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At the Redwood Gospel Mission, Executive Director Jeff Gilman said he hadn't heard the charitable agency was on the recall list. A subsequent search of the records showed the mission hadn't received any of the meat items listed in the recall, he said. The agency operates four Santa Rosa homeless shelters.

"We're all clear on our end," Gilman said. "We went through the freezer and looked at all the inventory in both our two big walk-ins. We went through the list on the website and checked it against what we had in the freezer."

He said the recall list includes stew meats and a variety of offal, which could include parts such as tripe, feet or tails.

"It's pretty clear it wasn't things we received," Gilman said.

He said the mission and other charitable agencies may have been included as a precaution, as they receive meat donated from a variety of sources.

At Carolina Wild in northern Santa Rosa, butcher Dominic Bickford wondered who might step forward to take up the business should Rancho close its doors for good.

Bickford said he knew of one order received at Carolina Wild that put it on the recall list: a specific customer involving an entire cow. The beef was locally grown and slaughtered at Rancho and the carcass was sent to Carolina Wild to cut up for the local customer in June, he said.

"I've spoken with Rancho several times regarding the issue," he said.

He feared the huge recall would cause a backlash on local small meat businesses: "Everybody's going to suffer to an extent."

Jonathan Lewis, who runs a San Francisco meat-buying collective called Pastoral Plate, challenged the way the USDA has handled the recall. He said by not explaining what investigators believe happened, the recall indicts everyone who has had Rancho process meats.

"It seems like it's a vast overreaction from what we've heard," he said. "The whole artisanal food industry is going to suffer. How can they shut down a whole industry and not tell us why?

"Maybe it's a billion times more serious than we've heard, but how would we know when they don't say what it is?"

Many small ranchers take their grass-fed, pasture-raised animals to Rancho. They care about how their animals are treated, slaughtered and butchered, he said.

"Now their product falls under the same shadow," he said. "No one's gotten sick, so go figure."

(Staff Writer Randi Rossmann contributed to this report.)