Executive Briefings

High Steaks Gamble: How Belcampo Is Trying to Profit From Raising Premium Beef

Anya Fernald has long been fascinated by food production.

She started her career in Europe in 1999, where she worked for a Sicilian cheese cooperative and a micro loan program for artisanal food producers. Back in the U.S., she launched a distribution company for small-scale farmers, then ran Slow Food Nation, a San Francisco festival created by famed restaurateur Alice Waters. In 2008, she started consulting with small food businesses. A client, retired financier Todd Robinson, had bought some derelict family farms near Mt. Shasta in northern California.

In 2012, the two launched Belcampo, a vertically integrated premium beef enterprise that now has 300 employees, 2,500 head of cattle on 23,000 acres, an abattoir, and seven Belcampo butcher shops and restaurants. They also run a meat camp that charges $1,400 each to sets of 26 guests who spend two nights sleeping in tents at the Mt. Shasta farm where they learn butchery and beef cooking skills. In this interview, which has been edited and condensed, Fernald, 42, explains how she hopes to earn back the $50m Robinson, 60, has invested in the business.

Susan Adams: What was your vision for Belcampo?

Anya Fernald: To direct-market very high quality, organic meat that is fully source-verified. That means customers know exactly where the meat comes from and that it’s been farmed in the right way.

Adams: What does it mean to farm meat in the right way?

Fernald: Going far beyond organic. We manage our pastures for carbon conservation. We keep our animals alive for longer, which is nice from a humane perspective but it also produces higher quality meat.

Adams: What’s the market for your high-priced meat?

Fernald: People concerned about their health who prioritize food in their budget. Our customers range from young moms and families to men in their 50s who say, I have to eat good quality meat or I’m going to die. I do a lot better with households that make $100,000 to $250,000 than households that make more than $500,000.

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She started her career in Europe in 1999, where she worked for a Sicilian cheese cooperative and a micro loan program for artisanal food producers. Back in the U.S., she launched a distribution company for small-scale farmers, then ran Slow Food Nation, a San Francisco festival created by famed restaurateur Alice Waters. In 2008, she started consulting with small food businesses. A client, retired financier Todd Robinson, had bought some derelict family farms near Mt. Shasta in northern California.

In 2012, the two launched Belcampo, a vertically integrated premium beef enterprise that now has 300 employees, 2,500 head of cattle on 23,000 acres, an abattoir, and seven Belcampo butcher shops and restaurants. They also run a meat camp that charges $1,400 each to sets of 26 guests who spend two nights sleeping in tents at the Mt. Shasta farm where they learn butchery and beef cooking skills. In this interview, which has been edited and condensed, Fernald, 42, explains how she hopes to earn back the $50m Robinson, 60, has invested in the business.

Susan Adams: What was your vision for Belcampo?

Anya Fernald: To direct-market very high quality, organic meat that is fully source-verified. That means customers know exactly where the meat comes from and that it’s been farmed in the right way.

Adams: What does it mean to farm meat in the right way?

Fernald: Going far beyond organic. We manage our pastures for carbon conservation. We keep our animals alive for longer, which is nice from a humane perspective but it also produces higher quality meat.

Adams: What’s the market for your high-priced meat?

Fernald: People concerned about their health who prioritize food in their budget. Our customers range from young moms and families to men in their 50s who say, I have to eat good quality meat or I’m going to die. I do a lot better with households that make $100,000 to $250,000 than households that make more than $500,000.

Read Full Article