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May 2nd, 2014
09:22 PM ET

How 9 million pounds of bad meat got to your store

(CNN) PETALUMA, CALIFORNIA – Earlier this year, a dusty little slaughterhouse in Northern California was ground zero for one of the biggest meat recalls in years. Rancho Feeding Corp. had called back nearly 9 million pounds of bad meat from thousands of unsuspecting stores across the country.

The story of how millions of pounds of bad meat – products the U.S. Department of Agriculture called “unfit for human food” – made it out into the world and triggered a criminal investigation is one of staggering deception and cancerous cows, federal officials familiar with the investigation tell CNN. And the plant where it all went down was also the setting for an illicit romance, according to documents obtained by CNN.

Federal investigators started surveillance on the California facility after getting a tip from a former Rancho employee. In January, federal marshals raided the Petaluma plant and seized the company's records. Days later, the first recall notice went out, officials said.

Investigators now believe that Rancho was buying diseased dairy cows and processing them when government inspectors weren’t there. After the cows were killed, employees would hide the warning signs of cancer by trimming off diseased parts, using a fake stamp of approval or even replacing the heads of sick cows with ones from healthy animals. It’s unclear which employees were involved, officials said.

The account provides a fuller picture of what happened inside the plant than has been previously made public. In a letter a day after the first recall, the USDA told Rancho an investigation found that the facility “shipped adulterated and misbranded product” and hadn’t inspected cattle that “were likely affected with epithelioma of the eye (eye cancer).”

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But that wasn’t the only misconduct going down at the plant. Turns out that one of the government inspectors – someone responsible for protecting consumers from bad meat – was having a romantic relationship with a plant foreman, according to a USDA email obtained by CNN.

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Filed under: Eatocracy • Food • News • OutFront Exclusive • OutFront Investigation
soundoff (4 Responses)
  1. prof heskel m. haddad, md

    sevral months ago i communicated to president obama how to defeat isis, while they were in syria and falluja. under american leadership we can recruit armies yo fight with us from morroco, algeria., ehypt, jordan, saudi arabia, gulf emirates, turkey, pakistan,. indonesia and even iran, if we give them financial support, materielle, air cover and strategic leadership, as we did in the first gulf war and in korean war. the response was ridiculous.
    i am professor of ophthalmolgy, but i am also the president of the world organization of jews from arab countries. i was born in baghdad, i carry american and israeli citizenship. i wrote several books, one an autobiograpy, flight from babylon, second pront born in baghdad and translated to arabic as son of baghdad. if you need my feedback you can contact me at 1125 park av, tel 212 427 1246

    September 4, 2014 at 9:12 pm | Reply
  2. JOHN SUTTON

    WHY ARE ALL PEOPLE BEING SHOT BY POLICE WITH BULLETS INSTEAD OF TASING THEM.

    August 21, 2014 at 7:27 pm | Reply
  3. Karin Hauenstein

    This is a great article! But, unfortunately, it's a drop in the bucket! Take a look at this article by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, Joby Warrick, which details the horrific violations that happen every day on high-speed slaughter lines in the U.S. when the captive-bolt is applied incorrectly to cattle: They Die Piece by Piece https://www.uta.edu/.../Warrick,%20They%20Die%20Piece...

    It is not humanly possible to stun cattle correctly above 150-200 cows per hour and these plants all operate 300-400+ per hour and rising with the newly proposed line speeds by the USDA!!!

    This article is 13 years old and resulted in Congressional Hearings but practically NOTHING has changed!!! This happens mostly with hamburger plants which the majority of our beef comes from. If you want to know the cause of the Colorectal and other gut Cancer Epidemic that is currently happening in the U.S. look no further than adrenaline in lower-quality beef!!!

    May 6, 2014 at 4:50 am | Reply
  4. Bruce Allen

    I'll be happy with my vegetarian diet. And healthier, too.

    May 4, 2014 at 3:43 am | Reply

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