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The Fort Worth Ranch Style Beans Explosion

January 16th, 2010 · 20 Comments

By Garland Pollard

Ranch Style BeansWe got a call from actor Jeffery Jones (no not the one in Ferris Bueller) who told us a story about Ranch Style Beans, and the Ranch Style Beans Factory, in Fort Worth. Jones lived in the projects of Fort Worth, right near the Ranch Style plant, and it was an early childhood memory.The actor, now a resident of Orvieto, Italy, smelled a familiar smell while back here in the states, and called BrandlandUSA to tell us a story about it.

“The smell I am smelling. Something familiar. Ranch Style Beans. Get the hell out!” said Jones. “When I ate the beans, it just came to me.”

What came to him was a memory from childhood. A bean blow up.

Growing up in Fort Worth, in the projects, Jones says that no matter where you were, “You always saw the Ranch Style Bean can.” Apparently it was giant, and he could see it from the top of the hill where he lived on Chambers Street. He says that right around1965, there was an explosion. A big explosion.

He’s working on writing up the whole version of the story. Quite a metaphor.

The rest of the story regarding Ranch Style Beans is tragic. We wrote about Ranch Style Beans in 2008 when we found them on the shelves here in Florida.

When we wrote about the brand, we gave ConAgra a good mark for keeping the brand around. Well, since then, maker ConAgra has closed the plant in Fort Worth and moved production elsewhere. We say BAD ConAgra. That is about as bad as when the Mrs. Fearnow’s Brunswick Stew factory moved from Mechanicsville, Virginia and production moved into a plant in Delaware. It ruined the brand, and I know it doesn’t taste as good.

ConAgra made a mistake, as the brand has been so long associated with Fort Worth that they have taken its Texas identity away. I mean, how many plains cowboys are in Tennessee?

The plant just closed in November. Texans are sad. Apparently, it would have cost only $10 million to upgrade the plant, but the company didn’t want to do it. A great report on the history from the local Fox affilate is here. (By the way, just sayin’, there is a special place somewhere for folks who shut down factories just before Christmas.)

But above all that, we are still thinking about the explosion, and wondering about the story.

“We actually thought it was the end of the world,” says Jones. “I can see the day as clear as today.”

Editor’s Note: It would be great to hear some others tell some stories of the plant. In addition, we can’t find any details on the explosion, though someone must remember. And perhaps ConAgra can see fit to reopen it.

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Tags: Regional Brands

20 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Suzanne W // Dec 24, 2010 at 8:35 pm

    Just opened three cans of Ranch Style Beans. VERY bad change in the taste. They are not the same. I checked the label and now it says ConAgra Foods. They are using something different in the recipe and it is hotter that is was when made in Fort Worth. I’m done and will spread the word how nasty they taste now. I grew up seeing the plant and hauling them back in the trunk of my car to Colorado for years until they discovered them. It is almost like they have changed the fat to a cheap lard or whatever. Won’t be eating them again.

  • 2 Gregory Gammill // Jan 1, 2011 at 2:21 pm

    I noticed the change too many months ago. The flavor is
    definitely different (read: not as good) and on top of that there
    is less of the flavor. I guess they aren’t using as much salt?
    Whatever the cause, RSB are forever ruined. I’m still buying them
    but I’m constantly looking for a replacement. No doubt sales of the
    beans have plummeted because of the new taste.

  • 3 Rena // Mar 10, 2011 at 9:51 pm

    Ranch Beans are the best – absolutely the best I’ve ever tried! I really Hope you never change the recipe (although a new label wouldn’t hurt because the one you have just doesn’t do it justice).
    I recall going to a BBQ joint in Texas and I loved the beans so much I asked for the recipe. The guy laughed at me and said, “no problem”. He went to the back and came out with Your Can of Ranch Beans. I can’t tell you what a surprise that was. Also, since I’ve been in Canada, I use to buy them at Save On Foods, but they no longer carry them (what a bummer) , so now I have to drive all the way to Kalispell Montana and I do because there is nothing like them. Thanks, Rena

  • 4 Rena // Mar 10, 2011 at 9:55 pm

    Sheesh …I’ve just been reading that you’ve changed the recipe! Now I’m upset. I’ve only got 1 can left and will have to make a long trip to buy more. I hope I’m not going to be disappointed. Don’t understand the reason for the change…they were perfect. As the saying goes, ‘if it ain’t broke – don’t fix it.

  • 5 Lash Landry // Mar 14, 2011 at 7:23 pm

    This is TERRIBLE. We had a pretty good stash of rsbs in the pantry and i just bought some new ones and opened a new can. it’s one of the few high-fiber foods my kids will eat. this new one smells and tastes FERMENTED. what in the world have you done to them? and WHY? the expiration is a couple of years off, so it’s not an old can. GOOD GRIEF. And GOOD BYE. (BTW, has anyone else noticed that the price had gone up almost double?) Lash.

