MRO Magazine

UNITE HERE: Niman Ranch Bought by Perdue, Updates on Company Developments

September 10, 2015
By Business Wire News


The following was issued by UNITE HERE:

On September 8, 2015, private equity firm LNK Partners announced that it had agreed to sell Niman Ranch’s parent company to Perdue Farms. We seek to alert Niman Ranch customers including Whole Foods (Nasdaq: WFM) and Chipotle (NYSE: CMG) about serious environmental and sanitation problems at Niman Ranch’s facilities during its rapid expansion under LNK Partners’ ownership. Perdue intends to continue to grow the company.

A Niman Ranch pork processing manager was recently sentenced to jail time for a serious act of environmental harm committed in 2012, during LNK’s ownership. Sioux-Preme Packing’s pork processing plant in Sioux City, Iowa processed 90% of Niman Ranch pork as of 2014 and is owned by Niman Ranch’s parent Natural Food Holdings. On July 20 2015, the maintenance manager at the Sioux-Preme facility was sentenced to prison time for knowingly dumping about 845,000 gallons biological materials and agricultural wastes (e.g., blood, fecal material, animal guts, cleaning chemicals, etc.) into an Iowa river. The discharge lasted more than 11 hours, fouled over 11 miles of river, and killed nearly 200,000 fish. The manager acknowledged that the plant had trouble in the past keeping the level of wastewater low and that the plant had released contaminated water into the river on previous occasions. The manager had worked for the plant since 1991 and reported directly to Sioux-Preme CEO Gary Melenke.

Niman Ranch’s chief pork processing plant has logged over 100 food safety violations under LNK Partners ownership. Niman Ranch’s pork processing facility was found to be non-compliant with food safety regulations 108 times by the USDA from LNK Partners’ purchase of Niman Ranch’s parent company in 2011 to November 2014. Niman was cited 21 times for failure to protect the product from adulteration. Niman Ranch’s facility was cited at least 6 times for fecal contamination during LNK’s ownership, as recently as April 2014. For example, the plant’s USDA inspector wrote: “On 4/2/2014, while on the slaughter floor at 11:07AM, I observed an employee slice through fecal contaminated fat adjacent to a kidney being popped in the carcass. The employee moved on to the next carcass in the moving line, popping the kidneys and removing the fat without sanitizing her fecal contaminated knife or washing her hands.”

Perdue has a mixed record on food safety and humane treatment. In August 2014, Perdue Farms of Gainesville, GA, recalled approximately 15,306 pounds of Applegate Naturals chicken nuggets after small pieces of plastic were found in the product. In a separate incident in September 2014, Perdue recalled 720 pounds of raw chicken products from the New York metropolitan area because of contamination risks in its processing operation. The Humane Society sued Perdue in 2010 and 2013 over Perdue’s use of the humane label. Perdue settled by agreeing to remove its “humanely-raised” label from the chicken products which were the subject of the lawsuit.

UNITE HERE is a union with over 270,000 members in the U.S. and Canada in the hospitality and food service industries.

Nathan Horrell
Research Analyst