Spruill Brothers Pastured Meats started as a way to help two brothers form a strong bond early in life through hard work, a love for animals, and an appreciation of the natural environment around them. Taylor Spruill’s sons—Brooks and Charlie—help to raise AWA pigs, sheep, and beef cattle on the family’s Jacocks Landing farm, situated between Windsor and Merry Hill, North Carolina. Previously used for peanuts and tobacco, the property consists of just over 400 acres of pasture and hardwood forest along the Cashie River in Bertie County.
Taylor was raised in an agricultural family and first started farming on a 3,000-acre conventional operation. As consumer interest in pastured meats grew, he saw this niche developing and wanted to “try something different.” Taylor bought his first pigs for outdoor production in 2009 and is now expanding to serve a growing customer base eager for his pasture-raised meats.
Taylor selects animals for their ability to forage and for being “easy keepers.” He says that a benefit of pasture-based management is that the animals are able to live naturally: “Our animals are content, healthy and raised without antibiotics. Our beef cattle and sheep are 100% grassfed and grass-finished. Our hogs are a mix of traditional breeds, including Ossabaw Island, Tamworth, Berkshire, Chester White, Duroc, and Hampshire,” explains Taylor. “Our hogs thrive in their wooded environment and produce a very flavorful, dark meat, which is far superior to the industrial pork often hailed as ‘the other white meat.’”
The grassfed lambs raised by Spruill Bros. are a cross of the Katahdin and Dorper breeds. These sheep are hair sheep that shed naturally each year and do not need to be regularly sheared like other wool breeds. Taylor explains that the hair sheep offer other advantages: Customers are often pleasantly surprised at the mildness of hair sheep meat: “The strong flavor sometimes associated with lamb comes from the lanolin oil found in the wool,” he explains. “As our hair sheep do not produce a true wool coat, there is much less lanolin oil, resulting in a meat with a much milder flavor.”
Like their lamb, Spruil Brothers’ Belted Galloway cattle (a breed known for its high quality, flavorful meat) are also grassfed and grass-finished, resulting in beef which is naturally leaner and healthier compared to grainfed beef from confined feedlots. Meat from grassfed animals has less total fat, saturated fat, calories, and cholesterol. It has more vitamin E and C, beta carotene and health-producing fats such as omega 3 and conjugated linoleic acids (CLAs).
Taylor explains how he chose Animal Welfare Approved certification: “I first saw the AWA logo in a butcher shop in Virginia. I looked into it and it seemed reasonable—I was able to meet the standards with a moderate amount of effort. I saw value in the brand and what it could say to people who care about animals.” He adds that since becoming certified, several people asked about the AWA label. “Young people are excited about sustainable meat. A lot of folks come up to me and I don’t even need to explain things—they just ‘get it.’ It is an exciting time to be farming.”
Spruill Brothers’ AWA meats are processed by a USDA-inspected facility and sold by the cut, half, or whole carcass in vacuum-sealed packs. The farm’s AWA pork, lamb, and beef is available at the Raleigh Downtown Farmers’ Market, directly from the farm store on Sundays from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m., or by joining one of the farm’s buying clubs in the eastern NC area. Farm tours are also available by appointment: check the website for pricing and further details. For more information, visit http://spruillbros.com/.