The California slaughterhouse Rancho Feeding Corporation is under investigation for allegedly buying cows with eye cancer and chopping off their heads so the disease wouldn’t be detected by inspectors.
The slaughterhouse recalled 8.7 million pounds of beef, although so far there are no reports of the meat making people ill. The U.S. Department of Agriculture is using an abundance of caution to make sure no cancerous meat mixed with healthy meat.
"Rancho, we're told, was slaughtering them, somehow after hours or in other ways where the inspector didn't know about it," a source told the San Francisco Chronicle. "Because the carcass looked good, (Rancho) mixed it back in with other beef that it sold under its label."
Prof. James Cullor, of the School of Veterinary Medicine at UC Davis, says cows with eye cancer aren’t necessarily dangerous to eat, but he wouldn’t recommend it as it could easily be spread throughout the cow's body.
"If I'm out on top of Mount Everest and have a cow (with eye cancer) and I'm hungry, I'm going to cook her well and deal with getting down the mountain," Cullor said. "But if I'm here in this country, I will choose to not consume the animal. I wouldn't feed the animal to my grandchildren."
When Rancho recalled 40,000 pounds of meat in January for not being properly inspected, investigators found two diseased cattle heads.
Private cattle producers who had their stock sent to Rancho are complying with the recall although they maintain their cattle are healthy.
Rep. Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael, says if producers can prove to the USDA that their healthy beef was kept separate from tainted beef they could “get some relief from the recall.”