Shane Baghai’s Paradise Farms: The Rural Passion of an Urban Builder
Paradise Farms may now be recognized as breeding and raising the finest organic beef in Canada, but for Shane Baghai, its product is passionate and its origins are deeply personal.
Shane Baghai has always conducted his business admirably and with confidence. His high ethics, hard work and expertise have resulted in his enviable reputation as one of Canada’s most respected builders and real estate developers of luxury homes and high-end condominiums. He brings those same principles to another of his passions as owner of Paradise Farms, where he has been breeding rare cattle and marketing organic beef since 2008. Paradise Farms is now widely recognized as raising the finest beef in Canada.
“There is only one way to do things, and that is to do them right,” says Baghai. “There is no place in business for cutting corners; to me that is just inconceivable. My construction activities I have cherished all my business life, and at the same time I am delighted I have the farming business, which is completely different — but the same philosophy applies to both businesses, which is to produce quality at its highest.”
Aside from the quality and taste of cattle that are naturally grass-raised, grain-fed and free to roam from pasture to pasture to feed, there was another, more personal reason Baghai took this more expensive approach to breeding cattle. He lost his mother to breast cancer, and his wife and his sister are both survivors.
“I started reading about nutritionists’ opinions about beef consumption, in particular for women who had breast cancer,” says Baghai. “Their concern was [that] implanting artificial hormones in beef cattle to make them bigger, faster, would have an adverse effect on the recovery of certain breast cancer victims, and in some cases contribute to the cause. Almost all oncologists recommend against beef that was implanted with artificial hormones. This is what prompted me to think about raising animals in a natural way, without any intervention or augmentation by introducing artificial hormones. Everything about our operations is natural.”
From modest beginnings with just five cattle in 2008, Paradise Farms’ herd now numbers close to 2,000 head spread over six locations in southern Ontario, including close to 400 head at its Caledon location on Shaws Creek Road, which Baghai explains is basically a cattle farm for experimenting with superior genetics.
“The comfort and happiness of these animals is of paramount importance to us.”
“I spent a lot of time looking for a replacement to growth hormones and spoke with many bovine species experts, and I was convinced we could have a fast-growing animal that would gain weight through genetics, which is simply breeding,” explains Baghai. “We are not manipulating the genes or the DNA of the animals; we are simply selecting the right bull for the right cow, which my barn manager Rob Hassan is an expert at. It’s very similar to the marriage of two certain people which might, through genetics, result in their having taller kids.”
Most impressive at Paradise Farms is its Animal Welfare Program. All of the cattle are supervised by animal science specialists, with regular visits by veterinarians. But the care for and comfort of the animals does not stop there. Any animal brought in from elsewhere goes immediately into quarantine for a period of time, and any sick animal is segregated from the others. It even extends to transportation, as Paradise does not overcrowd its trucks and has strict rules for the sanitation of the trucks themselves. “The comfort and happiness of these animals is of paramount importance to us,” says Baghai.
The Paradise Farms herd is comprised of two exceedingly rare breeds in Canada — black Japanese Wagyu and the long-legged, white Italian Chianina — along with Scottish Highland cattle and North America’s most popular breed, the Aberdeen Black Angus. “Angus are the most coveted by farmers, as they are resilient to different climates and diseases, calf very easily without assistance by the farmer or vet, are calm in character, and grow faster and gain weight faster than other breeds of bovine species,” explains Baghai. In 2012, Paradise Farms was recognized by the American Angus Hall of Fame as the best breeder of Aberdeen Black Angus in all of North America. Baghai likes to point out that there is no room at the farm for any more prizes.
“I think we’ve flourished because of the smart retailers in the marketplace,” says Baghai. “Metro was one of the first retailers that recognized the quality we were supplying and that our beef was local and we were not in the practice of implanting hormones. They researched, visited us and did their due diligence before they committed to us. Metro is one of our biggest customers, and quality and safety mean a lot to them.”
One of the most notable achievements at Paradise Farms is its firm commitment to all things local. “How we farm is that everything is local,” says Baghai. “The animal feed, the hay, the grains all must be local; that helps local employment, and that is very important to me. It is the duty of every Canadian to promote local companies. Canada does a very good job at protecting farmland near big cities, and locally grown food requires less transportation, which is better for the environment. I am an advocate for the environment — we have solar panels, a windmill and LED lighting at the farm. We do many things solely [for our goal] of protecting the environment.”
Paradise Farms is yet another example of Shane Baghai doing his proper research and due diligence in embracing a possible opportunity and following through with hard work and dedication to his passion. As for his legacy in farming and construction, he isn’t worried, as his children are very involved and interested in both lines of work. “I don’t have an exit strategy because I don’t intend to die — yet,” laughs Baghai. “But I think both businesses will fall into the right hands. Any legend should be about doing things right, and the philosophy should be protected.”
Photo By robin gartner