The Fort Worth Ranch Style Beans Explosion

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.


  • Garland Pollard

    J. Garland Pollard IV is editor/publisher of BrandlandUSA. Since 2006, the website has chronicled the history and business of America’s great brands.


  1. I think con-agra changes ingredients on every food item they purchase to cut production costs and saving money to bottom line for con-agra. They did the same thing when they purchased Odom’s Tennessee Pride Sausage. It changed the texture of the meat and was not the same. When I brought this to their attention, they sent me coupons. What a joke.

    1. Author

      Agree. They never taste like the same thing.

    2. Ranch Style beans now taste AWFUL! Beans are hard and
      not creamy at all. Gross!. Will not buy any more.

      1. Author

        Thank you. I saw them in the Winn Dixie last week, and wanted to try but did not.

  2. Many years ago, ,early to mid 70s, we had Ranch style beans shirts and caps my mother had gotten for us.. would like to find them again.

  3. Nice to know I’m not the only one who thought those beans tasted weird. I used to use them all the time as part of a chili recipe but no more, especially after researching the horrible practices conagra embodies. I buy nothing that company touches…haven’t for years.

  4. I’m 65 years old and live in Illinois near St. Louis, MO. Can’t exactly remember the first time I had Ranch Style Beans, but it was in the 1960’s. As everyone knows who had them pre-ConAgra, THEY WERE FABULOUS!! UNIQUE!! WAY BETTER WITH A GRILLED BURGER THAN PORK & BEANS!! Didn’t have them often as they were not readily available around here, but when I did, they were always the same. When I met my wife in 1975, I was trying to impress her with my cooking prowess. Ran across some Ranch Style Beans and served them to her. She had never had them, but fell in love with the taste immediately. But as everyone knows, ConAgra took that away. Just wanted to vent as we just tried a can (for the last time). I’ll let ConAgra know and take their coupons, but I’ll use them for something else. By the way, I tried the Homesick Texan’s recipe. Lots of work, but the results are way better than the crap ConAgra is putting in their cans.

  5. I gotta agree with all the other reviews I have just read here. I’m 60 now and I dont usually say much bout anythin. Just too old to care much bout anythin I guess. But this one has my jaws tight. I been eatin Ranch Beans from Ft.Worth since I can member. I noticed here a while back that somethin just didnt seem right. But I kinda just wrote it off as too many years in the military then out and all over the country for a few years. When I finally came back home to Texas they were still the same good ol beans. I wouldnt buy nuthin different. Then it seemed like just over night changes happened. The beans werent as tasty as they had been. The juice or sauce was thinner with absolutely NO taste. Well not the good taste that they once had. Almost soup like. Then I started noticing that the beans themselves were different, Not consistent like they had been. Some were burnt, some were hard then there were just a lotta skins. The old bean were never like that, maybe 1 or 2 but never the numbers that there is now. I looked really close at the can label. That had even changed somewhat. I wish I had noticed that long ago. Had I known that ConAgra was the culprit of this sham sooner I wuda went out and bought a pickup load of the OLD Ranch Style Beans. I wuda put’m in cool storage and had them now. With proper rationin. SO its another sad story of the big corporate buyouts of the little guy and makin changes that ruin the products that were a staple in so many homes for so many years. Its just disgustin how people think progress is posed to be. My son is even disgusted with the new RSB recipe. I had him eatin them before he turned a year old. My wife wasnt happy bout it but, he really enjoyed them back then. Not any longer. So this is one more family that will no longer be purchasin the NEW ranch style beans. Wake up ConAgra, I understand that you are too big to care bout what anyone thinks or feels bout changes you make with any product. But you’d think that with all the loss of customers you’d pull your head out and just think for a minute or 2. Your NEW Ranch Style Beans really suck now. Kinda like NEW Coke……….. Same exact thing

  6. I am 46 years old and I grew up eating Ranch Style Beans. I remember the plant in Fort Worth. I remember when they would burn the beans and you could smell it all around? , that did not happen too often, but it did happen. These were the best beans ever (not the burned ones,?). Since they have had the ConAgra label, there have been hard beans, darker burnt, in them, the sauce is different, and they are not the same. I called, complained to customer service and the lady sent me coupons. I believe ConAgra just wants to monopolize canned goods among other food items. From what I have read in this thread they did not want to upgrade the Fort Worth plant because it would have cost ?10 million. Now the plant is a whiskey distillery, so why can’t a big huge multi-million ? food corporation upgrade a plant if a local whiskey distillery can? I’d rather eat Ranch Style Beans from Fort Worth then drink whiskey from Fort Worth any day. There’s my rant for the day.

  7. Conagra, why don’t you listen to all these complaints? Don’t you even care? Do you think that if you just ignore the problem, it will go away a d people will buy those horrible, nasty tasting beans? Well,dream on!! Ranch style beans have been forever ruined!!

  8. Ranch Style Beans are horrible. I have a couple of cans in my pantry but will not use them. I wouldn’t even feed them to my dogs. I’ve eaten them all my life but no more.

  9. 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.

  10. 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

  11. 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.

  12. And we want Iron kettle brand chili back too !!

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

  14. 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!!!

    1. It’s 5 years later, and I just had a can of RSB for the first time in several years. I thought I had bought the wrong product. It is now really pasty almost like a bean dip than just ranch style beans. The flavor also was NOT the same. I was really disappointed because I hadn’t had any in so long and anticipated a moment of nostalgia. Nope.
      Your message to the company is fantastic. Unfortunately, in five years they have not improved the situation.

  15. 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.

  16. 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.

  17. 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.

  18. 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.

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

  20. 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.

  21. 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!!!!

  22. 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.

  23. 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.

  24. 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

  25. 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.

  26. 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.

    1. So I just open i a can it had worms in it

    2. I worked at Ranch style beans back in 79 my mother worked all her life at R S Beans. I always loved the way they smelled and I still eat them. Sorry to hear about them moving hope the brand will survive.

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