Rancher seeks to buy shuttered slaughterhouse

Marin Sun Farms, a gourmet farm-to-table meat producer, is buying the Petaluma slaughterhouse at the center of an international meat recall and intends to reopen the shuttered facility.

Marin Sun founder and CEO David Evans on Thursday said he has a deal in escrow to purchase the plant operated by Rancho Feeding Corporation, which ceased operations this month and recalled all 8.7 million pounds of beef processed at the plant in 2013.

Evans, a fifth-generation Marin County rancher, said the purchase will encourage the growth of the North Bay's custom meat producers. He intends to expand operations to slaughter species other than cattle and to process organic-certified meat.

"This is a game changer," Evans said. "This will transform the future of livestock agriculture in the surrounding area."

Financial terms were not disclosed. Evans said the deal involved "several million dollars."

Robert Singleton, who owns the Petaluma plant and operates sister company Rancho Veal, on Thursday confirmed efforts to reach an agreement.

"It's in the works," Singleton said. "Nothing completed, but it's in the works."

Rancho Feeding, operated by Singleton's partner Jesse "Babe" Amaral, initiated a recall last month that has spread beyond local markets and custom-beef ranchers to national chains such as Walmart, Kroger and Food 4 Less.

More than 1,600 food distributors in the United States and Canada are now named as part of the recall, asking consumers to return such products as beef jerky, taquitos, hamburger patties and Hot Pockets frozen sandwiches.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has asserted that Rancho "processed diseased animals" without a full inspection. Two different USDA offices are conducting investigations of the company.

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