Photo: Carrie Cizauskas (Flickr)
Those involved with a cattle-processing facility are facing criminal charges after a grand jury indicted them for processing meat condemned by USDA inspectors.
Petaluma, California-based Rancho Feeding Corp. allegedly processed condemned and cancerous cows with healthy cows when inspectors weren’t looking. Rancho co-owner Jesse J. Amaral Jr., foreperson Felix Sandoval Cabrera and yardperson Eugene D. Corda have been charged with 11 felony counts, including mail fraud, conspiracy and placing adulterated and misbranded meat into interstate commerce.
The mass recall was first announced in February, and affected nearly 8.7 million pounds of beef.
The crimes took place over the course of three years, dating back to mid-2012. One hundred and one condemned cattle and 79 cancerous cattle were processed between January 2013 and 2014.
Criminal charges are rare in food inspection cases and even more rare in cases involving meat.
Despite the fact that each felony could result in up to a $250,000 fine and three years in prison, it’s unlikely that the many farmers in the supply chain affected by the recall will recover their expenses.
The USDA has said there isn’t any federal funding to help with farmers’ losses.
North Bay rancher Bill Niman has been forced to dispose of 30 tons of grass-fed meat because of the recall.
Niman held out hope the federal investigation would clear him to sell some of the estimated $400,000 worth of meat, but he eventually had to dump it.
Rancho Feeding Corp. closed in February after the recall was announced.