A high-end eatery in Santa Monica has admitted to masquerading factory-farmed meat as grass-fed and sourced locally from their own sustainable farm.
A former employee of Belcampo Restaurant & Butcher Shop on Wilshire Boulevard posted a series of Instagram stories Sunday from within the restaurant. “They are lying to your face and charging $47.99/lb for Filet that is either USDA choice and corn-fed or from a foreign country,” he writes in a caption overlaying footage of him speaking into the camera as he walks through the kitchen pointing out the mislabeled meat.
The videos purport to show chicken, turkey, and beef in packaging from companies including Cape Grim from Tasmania, Country Day from Minnesota, and mega-processor National Beef, headquartered in Missouri. The employee warns customers who have corn and soy allergies to stay away from the restaurant, writing “they do not care about your health, they care about money.” He apologizes in the videos for participating in what he claims are the business’ duplicitous practices, saying he did so to keep his job, which he needed for the health insurance following an injury. He was terminated last week.
Belcampo Meat Co. was founded in the Bay Area in 2012, born of “one mom’s desire to feed her family the healthiest meat possible.” Since then, the company has expanded to locations in Oakland, San Mateo, downtown Los Angeles, West Hollywood, and Santa Monica, all ostensibly supplied with meat from the company’s 30,000-acre farm at the base of Mount Shasta.
Belcampo, whose website promises “meat you can trace—transparency start to finish,” acknowledged the allegations in response to a comment on its Instagram page:
“These claims are deeply disturbing and we have initiated an internal investigation at the Santa Monica Location. While we order from wholesale suppliers for our brick and mortar butcher shops/restaurants when we’re unable to source a specific cut from our own farm or partner farms, or when we’ve had a short term Covid-related disruption to our supply chain, we always ensure the production standards as close as possible to Belcampo Farms’ own offerings: grass-fed and finished, certified humane and certified organic.”
The statement goes on to say that wholesale ordering typically represents a “tiny fraction” of the company’s overall volume, and to promise that they will take any corrective action needed after an audit is performed. Several users reposted the statement, calling it “word salad” and appealing to Angelenos to stop supporting bougie businesses that drive up rent in neighborhoods under the guise of supporting sustainability.
The company has since disabled comments on its Instagram posts, but co-founder Anya Fernard took further responsibility in an emailed statement to the San Francisco Chronicle, writing: “The preliminary results of our investigation show that unfortunately protocols both for sourcing and communicating product origin to customers were not being followed in our Santa Monica location.”
The Oakland location also became the focus of bad press last July when the Chronicle ran a piece investigating discrimination toward people of color in the restaurant industry. A sous chef named Kyle Anthony McGrath claimed Belcampo was a toxic place to work, citing hazing from other employees that went ignored by management. He was fired two days after filing a formal complaint alleging that a coworker stole two of his custom culinary knives. Fernard refuted McGrath’s claims.