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Aberdeen Angus - the real story

Food is rarely out of the news these days. Whether positive or negative bulletins, food fraud or brexit, perhaps at least it may encourage more people to take a long hard look at the quality of food we are creating.

Statistics inevitably dwell on scale – how much profit, how many tons productivity…rarely about taste and flavour. Large companies do not wish you to question whether dairy cows producing your butter ever grazed on pasture; whether beef cattle are ‘developed’ to give a greater faster yield on a grain diet or if your oven fresh supermarket bread includes all kinds of preservatives and little traditional accuracy.

I am heartily sick of ‘clean labelling’ and flowery descriptors on food masking mass industrialization. Even handcrafted local delicacies can be a shadow of their former self. Take the Forfar Bridie. Once upon a time, all would have been made with cuts of traditional Aberdeen Angus beef – not cross bred animals. Not all bridies are equal. Legal and Scotch but disappointing. We tasted what in my opinion was a real Forfar Bridie, prepared lovingly by Alison Tuke of Hardiesmill when we were invited to attend the International Sale of Dunlouise Native Scottish Aberdeen Angus Cattle in the county of Angus during the Angus World Forum in June this year.

Aberdeen Angus is a famous name and popular on menus across the world but few realise that most

of the time they are eating a cross bred animal at best (they are allowed to be called Aberdeen Angus when only sired by a bull so clearly not 100%) and black cattle at worst (for in USA they only need to be black to qualify for their Certified Angus Beef Scheme!). As farmers look towards profit and mechanisation they select species for larger conformations of cuts to the detriment of flavour and texture. The development and cross breeding of the species has created a breed that is a shadow of its former self, sacrificing the flavours and qualities unique to Scots Native Bred. In contrast the original Native Bred Aberdeen Angus is 100% pure bred from heritage, grass fed and traditionally reared beasts with no imported bloodlines.

Native Bred Aberdeen Angus beef has fine marbling that gives juicy flavoursome meat. It must be grass fed and suitably hung. The meat is less grainy, more buttery and malleable in texture. The original herd dates back to the 1830’s, with Herd Books dating from 1860’s. There were 9 cow families left when Geordie Soutar at Dunlouise rescued them from near extinction.

Aberdeen Angus breeders travelled from across the globe last month to compete for a slice of rare Native Bred Aberdeen Angus heritage. Breeders from Uruguay, Texas, Montana and Australia joined hundreds of locals gathered round a tiny wooden ring to lead the bidding for both live animals and embryo opportunities. It was a privilege to be part of such a historic day. But for the Soutars these bloodlines would be long gone yet they, and Hardiesmill, are, in my view, underappreciated on their home turf.

Mr O’Connor from Montana who made purchases on the day, said I went to the Highland Show to look at the Aberdeen Angus and felt terrible for the Scots. Breeders here haven’t respected the origins of the breed, and they’ve spoiled it. They’ll regret what they’ve lost. Animals like the type we’re seeing sold here today deserve more attention than they’ve been getting in this country.”

Strong words, not to be taken lightly.

[Thanks to Nancy Nicolson and her Courier & Advertiser article for additional information].

If you are not rearing them but looking to buy this superb meat to eat then contact Hardiesmill in Berwickshire (Robin Tuke pictured with Bosse) who also rear Scotch Assured pure bred pedigree Aberdeen Angus in the traditional way, fed on grass and grass silage. Well hung beef from the finest Border countryside. For butchered beef and cuts please contact

Dunlouise & Hardiesmill are the only two farms meeting Slow Food Ark of Taste standards and are recognized on Slow Food’s International website.

Elsewhere in Scotland…

Visit us at Scotland’s Rural Life Museum for ‘Foodie Farm’ where I shall be hosting workshops using the farm produce followed with a tasting of all the dishes created.

Members’ News…

Ardross Farm Shop have launched a new takeaway tea and coffee station; the perfect accompaniment to the delicious homemade scones, cakes and tray bakes that fill the shop.

Cringletie House Hotel has just been awarded the Hotels Combined Recognition of Excellence for 2017 in the UK & Ireland. This award is in recognition for Cringletie House consistently achieving the highest standards of Customer Satisfaction worldwide. The organizers processed 683 opinions that Cringletie’s guests had posted on a variety of different websites, forums and social media, resulting in an incredible score of 9.3 out of a possible 10 making Cringletie House in the top 3% of accommodation worldwide for Customer Satisfaction”.

Enjoy a 10% discount on your next purchase at Demijohn and have a go at making some delicious Summer Gin Cocktails. There are no less than 12 to try out, so your Summer BBQs should be fun with a capital F!

Be ready for a summer BBQ with Macbeths. Time to show off a little and impress with a butterfly leg

of lamb; particularly good Black Face lamb from their own farm and a great range of products including burgers, sausages and their extremely popular carvery rump steak

Contini gears up for the Fringe. The team is buzzing with excitement for the busy season ahead as The Scottish Cafe ramps up with loads of seating outside plus Bothy Bar up on the Concourse serving delicious street food and drinks. In addition they host the Pipers Package in conjunction with the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo.

Cannonball will be open for lunch 7 days a week in August and is as usual pretty much sold out with the Tattoo Packages for dinner. See links for how to book!

Ballintaggart late Summer Feast on Saturday 26th August I can personally recommend for a wonderful evening out.

SATURDAY MASTERCLASSES?10am – 3pm including lunch and refreshments. £110.

19th August – Knife Skills. The most important of all culinary skills. Learn to chop with skill, speed and accuracy. Introduction to basic butchery and filleting too.

Posted on Sunday, 30 July 2017

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