By Mike Gennaro
In the rolling hills of Ethel, Louisiana, a hidden gem of the American agriculture landscape, Shawn Sagrera tends to his fourth-generation Angus cattle farm.
“Be there when the dew is still on the field,” Shawn urged when we requested the photo shoot. My trusty photography sidekick, Sharron Ventura, and I arrived at daybreak for an enlightening experience.
The Sagrera property is spread across four parcels, with headquarters on Overton Ford Road, near Barnhill Preserve. With a dedication to tradition and quality that runs deep in his veins, Shawn is a passionate advocate for responsible and humane beef production. His commitment to producing prime Angus beef sets him apart in an industry that often prioritizes quantity over quality.
What sets Shawn’s farm apart is his devotion to the old-fashioned way of doing things—selling beef a half side at a time—while raising the cattle as humanely as possible and incorporating the help of advanced agricultural science for product consistency. Unlike mass-market options, he doesn’t distribute his products through supermarkets, stores, or even farmer’s markets, instead welcoming visitors to tour his farm or offering deliveries to nearby Zachary. His beef is a testament to a three-year journey, meticulously planned and executed.
The journey of each cow spans a remarkable 36 months from pregnancy, which requires intricate match-making, followed by the 10-month gestation period, and finally raising the calf to full maturity–when it reaches 1,500 pounds. And every step of the way is carefully orchestrated.
In an industry where the term “humane” is often loosely applied, Sagrera Farms stands out—way out—from the rest. Shawn provides his cattle with green grass, fresh water, shelter, and a comfortable environment, ensuring that every day in their lives is a great one. The beef he produces is free from added hormones, steroids, or antibiotics, allowing nature and time to shape the quality of his product. The cattle are raised for an average of 26 months, resulting in a superior product compared to the typical 10-month-old animals found on supermarket shelves.
Another popular industry term is “grass fed.” Sagrera encourages consumers to become more educated about their beef purchases, because all young cattle are grass fed and reared on their mother’s milk up to a certain point in their life, he explained. He points to a conflict of interest: feeding cattle grass alone allows farmers to reduce their input costs on feed. “They need a little bit of supplementation to help them continue to grow. Cows need the right protein, the right balance of carbs, of amino acids, vitamins and minerals, and we use grain to help all of this out,” Sagrera said. Shawn palms a cluster of feed in his hands and explains its wholesome simplicity, sifting through oats, corn, barley and cotton-seed hulls.
“If the grass is lacking, you’ve got to help offset that,” he adds. Shawn’s commitment to quality extends to his ground beef. Unlike commercial operations that mix meat from multiple animals in massive vats, he ensures his ground beef comes from a single animal, knowing it has been properly aged and never exposed to high temperatures.
“How many animals would you think are in one pack of ground meat?” Shawn asked. I guessed ONE, hoping it was true. “Every time you buy ground meat at the grocery store, think about it—you’re buying over 1,000 different animals that were put in one vat,” he answered. One pack of Sagrera ground meat, reasonably, includes meat from one cow.
This commitment to quality guarantees a healthy and delicious product, even when cooked medium rare. Shawn’s beef is supplied to select outlets, including the Supper Club in Baton Rouge and White Oak Estates and Gardens, where it’s known as the “Sagrera cut.”
What sets Shawn’s farm apart is his unwavering integrity. He turned down lucrative deals because he refuses to compromise the character of his meat. He values the story behind his product, backed by 60 years of DNA and data that demonstrate responsible, humane and quality-driven farming. He charges the same as some competitors who may cut corners, prioritizing integrity and education over profit.
As a self proclaimed city-slicker, a green-horn, a granola-eating hippie, prior to my visit, cattle ranching elicited either visions of Yellowstone or the wanton abuse of a factory-farm setting, nothing warm and fuzzy. I attest that the cows at Sagrera Farms seem happy. For Shawn, this is much more than a cattle farming operation; it’s a family tradition of combining humane practices and modern science to produce top-quality Angus beef. His farm is just 20 minutes from Zachary in the 70730—that’s Ethel for my fellow city-slickers.
“No one within 500 miles does what we do in Ethel, Louisiana, when it comes to raising prime beef specifically for an eating experience,” says Sagrera.
If you want to taste the quality of Sagrera Prime beef, you may need to clear out some freezer space. He only sells by the side of beef, and that is somewhere to the tune of $1,350. Don’t think Sharron and I didn’t negotiate a sample pack on our way out. All I can say is that I’ve never seen marbling like that on any cut of beef I’ve previously purchased—these cows are healthy. Don’t take my word for it. Go check out the Sagrera cut at Supper Club or email email@example.com for more details.