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Bay Area's Last Slaughterhouse Expanding

Rancho Feeding on Petaluma Boulevard North will now add hogs to its operation in order to increase capacity and stay profitable

In a move aimed at self-preservation as much as offering a service to local ranchers, Rancho Veal, a Petaluma cattle broker, and Rancho Feeding, the Bay Area’s last slaughterhouse, are expanding their operations to include hogs.

The diversification began earlier this spring as a way to stabilize both businesses at a time when fewer cattle are being sent to slaughter.

“We have to go out of the county, even out of the state to get enough cattle to stay in business, so we figured the hogs would help us keep production,” said Babe Amaral, owner of Rancho Feeding on Petaluma Boulevard North.

About 60 percent of Rancho’s cattle business is from outside Sonoma County, but the supply chain is not steady throughout the year, with a slowdown from January to April.  That, says Amaral, prompted both companies to consider what it could do to bolster operations and in March, Rancho Veal began purchasing pigs from Sonoma County farms.

The slaughterhouse processes about 400 cows and 60 hogs a week, although Amaral expects the hog operation to grow with time.

Amaral has owned Rancho Feeding since 1971 and like many ranchers bemoans the loss of local grazing lands to vineyards, which are more profitable. The loss of both beef and daily cattle means less product for his slaughterhouse, which is now operating at about 75 percent capacity.

“We’re still OK, but it’s going down,” Amaral said. “Our biggest competitor is the U.S. government because of all the regulations. It’s getting more costly and it doesn’t make the product taste any better.”

A U.S. Department of Agriculture inspector is present whenever animals are slaughtered.

Although the slaughterhouse is often a target for animal rights groups, who have staged protests outside the facility, many in the agricultural sector say it’s providing a crucial service for local farms.

Having a slaughterhouse in the area means better access for ranchers, shorter truck trips between the slaughterhouse and retailers, and lower prices and fresher meat for consumers.

It’s also better for the animals, say some.

“Say you’ve got a cow that has a bad leg or is injured, you can take it to Rancho Veal right away, “ said Scott Gerber, a beef cattle rancher on Sonoma Mountain. “It’s a great service for local farms.”

The only other slaughterhouses are located in Los Banos and Fresno, 150 and 230 miles away, respectively.

Amaral and Bob Singleton, who owns Rancho Veal, have been approached numerous times to sell the slaughterhouse, but the men have held on to their operation.

Last year Marin Sun Farms, a grass-fed cattle operation in Point Reyes made an offer and in 2008 the slaughterhouse entered negotiations with a developer who wanted to build 79 new homes on the plot of land as well as behind the slaughterhouse.

The talks fell through because of jittery nerves brought on by the housing market crash, although not before leaving Amaral and Singleton with a deposit that enabled them to make an investment in hogs.

Janette Brown May 16, 2012 at 05:11 AM
You are a Oscar Mayer Wiener Mikeg55 !!! LOL just kidding
kate danaher August 13, 2012 at 06:51 PM
I recommend the book Comfortably Unaware by Dr. Richard Oppenlander. Learn how a plant based diet is essential to cooling the planet and how eating animal products is not necessary but a choice and a choice that is lose lose lose (for the animals, the planet and our health.) We choose to kill. We can choose not to and heal the planet, heal our bodies and be kind to animals. Also recommend the video Forks Over Knives www.forksoverknives.com
Justin October 30, 2012 at 08:58 AM
GOD AND THE BIBLE SAY CLEARLY! THOU SHALL NOT KILL!!!!!! And that means anything.......KILLING ANIMALS IS UNNECESARY MURDER......MANY CULTURES ARE VERY HEALTHY ON GRAINS AND PLANTS. KILL AND ANSWER TO GOD AND JESUS!!!!!!! Very clearly it says to NOT KILL!!!!! TAKE THAT DVICE TO YOUR GRAVE, in the afterlife you will dearly regret every unkind thought ior action, as well as any unforgiven action, and evil thought or action. KILLING IS EVIL. JESUS SAYS NOT TO KILL!!!! How much more clearly can God speak to each and every one of us.......Judgement day is right now!!!!! STOP KILLING ANIMALS NOW!!!!!! Embrace LOVE! Embrace JESUS, and GOD WITHIN YOU!!!!!! And even within another, even if it looks like a COW!!!!! DONT YOU GET IT!!!!! WAKE UP!!!!!! IT'S ALL GOD!!!!!!stop killing, high up on the food chain!!!!!!! ALSO ITS WAY HEALTHIER and CEANER TO EAT VEGAN......GOD BLESS US ALL ENLIGHTENED, IGNORANT BUTCHERS! MEATEATERS! AND everyone in between. SLAUGHTERHOUSES ARE EVIL! AND NOT GODS WILL....... THOU SHALL NOT KILL? PERIOD. THAT'S ALL. ALL CAPS YES! IT'S CALLED FOR.
Sioux Sarlis January 18, 2013 at 02:18 AM
The proof is in the investigations all you meat eaters...sleep well! http://animalsangels.org/
Sioux Sarlis January 18, 2013 at 02:21 AM
Here's another for ya all http://www.madcowboy.com/01_AboutPS.000.html

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