to and stopped them sooner. The other former Rancho owner declined comment.
The investigation into this matter is still ongoing. However, to date, there have been no confirmed reports of sickness due to anyone ingesting the diseased meat that was part of the Rancho Feeding Corporation beef recall.
By Donna W. Martin