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Native Aberdeen Angus returns to Scotland for the first time in 30 years - here's where to try it

Andrew Duff, Director at MacDuff 1890, shares the history of pure Aberdeen Angus beef.

Published: October 3, 2021

Scottish Beef has long been an exceptional example of the country’s dedication to being a land of food and drink; Aberdeen Angus were sent to the four corners of the world in the 1800s.

By the 1970s they were infused with overseas breeds, to produce larger framed, grain-consuming cattle, which were reimported to Scotland.

This led to a decline in the population of the Pure Native Angus in the UK and by the 1990s there were only 27 Native Angus cows left in existence, most of which were older and in calf to North American bulls.

Threatened with extinction, something had to be done. Geordie and Julia Soutar of Dunlouise Native Angus began to source all the cow families left in existence to preserve their future.

The Soutars have been exporting Native Angus semen, embryos and live cattle all around the world for several decades now.

Dunlouise Angus at Kingston Farm near Forfar, in Angus, the birthplace of Angus cattle, is still the only place where all 9 original Native Angus bloodlines can be sourced.

For the first time in over 30 years, on 7 October, 100 per cent Native Angus beef will be available to purchase once again in the nation’s capital, launching at an exclusive event in Edinburgh with film director Franck Ribière of the renowned documentary Look Back in Angus!

The provenance of these Native Angus cattle can be continuously traced back to the origin of the breed 180 years ago, with no imported bloodlines, producing the high-quality beef that made this breed world famous, fed on grass alone.

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These cattle produce exceptional beef that is highly prized, with superb levels of marbling and contains excellent flavour.

It truly is a momentous moment for the Scottish beef market and will be the first time consumers will be able to enjoy Native Aberdeen Angus as it once was ,without mixed cross breeding.

While this is a massive step forward for the sustainable return of Native Aberdeen Angus, the characteristics of the beef are only partly determined by the breed and the lifestyle - maturation and processing of cattle has a massive part to play in the final product.

As an industry, we often find ourselves defending the Scottish beef sector when it comes to sustainability.

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In contrast to the images we see of large scale feedlots in the US, Scottish Beef should be the poster child for grass-fed, high-welfare, delicious beef. Is it only a natural consumer question to ask, well where does our beef actually come from?

Although not always perfect, Scottish beef production is looking to ensure sustainability is front and centre as a major consideration in designing how we operate, and we are working towards being world leaders in creating new and sustainable practices.

In Scotland, we’re blessed with an environment well-suited to cattle grazing and we have the wide open pastures available to us without resorting to deforestation. We have grass and an abundance of rain which means that the majority of our livestock lives in pasture in the summer months and where possible, into the winter too.

At MacDuff, we recently started to work with and source from a number of small scale Pasture For Life-certified producers who are based in Scotland.

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The Pasture-Fed Livestock Association promotes the unique quality of produce raised exclusively on pasture, and
the wider environmental and animal welfare benefits that pastured livestock systems represent.

Scottish beef is a low-impact industry, and bringing back native breeds like the Native Angus which is specifically adapted to the Scottish climate, we’re not only preserving a rare and coveted breed, but we’re continuing the tradition of sustainable, high-quality beef production.

Native Angus beef will be available to purchase for the first time in 30 years in Edinburgh on the 7 October at MacDuff Butcher, during an exclusive event with film director Franck Ribière.

Tickets, which cost £25, can be purchased here.

Known for cake making, experimental jam recipes, Champagne and gin drinking (and the inability to cook Gnocchi), Rosalind writes for The Scotsman on all things food and drink related as well as hosting Scran, The Scotsman's food and drink podcast.

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