The secret to America’s best beef lies in family tradition.
Photo by Richard Beaven
They called them “freaks.” After all, these solid-black alien creatures didn’t even have horns.
When George Grant moved from London, England, to western Kansas in 1873, he brought a clan of Scottish and British immigrants and established Victoria, Kansas. Amongst these new European settlers there were a few that caused a real stir in the Midwestern plains — four black Aberdeen Angus bulls. This strange breed was exhibited at the Kansas City Livestock Exposition that same year, to great censure.
“It was a long road to acceptance for Angus,” says Phil Trowbridge, owner of Trowbridge Angus and vice-president of the American Angus Association, “It’s like anything new. At that time, there were longhorn cattle all over the place. And when you tell someone you’re going to take their freckled, spotted cattle and make them all black, and in one generation there’s not going to be any horns on them, people thought they were crazy.”
Grant stuck to his vision and bred his bulls with native livestock. The results made people change their tune. A new cattle industry arose.
“Angus cattle just produce the highest quality meat a higher percentage of the time. It is efficient for the meat industry,” says Trowbridge. “They’re great mother cows. They take care of their babies in all kind of conditions. They do a phenomenal job of doing what they do best.”
Phil Trowbridge’s agricultural legacy goes back four generations to when his relatives first moved from England and started Trowbridge Farms. But the family didn’t start breeding Angus cattle until 1957 when Phil’s father, Paul Trowbridge Sr., bought an Angus cow for a 4-H project for Phil’s older brother, Paul Jr. Since then, the family has helped revolutionize the Angus industry from their Hudson Valley farm outside of Ghent, New York.
“We’ve really developed our program around great females,” says Phil. “That was something I noticed as a very young man — if you have great females, they reproduce better, more consistently. And you move your genetic progress so much faster. So we really honed in on that part. Every bull that we sell that goes out in the commercial market to reproduce is from a way-above-average female. We tried to establish great cow families and built a whole program around that.”
But Trowbridge admits the true secret to his success lies in his own family’s dedication. “We’ve got three generations involved in our farm. Our son is one of our partners. We’ve got granddaughters that own cattle. And it all goes back to my father and grandfather. It’s truly a family operation.”
To learn more about Trowbridge Farms, call 518.392.0322 or visit www.trowbridgefarms.com.
Read the Richard Beaven photo essay about Phil Trowbridge in C&I’s March issue. Click here for more information about Richard Breaven's photography.