The third major factor in animal quality is what the animal eats – and what it doesn’t eat. Cattle are ruminants – animals which naturally feed primarily on grass and other forage. Like us, cattle also enjoy a little variety in their diet, and are particularly fond of grains. At Shipley Farms, we use a feeding protocol developed through the Amazing Grazing program from N.C. State University’s College of Agriculture, which calls for the animal to get the major source of its daily nutrition from forage (grazing in the pasture, and eating cut hay in the winter when pastures are dormant), with a daily supplement of vegetarian corn and grain feed. This feed supplement is a natural and healthy way to stimulate the animal’s growth and enhance the marbling and texture of the meat without using steroids and other growth stimulants, and without feeding any animal byproducts.
- Our animals are not only “pasture-raised” and “pasture-fed,” but also “pasture-finished.” Some practices provides for animals to be “grain-finished.” The ‘finishing’ stage is the last few months when the animal is being fattened up for slaughter. Feeding a diet of corn or other grains along with soy or other concentrated feed helps to fatten up the animal more quickly and efficiently. However, too much grain without enough forage isn’t natural for the animal’s digestive system. Our practice is to continue a balanced, grass-based diet throughout the animal’s life, even through the finishing stage.
- Pasture-feeding also enhances nutrition, with grass-based diets providing more CLA’s and Omega-3 fatty acids than grain-fed beef.
- As with antibiotics, while we recognize the varied practices used across the livestock industry for feeding the world safely, efficiently and in large volume every day, for our own practices we never use steroids, hormones, or any other growth stimulants on any of our livestock. Many years ago, when farm land was cheap and growth enhancers were rare, our practices were the common practice for how beef was grown. Today, less than 3% of the beef produced in the U.S. is raised according to this standard.