Hallmark/Westland has a buyer

Nov 11, 2008
Hallmark/Westland has a buyer

Marvin Roberts, a longtime Arizona rancher and livestock broker, has re cently been linked to the purchase of the Hallmark/Westland Meat Packing Co., the facility now infamous for be ing implicated in an animal abuse scandal that triggered the recall of 143 million pounds of beef, much of which was bound for the National School Lunch Program.

The Chino, CA, plant was given an order by USDA earlier this year to cease and desist operations when the Humane Society of the United States released undercover footage of Hall mark workers mistreating downer cows. In response to the public outcry stemming from the release of the video, USDA in May announced plans to implement a total ban on the slaughter of all downer cattle, not just those that the on-site veterinarians deem unfit for slaughter.

Chino residents and California cattlemen—especially dairy opera tors—are eager for the plant to reopen and become productive once again.

The plant would provide jobs to ap proximately 250 people and an impor tant outlet for slaughter dairy animals in the region. The Hallmark plant is one of about four of its size in the state equipped to slaughter and process beef, pork, veal or lamb, and was processing 500 cattle per day before being shut down. Roberts told local news outlets that none of the previous owners would have a financial interest in the plant when it begins operating again, which he hopes will be sometime this fall. Before he can begin slaughter opera tions, the new company needs ap proval from USDA. Food Safety and Inspection Service officials have said that his application is still under review. There is nothing wrong with the facility itself, and in fact, much of the equipment is reported to be state-of the-art.

To counter the negative public perception of the plant and to ensure that another handling violation doesn’t occur, Roberts said he intends to install surveillance cameras and has tapped a former federal veterinar ian to develop a cattle handling plan. Hallmark/Westland Meat Packing Co. still owes money to USDA’s Agri cultural Marketing Service (AMS), which filed a $67.2 million warranty action against the company. A spokes person for AMS explained that if the company does not respond to AMS, the agency intends to initiate legal action against the company. The plant itself is reportedly sitting in escrow.

Tait Berlier, WLJ Editor