NOBULL: Marin Sun Farms tries to step out of Rancho’s shadow

Marin Sun Farms tries to step out of Rancho’s shadow

By Tom Johnston on 3/28/2014

Marin Sun Farms officials said today they’re looking forward to opening a Petaluma, Calif., plant on April 7 and distancing their company from the former owner shut down for processing diseased animals without federal inspection.

In a press conference held at the plant and streamed live online, Marin Sun Farms founder David Evans navigated repeated questions from reporters looking for assurances on how his operation will be different from Rancho Feeding Corp., which closed after having to recall some 9 million pounds of beef products, and that it won’t repeat the mistakes.

“Marin Sun Farms is a completely new business,” he emphasized. “We’ve set up completely new procedures and processes in a facility formerly owned by someone else. I don’t know how to give any greater guarantees. We’ve rewritten, reinspected and reinvested with a completely new mission on how to do business and bring product to Bay-area consumers.”

Marin Sun Farms received USDA approval to open the facility on April 7. Evans said the plant is looking to process 100 cattle and 100 hogs per week, and between now and the opening the company is working on sourcing those animals. In the meantime, the company is working on getting Organic certification. The facility will produce and distribute Marin Sun Farms product as well as that of other labels from various producers in the region, many of whom have struggled to market their products since the plant’s closure.

“This slaughter facility … is the access to market that we all desperately need to continue together in transforming the foods system, in creating a more sustainable food system,” Evans said.

Although new management and processes will be in place, Evans said former Rancho workers, largely the butchers, have been hired to use their highly specialized skills.

Asked whether the facility would process “cull cows,” Evans said that though he was aware of the stigma associated with those animals in the context of the Rancho ordeal, the term is broad. He explained generally that a culled animal is one that simply didn’t fit with and therefore is culled from its particular herd, young or old, and that the facility will process animals of any age so long as they’re deemed healthy and fit for processing.

Evans also assured that the company is looking into installing video cameras in the facility.