By Arielle Dubowe
The meat world can be an intense, complex, and terrifying place for many people. Words and conversations such as grassfed, no antibiotics, I heard this was bad,eat this, don’t eat that are constantly publicized. Meat companies battle for customers’ attention and urge them to eat their product vs. another because that company may use hormone supplements. These facts tend to get muddled among all of the other information consumers should know about their meat. So who to trust and who to believe when under the pressure of being hungry and making the best decision? It all starts with who is willing to take the time to speak to the customer, to educate the customer, and to help customers make the best decisions. One of the butcher shops that pushes all of the empty fads aside and focuses on the basics of good, ethical, environmentally-conscious meat production is Belcampo Meat Co—a revolutionary butcher shop that is minding its own business in its little corner of the meat world.
On its website, the company emphasizes “Belcampo is a lot of things: a farm, a processing plant, a neighborhood butcher shop, a restaurant.” Andrew Sutton, the assistant head butcher at the Santa Monica location, explained how Belcampo is “a lot of things” by practicing vertical integration.
Vertical integration usually scares small businesses as that means the big corporations control everything and can lessen the impact of a small company’s success. However, vertical integration is an extremely important concept when applied to companies like Belcampo, because it enables the concept of farm-to-table.
Belcampo believes in a close connection between each step of the meat process. All of its butcher shops are only in California, with locations in Larkspur, San Francisco, Palo Alto, Santa Barbara, Santa Monica, and Los Angeles. Vertical integration allows Belcampo to fine-tune the meat process and to strengthen the bond between the butcher, the farmer, and the consumer. Belcampo accomplishes this through one of its defining characteristics—the homey feel influenced by old-school Italian butchery.
Since Belcampo owns its own farms, butchers, and restaurants, this type of ownership allows for the company to add a more personalized and specialized feeling to each process. There is no lost communication between the farmer, the butcher, and the consumer when it comes to Belcampo’s way.
Belcampo has everything—that means everything, including all the bones, the “inedible” pieces, and the carcasses—out in front of the shop. This visibility educates the customers about the whole animal and not just the “edible” parts such as steaks and ground meat. And that’s exactly what the Italians believe in as well.
At some of its locations, there is a viewing window where a customer can see how the butchers break down entire carcasses of animals, from head to tail, and obtain the very steaks sitting in the display case. A customer can get lamb necks, lardo, goat legs, and other less popular, but still delicious options. Belcampo wants people to see there is more to the animal than just chops, loins, and steaks, and therefore encourages transparency at all times in its butcher shops. The butchers at Belcampo want customers to try new things, to be more mindful of what they are eating, and to respect the animal as a whole being, not just as dinner.
Who knew butcher shops could be so beautiful and full of opportunities? The Belcampo butcher shops represent not only the chance to become more educated in the art of meat, but also the opportunity to feel good about making a food-conscious decision. Customers often tend to rush and just order everything without thinking. But Belcampo wants the customer to stop and think, especially when it comes to purchasing their meat that farmers and butchers dedicated their time and passion to.
While Belcampo emulates an impeccable business model, Sutton admitted they are not focused on expanding beyond California and having other companies adopt their model. He said that Belcampo is only focused on the craft of meat, respecting the animals, and teaching its values to customers. Basically they just want to do what they love in their little corner of the meat world and honestly, that is all that matters.
To learn more about Belcampo Meat Co., visit: http://www.belcampomeatco.com