As part of my duties for Independent Processor and The National Provisioner, I have to look through the news for meat industry-related stories. Sometimes they’re hard to find stories, and sometimes they’re all too easy — for all the wrong reasons.
Last year, one of the stories I had to cover the most was the Rancho Feeding recall, plant closing and subsequent criminal charges. The company issued a recall in early 2014 of almost 9 million pounds of beef after the employees were found to have processed cattle that had cancer eye and were deemed unfit for human consumption. Those cattle were processed without the knowledge of USDA meat inspectors, and the whole case turned into a mess that made the whole industry look bad. Combining “cancer” and “food” in the same story never leads to anything positive.
The Rancho Feeding case hasn’t closed entirely yet, as four employees, including the two owners, have not been sentenced as of this writing (all four pled guilty to federal charges). Aside from periodic news updates about the charges, the story moved away from the Petaluma, Calif. plant that was closed and the area producers that depended on it. The media has moved on.
I’m very pleased to present the second part of this story — the best part — in this issue. The Petaluma plant was acquired by a local company, Marin Sun Farms, which expanded the plant’s slaughter and processing abilities to meet the needs of the local food movement in the San Francisco area. Under the new ownership, the plant is processing organic and natural Marin Sun Farms products, as well as beef, pork, lamb and goat meat for the area producers.
I understand how media works, so I’m not going to turn this into a screed against “mainstream media.” I do hope that the positive developments taking place in Petaluma will get their share of press, too. This story ticks off all the trends: natural/organic meats, local agriculture, small farms, small businesses. Marin Sun Farms CEO David Evans, based on my time talking with him, is a big-picture thinker who is a positive and effective voice for the producers and processors in the agriculture industry.
It is the nature of today’s world that the worst stories get the most headlines and the most clickthroughs and page views. The task of the industry is to take all the good stories that are taking place within the meat and ag worlds and give them their due, as well. The good outweighs the bad, and more consumers need to know that.