Walk up to the Santa Monica flagship of Belcampo Meat Purveyor, the West Coast’s most (in)famous high-end meat company, and you’ll be greeted by a locked door and a sheet of white paper taped onto the window that reads, “Closed for business. Sorry,” scrawled in red crayon in all caps. Inside, the meat cases that were once overflowing with pricey cuts of beef, lamb, and chicken are virtually empty, while stacks of furniture line the edges of the room.
The Belcampo Meat Company as we know it is done: It has quietly deleted all of its social media accounts; deactivated its OpenTable reservations in LA and the Bay Area; and co-founder Anya Fernald has removed any statement of affiliation with the company from her Instagram profile. Sources close to the company say employees were told via text message that their jobs were terminated today. While Belcampo’s downtown LA location, inside Grand Central Market, is normally closed on Mondays and Tuesdays, earlier today, a few remaining staffers could be seen quietly packing things up at the meat purveyor’s Santa Monica outpost, and calls placed to Belcampo’s retail stores in the West Third neighborhood of LA and the Bay Area today went unanswered.
The company has confirmed its public-facing closure. “While we are ending e-commerce, retail and restaurant operations, the company is exploring a range of options to provide consumers with non-branded products through new distribution channels,” CEO Garry Embleton said in a statement. “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.”
Belcampo was founded in 2013 with a $50 million investment from billionaire financier Todd Robinson. Within a year, it had become one of the beacons of the sustainable butchery movement, touting its singular approach to regenerative ranching and agriculture — including in the New Yorker — and promising its well-heeled customers humanely raised, immaculately sourced meat with a deluxe price tag to match. By 2019, Belcampo had expanded to multiple retail butcher and restaurant outlets in California, along with an outpost in New York City.
Then, this past summer, the company suffered a spectacular fall from grace after Evan Reiner, an LA butcher and former Belcampo employee, posted a series of Instagram videos alleging that company was passing off meat from other companies as its own. Multiple employees then described to Eater LA a yearlong pattern of mislabeling meat in at least two locations, during which the stores routinely sold customers cheaper commodity products, including factory farmed meat, in place of its own signature premium cuts — but at the same premium prices.
After the allegations of mislabeling, Belcampo acknowledged the deceit and said that an internal investigation found that a small percentage of its products were not properly labeled. It declared that in the future it would only source from its own farm or partner farms that adhered to its strict standards, and issued refunds to all customers who believed they were purchasing Belcampo’s own meat. Until this week, it appeared to continue to operate normally.
The company did not respond to questions about the status of its employees, simply stating in its prepared statement that “moving forward, our focus is on supporting our retail and e-commerce employees throughout the transition.”
This story is developing and will be updated as new information becomes available.
Additional reporting by Farley Elliot