North Coast Meats could help meet demand for local, sustainably grown meat

Literature at the Petaluma Visitors Center is not likely to mention that Petaluma is home to the Bay Area?s last remaining slaughterhouse.

But Rancho Veal, the slaughterhouse on Petaluma Boulevard North a mile south of the Cinnabar Theater, is almost certain to give way to development within the next two years. The owners, Babe Amaral and Robert Singleton, are retiring, and the 90-year-old facility has seen declining business as ranching gives way to grapes in Sonoma County.

The decline is no surprise. Many ranchers are forced to sell their livestock for less than the cost of raising them. That?s because feedlots, slaughterers, distributors and retailers each take a share of the cost of getting the meat to market.

So why should Petaluma care about the loss of an antiquated slaughterhouse? Two reasons.

One is that the struggling dairy industry is dependent on Rancho Veal to buy their male calves and older cows that no longer produce milk.

?Almost everybody in the dairy business uses Rancho for male calves,? says Mike Gale of Chileno Valley Natural Beef. The loss of Rancho Veal means that livestock would have to be trucked to Fresno or Orland, resulting in higher costs and more stress for the animals.

Secondly, the number of people who want locally raised, sustainably farmed and processed beef and lamb is growing at the rate of 20 percent a year. The fact that customers are willing to pay considerably more for these products could be the key to revitalizing ranching in Sonoma County.

A solution is on the horizon. Samuel Goldberger and Phyllis Faber of North Coast Meats hope to build a new multi-species slaughterhouse to address these needs and perhaps make it possible for ranching to flourish once again in the North Bay.

And it won?t be your grandpa?s slaughterhouse. The facility, still in the feasibility study phase, will be built to green specifications and will be certified to process both organic and non-organic meats.

The vertically integrated business will process the meat, distribute it and market it locally, eliminating the middleman or the need to send animals to distant feedlots.

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