  • 6 Kevin Sparks // Aug 12, 2011 at 5:20 pm

    I used to eat them right out of the can. Not sure of the change but they are not worth eating anymore. My wife and I are very sad the only good tasting beans from a can are now gone. It’s a shame!!!!

  • 7 Barb Wilkins // Dec 4, 2011 at 9:34 pm

    I’m really glad to hear it isn’t just me that noticed the difference! The soup has a weird thick consistency now, and don’t come close to how they used to taste. Which is really bad for our house. My husband and were born and raised in Fort Worth. RSB have been in our pantry ever since I can remember. For my husband, there are only two vegetables, RSB and black eyed peas. Now, I can’t stand the RSB.
    Too bad they had to go and mess with something that worked great for so many years.

  • 8 Barb Wilkins // Jan 29, 2012 at 6:01 pm

    I wrote to ConAgra to tell them how bad their RSBs are now. They sent me two coupens for free beans. Really?

  • 9 S.G. Masten // Aug 31, 2012 at 1:35 am

    I am a Think ConAgra Need to Build a New Plant in Ft.Worth. And Hire Back Some of the Old Employees, that Knew the Recipe. Or Find a Buyer in D/FW that Will.

  • 10 jsb // Jul 13, 2013 at 3:47 pm

    Never really noticed a change in the taste. We still eat them. My Dad and Mom still eat them. I remember the old Ranch Style Bean sign in Ft Worth. We served almost 20 cases of institutional sized cans at the World’s Largest BBQ here in Abilene, TX. It serves the active duty military families here at Dyess Air Force Base. I am a bit concerned about the continual price increase. I’m afraid people will quit buying them and Conagra will have to quit making them. I am curious as to where they are made now.

  • 11 scott // Aug 30, 2013 at 6:02 pm

    I live in Ft. Worth and grew up on ranch style beans. Something is very wrong with the machinery at the new plant or someone there thought it would be funny to substitute pure greasy oily lard like substance for the usual sauce. I thought they had changed the recipe so I tasted a spoonful of that nasty stuff. Now it’s trying to back up on me and I can’t get the taste out of my mouth. Sad day when they shut down the Ft. Worth location. I have called to warn them and gave them the batch number. I too was offered coupons. Gee thanks.

  • 12 Letty Benavides // Jun 8, 2015 at 9:34 am

    No wonder that the beans are not the same at all they have no taste at all why change something that is good tasting and make it so horribly unappealing. I came to this website looking for answers and this is what I find! =( no more ranch style beans for me and my family.

  • 13 Charles P // Sep 9, 2015 at 9:35 am

    I just emailed ConAgra foods about this! Here’s what I wrote:
    What in the HELL did you DO to the Ranch Style Beans????? They were a signature taste commonly associated with Fort Worth, TX, and now you’ve ruined it! What? Is is SOO hard to have retained–instead of TAINTED–the original taste? I can tell you–and I’m sure you’ve received numerous complaints like mine–there are MANY saddened Texans over the loss of not only the plant, but of this [once] fantastic staple food of Fort Worth. DAMN IT!!!

  • 14 Susan Ivison // Sep 9, 2015 at 6:20 pm

    We want the old bean taste back! Just can’t eat these anymore. They are nasty. Will have to try other brands.

  • 15 joe // Sep 13, 2015 at 9:05 am

    And we want Iron kettle brand chili back too !!

  • 16 ConAgra Wants a Repair of Its Basic Manufacturers | Posts // Nov 3, 2015 at 7:41 am

    […] model is surrounded by lore. Right here’s a couple of of the feedback from the story on the Ranch Style Beans explosion. Sure, the bean plant truly blew […]

  • 17 C springer // Feb 25, 2016 at 7:06 pm


  • 18 Dennis Wynne // Jun 3, 2017 at 6:25 pm

    I realize this is an old thread. But I know what is likely to be the answer. I grew up in Fort Worth. And back about 1968-1972 ish there was a propane tank 18 wheeler that had a wreck over off of hwy 287. The tank was punctured in the end and the tank propelled through the air and was stuck in the Northeast side of the ranch style building. It was sticking out about 1/2 up there as I recall. I bet there is a photo of it somewhere on the net. But that likely was the origin of the explosion story.

  • 19 Regina white // Jun 30, 2017 at 10:06 am

    The ranch style beans are horrible now. Everyone around me as noticed. Used to, when you opened a can it had a little red grease or sauce on top. That’s gone. I quit buying them. They are also mushy with no flavor

  • 20 Barb Cates // Dec 25, 2017 at 2:17 am

    It took 7 years, but Finally! Here is the proof that at some point Ranch Style Beans stopped looking, smelling and tasting like the beans I grew up eating, and eventually my husband (3-4 can/week guy) had to give in and say, “Don’t bother buying them anymore”. I haven’t tasted them in years. Just another victim of the future.

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