Here's another story about little guys sitting on the anvil when the government's hammer comes down. USDA closed Rancho Feeding Corporation's slaughter facility in Petaluma, Calif., this month for numerous violations including not providing a full inspection for the meat processed. Nearly 9 million pounds of meat was recalled, which is a drop in the proverbial bucket – unless, of course your whole bucket was part of the recall. That's where Bill Niman and a handful of other California ranchers find themselves. Niman, operating as BN Ranch, slaughtered 426 head last year, all at Rancho Feeding.
He has 100,000 pounds of beef tied up in last month's recall that may end up in a landfill rather than on dinner plates – even though it's likely the beef is safe. If so, Niman stands to lose $300,000 to $400,000 dollars. Niman clings to hope that USDA will release the meat to him for sale.
Godfather of Natural Beef
As we've learned over the past several years, there are many markets for beef. If you're enterprising, energetic and passionate, you can develop your own market for the beef you raise. That's what Bill Niman did more than three decades ago when he launched Niman Ranch's brand of natural beef and pork. The brand became quite popular with "dozens of high-end chefs, including Jean-Georges and Alfred Portale, as well as the popular burrito chain Chipotle," proudly using the Niman Ranch name "on their menus like a badge of honor." But as many who have ventured into the niche beef business have learned, the market place demands volume and a steady supply. That's why the man many describe as the godfather of natural beef is no longer associated with Niman Ranch. Natural Food Holdings took over when Niman Ranch was on the verge of bankruptcy, and Niman left the company in 2007 when it "fell into the hands of conventional meat and marketing guys as opposed to ranching guys."
NOAA Predicts "A Warm Event"
With cattle numbers at historic lows, ranchers and feeders are hoping to rebuild their herds this year. To do so they'll need help from Mother Nature. One of the government's chief weather forecasters, however, says there's a better than 50% chance of hotter-than-average temperatures this summer.
"We expect normal conditions to continue this spring," says Anthony Artusa, a meteorologist with NOAA's Climate Prediction Center. But by mid-summer, "the slight edge may go to a warm event." There are plenty of spots in the U.S. that need rain. View the National Drought Monitor here.
Chobani Yogurt Opposes Idaho Ag Gag Law
In a move that won't make many friends within Idaho's dairy farming community, Chobani Yogurt is opposing a proposed "ag gag" bill that strengthens Idaho trespass laws. If approved, the bill would allow under-cover activists subject to prosecution if they publish video of dairy farms without the owner's permission. According to the Idaho Dairymen's Association, the bill would cover:
- Wrongful entry and criminal trespass
- Theft of records
- Obtaining employment by wrongful means
- Making recordings of workplace activities without the owner’s consent
- Intentionally interfering with the farming operations