Where’s the Beef? On the Internet, Kobe Beef Jerky Might Be As Real As Buying the Brooklyn Bridge

By Ryan Browne, Student Intern Fall 2013

The car is finally packed and you are ready to hop in and embark on an adventure across this big, beautiful country of ours when something occurs to you: “What will I snack on during my voyage in order to sustain the hunger rumbling deep in my belly?”

Beef jerky comes to mind but you quickly think “I can’t have the same old, normal beef jerky on this trip.  I need a snack as great as this land that I am about to experience, and beef jerky is not that snack.”

kobe beef jerkyBut what if I told you that there is a beef jerky that is up to the standards of this ultimate road trip?  The finest of beef jerkys?  A beef jerky made from the finest beef, Kobe beef?  A beef jerky made from Japanese raised, beer-fed cattle?  Is that the tasty treat that is worthy of your voyage?  Would you be willing to donate money so others can start a company to make this delicious dream become a reality?

Photo credit: kickstarter.com.

Thanks to some relatively new websites, you could have the opportunity to donate to ideas like this and more.  These websites, such as the most popular Kickstarter and Indiegogo, allow internet users to participate in what is known as crowdfunding.  Crowdfunding allows someone with an idea to fund their project or venture by receiving a small amount of money from a large number of donors.  Crowdfunding has been used to finance the creation of a new product, produce movies and music and to donate to charitable causes.

The process starts with the creator of the project posting videos, pictures and information about their planned project on a crowdfunding website, such as Kickstarter and Indiegogo.  These webpages show potential donors where the project currently stands and the project’s ultimate goal.  Potential donors are also offered incentives to donate to the project, such as a mention on a website or in credits, the actual product itself or being allowed on the set of the movie to be made.  Visitors to the site can then choose to donate in order to help a project they want to see become real.  The fundraiser sets a goal for the amount to be raised and the money is then used to produce either a product or art project that the donor originally wanted.

Where’s the Beef?

While these crowdfunding sites make it easier for fundraisers to be put together with potential donors, the relative anonymity of the sites allows fraudsters to prey on others and take their money and never producing the project.  Remember that delicious Kobe Beef jerky you were ready to put money into earlier?  Well earlier this year, a project posted to Kickstarter sought to raise money for what it called Kobe Red, 100% Japanese, beer fed Kobe Beef jerky.  Over 3,200 other people agreed to donate a little more than $120,000.  This money was to help purchase a refrigerator for a group called Magnus Fun Inc. so that they could turn the large quantity of raw Kobe Beef they already had into a tasty jerky.  In exchange for donations, donors would receive samplings of the jerky depending upon the amount of money given.

However, users of Kickstarter and others interested in crowdfunding became suspicious about the Kobe Red kickstarter.  Questions were raised about the claims to be able to produce the Kobe beef jerky and about the authenticity of some of the reviews provided.  Due to this vigilance, the project was suspended by Kickstarter an hour before the donations were to go final and Magnus Fun Inc.’s account has since been deleted.  You can read more about the whole story here.

Stay tuned for my next blog post to learn about how to protect yourself from fraudulent crowdfunding projects.