A darling of the food world in the last decade, Belcampo Meat Co., announced it is ending all of its retail butcher shop and restaurant operations effective this week. And while it sounds like they may continue as some kind of wholesale meat business, the company as we know it seems done-for.
Eater LA broke the news Monday, as employees at the company's Los Angeles and Bay Area stores were being informed of the closures.
The company's website now has a statement saying, "It is with a mixture of sadness and pride that Belcampo is ending our branded e-commerce, retail, and restaurant operations. We want to thank you for supporting our company. You inspired us to create products that were delicious and reflected a care for our global environment. We are grateful that you joined us on this journey. Prices are marked down significantly and all sales are final."
Belcampo's Bay Area presence had already dwindled with the closure of its Polk Street butcher shop/restaurant in mid 2019, and the closure of the Larkspur location last year. It was still operating big locations at Oakland’s Jack London Square and San Mateo’s Hillsdale Shopping Center.
Company co-founder Anya Fernald, who parlayed her fame as a sustainable meat evangelist and chef into plenty of Food Network gigs over the last decade, no longer lists Belcampo in her Instagram bio.
Belcampo grew in part out of Oakland's Eat Real Festival in the last decade, with Fernald having also played a role in the founding of that. On the now de-linked About page for the company, you'll see the ideals that Belcampo espoused for pasture-raised beef, "low-stress animal handling" (with a processing facility was designed by Temple Grandin), and regenerative agriculture.
But holes in the company's operations were exposed in recent months, after a former employee posted on social media that the Santa Monica store was taking Mary's chickens and other companies' meats and slapping Belcampo labels on them. A subsequent internal investigation found that only 6% of the products being sold were other products purporting to be Belcampo Farms-raised, but the reputational damage was big.
At $48 per pound, people were pretty pissed that they may have just been getting conventional beef with a fake label on it.
"Outside of the quality of our product, nothing is more important to Belcampo than the trust of our customers," the company said in a statement back in June. "To that end, we have launched a comprehensive audit of purchasing at all Belcampo Restaurant and Butcher Shop locations."
Eater LA would report via multiple employees that the practice had been ongoing for months and was hardly an isolated issue, and this may have been some sort of desperate act as supply-chain issued began limiting the flow of certain products. It also sounds as though the company grew too fast on the retail end, and its farms couldn't keep up with the demand for meat.
The official word is that the farm and meat-processing end of the business may still continue. CEO Garry Embleton said in a statement that Belcampo is "exploring a range of options to provide consumers with non-branded products through new distribution channels." Embleton added, "The company’s supply chain, farm and processing facility are both best in class and we hope that there are opportunities to collaborate with companies eager to provide consumers with meat products that meet those high standards."
On the plus side, you'll find 50%-off deals on the meat that they still have for sale in the web store. And presumably that stuff is the real deal.
Photo via OpenTable