CEO and Co Founder Belcampo Meat Company
Shasta Valley, California
I grew up in Oregon and California and also in Colorado and London kinda moving around a lot. I have always been interested in food since I was really small. My grandmother was a great cook and I cooked with her a lot. My family knows how to garden. My parents lived in Germany for about a decade and I was born there on a raw milk dairy. So, my mom thinks that all the raw milk that I ate as a little girl might be why I got so interested in food. I started a bunch of little food businesses when I was in high school and college and I just wanted to work in the food business right from the get-go but I didn’t want to be a chef. I graduated from college in ‘98 and there really wasn’t a lot happening in the quality food movement. When I looked into the landscape of what you could do in food, working in business meant working for Safeway. Working in quality food or artisan food meant either working for like a European food distributor, or being a food journalist and talking about the most expensive champagne which is what people were talking about in food journalism.
I got an internship to study cheesemaking in Northern Europe and Southern Africa for a year and I spent a year visiting over 100 dairies and travelling from Morocco, Indonesia, Greece, Italy, France, Switzerland, the UK and I just was amazed by seeing that in these small towns and these small dairies, it seemed like the closer you were to the earth in those countries the better your life was and the healthier you were. And of course I love to eat and cook and I was just learning so much with the food experiences I was having, so I decided to make a go of it and living in Europe. I worked in Sicily, writing the business plan for a cooperative of cheesemakers. After 2 years I was recruited to go work for Slow Food and after a year at Slow Food, I became the program director for their foundation and worked on micro-investment programs for small scale food producers.
I moved back to the states in 2005. When I came back to see my folks and see my friends I was noticing more and more a good cheeses and more and more activity around farmer’s markets, it was like stuff was percolating. I started a company that did distribution from small farms to big hospitals and schools. We supplied the produce for Ventura unified school district, High School Viamente, Blue Shield, hooking the biggest buyers up with some of the smallest responsible farming. That was amazing education just getting a business up and running, you know getting it funding, operational management we grew the team massively in a short period. All that stuff was great for me and really really challenging, fun and I was kind of getting in the product distribution space that I would need for Belcampo.
What is the problem with meat in America?
What’s wrong with food and agriculture in America is we’re over producing and over feeding our country and we’re doing it in a way that extracts from the environment and is extremely detrimental to the environment. In America currently I think we produce over 4000 calories per day per American in terms of the actual gross output. Most of that food and its raw ingredients are then prepared in a way that agmates their nutritional value – we’re overproducing in a way that’s ruining our environment.
In most of the world, you don’t eat beef every day. You don’t need to eat beef every day. We have a myth of needing all this protein and we don’t actually need too much protein. So there’s a culture in United States of wanting to have access to all of this meat all of the time and to always eat the cuts that are easiest to prepare. Consumers made choices again and again and the market met their needs. They wanted cheap affordable meat and they wanted the best cuts available all the time and our system delivers that product perfectly. What’s wrong with that is what happens on the back end to achieve that. To achieve that price point, the animals are treated in a way that is inhumane but also is unhealthy for the animals and by proxy unhealthy for us and for the environment that we live in.
What are you doing at Belcampo to change that?
I want Belcampo to be the first operation that scales an extremely sustainable and extensive style of animal management. There’s plenty of operations that are doing a small scale operation of what we’re doing which is enough for a couple to live on happily and have a great quality of life. I want Belcampo to be the company that figures it out in terms of how to produce a lot of meat with these systems.
I think a lot of the busy people don’t really have the time to engage in a kind of alternative food system. So I want to bring the alternative food into the mainstream.