Just months after the turmoil sparked by a video alleging that Belcampo Meat Co.’s products were deliberately mislabelling – contrary to the company’s direct-sourcing ethos and sustainability-focused marketing – the company has its retail and business Restaurant operation closed on October 18th.
The farm, butcher, and regional restaurant chain faced backlash in late May when former Belcampo Santa Monica employee Evan Reiner posted a video on his Instagram claiming the company had meat from other farms – and even from other countries – sold, but different styles than his. designates and sells proprietary product from the Company’s 30,000 acre farm in Gazelle, California.
At one point Reiner held up a beef fillet with “Cape Grim” packaging clearly visible, suggesting that it was sold as Belcampo meat (Cape Grim is an Australian cattle ranch). Another example on an Instagram story included a photo where he wrote that the meat “was bought for just over $ 10.” [per pound and] sold [by Belcampo] for $ 47.99 [per pound] as ‘organic’. “
“They lie in your face,” wrote Reiner as a text on one of his videos. Staff, he said, have been encouraged to hide labels from other farms to indicate that the meat comes from Belcampo’s own farm. Reiner declined to comment on this story.
After Reiner’s video was published, Belcampo carried out its own investigation and reported: “Overall, externally procured meats that did not meet Belcampo’s quality standards accounted for 6% of the total value of all meats procured from the beginning of 2020 to the end of May 2021.
The company offered to provide refunds to customers who believed they had been mislabeled. In June, Belcampo announced that it would hire a full-time compliance officer to conduct quality and purchasing audits. The company also said it will train its employees in procurement practices and source from outside the company’s operations – and only from approved partner farms – only if Belcampo’s own farm cannot meet supply demand.
Four months later, Belcampo ceased trading as a retailer.
According to a statement by CEO Garry Embleton, Belcampo has ceased retail and service operations while the farm and processing facility are still operational and will be exploring “a number of options” including selling non-Belcampo products.
As of Monday, Belcampo operated three restaurants in the Los Angeles area – one in Santa Monica, one in West Hollywood, and a counter in Grand Central Market in downtown and two in Northern California.
A representative of the Grand Central Market confirmed that Belcampo closed its butcher and burger shop in the historic food hall on Monday. As reported by Eater, the Santa Monica restaurant and butcher shop window marked its closure with a handwritten sign that read “SHOP CLOSED, SORRY” in red chalk.
An email to co-founder (and former public face of the organization) Anya Fernald was not answered. According to a Belcampo representative, Fernald has not been with the company for months, despite having a seat on the board.
Over the summer, Fernald was one of Belcampo’s most apologetic voices after Reiner’s backroom video went viral. She called the mislabeling of products in Santa Monica “heartbreaking,” but did not explain how it came about, adding that it only affected the company’s retail, not mail-order business.
This was reiterated in a public statement by the company in June detailing the results of its investigation and next steps. The wrong labeling only occurred in his butcher shops and restaurants, not in his e-commerce shop or his delivery to grocery stores.
“During the unprecedented disruption of the global Covid-19 pandemic, our business saw rapid and significant operational changes,” read the public response. “Restrictions on indoor eating, interruptions in the supply chain, a rapid increase in demand for take-away and delivery, as well as staff vacations or layoffs, particularly affected our locations in restaurants and butchers.”
This week, the CEO of Belcampo said the company is now focused on “supporting our retail and e-commerce employees during the transition”. However, Belcampo representatives would not explain or clarify anything about the Company’s future endeavors or the scope or variety of support offered to employees, other than the fact that it is “reasonable support”.