Business

Slaughterhouse owners indicted on charges of selling tainted beef

The co-owners of a Bay Area slaughterhouse are indicted
Slaughterhouse employees allegedly deceived federal inspectors during their lunch breaks

The co-owners of a Petaluma, Calif., slaughterhouse behind a massive beef recall were indicted by a federal grand jury along with two of their employees on charges of knowingly distributing cattle with eye cancer and processing condemned carcasses.

The indictment, which was dated last Thursday, names Rancho Feeding Corp.’s co-owners, Jesse Amaral Jr. and Robert Singleton, and employees Eugene Corda and Felix Cabrera.

The four are charged with conspiring to distribute adulterated, misbranded and uninspected meat. In addition, the defendants are charged with mail fraud for distributing the meat through the U.S. Postal Service. The four face up to 20 years in prison and several hundred thousand dollars in fines.   

None of the defendants could be reached for comment Monday.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service suspended operations at Rancho Feeding in January, sparking a recall that would include nearly 10 million pounds of beef sold to thousands of stores, including Kroger, Food 4 Less and Wal-Mart. Nestle also issued a voluntary recall for its Philly Steak and Cheese Hot Pockets.

The indictment said the slaughterhouse knowingly purchased cheaper cattle that exhibited signs of eye cancer. Those cows would be decapitated and moved up the inspection line next to cattle heads without eye cancer to deceive regulators, the indictment said.

The switch occurred when inspectors took lunch breaks, the indictment said.  

Also, beginning in 2012, Amaral allegedly directed employees to process cattle that had been condemned by federal inspectors at the plant by carving “USDA Condemned” stamps out of the carcasses.

Rancho Feeding was sold in February to Marin Sun Farms, an artisanal Marin County farm specializing in pasture-raised livestock. The facility is the last remaining beef slaughterhouse in the Bay Area.

Follow @dhpierson for more food and agriculture news.

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