About Aberdeen Angus Beef
Why is it that people have heard of Aberdeen Angus?
In Europe, Aberdeen Angus beef is the meat from Aberdeen Angus cattle, whether pure (Mum (dam) & Dad (bull) both pure Aberdeen Angus) or crossed (Aberdeen Angus Bull, dam from a different breed). There a lot bigger now than in the 1970s when the photos below were taken, but the shape's still the same.
The breed originated from three farms in the Scottish counties of Aberdeenshire and Angus (hence the name), but it soon spread over the world and now it's the biggest brand of beef out there.
(We apologise to anyone puzzled as to why the photos are of smooth black cattle and not long-horned-brown-woolly-beasties, but the latter are Highland Cattle, which is another great native breed from Scotland. It's a popular misconception).
We believe pedigree Aberdeen Angus has won it’s international reputation as some of the best beef that you can buy for two reasons:
- Firm (but not tough) fat and lean combine together on your plate to deliver a dish that balances subtle and delicious flavours (for the fat is seriously edible if naturally reared Aberdeen Angus), with a meal that is naturally high in the antioxidants Omega 3 & 6.
- Aberdeen Angus strikes the best balance between fat, lean and bone. Too much fat and you wonder where the meat’s gone. Too much lean without fat and it can be tasteless and leathery when cooked. Too much bone and the meat becomes expensive to process and therefore buy.
From a farming perspective, we would also include a 3rd & 4th reason:
- Aberdeen Angus are (usually) good natured
Aberdeen Angus are really pretty civilized to manage (rugged and easy to calve).
Though we do confess to being a bit biased…..
What to look for when buying Aberdeen Angus beef?
- Is it pure Aberdeen Angus or Aberdeen Angus crossed with another breed? Both are entitled to use the “Aberdeen Angus” brand, but supermarket Angus may be as low as 50% Aberdeen Angus, 50% other breeds, which does affect the flavour, particularly of the fat.
- What's it been fed? Feed affects flavour. Studies have shown grass-reared Aberdeen Angus beef to be both rich and naturally balanced in Omega 3 & Omega 6 (ISSFAL (Howe)). Bright red meat and a white fat usually signifies a grain-fed beast. The flavour is strong on the front of the tongue but does fade as you chew. Water content (more shrinkage when cooked) is quite high. A more rusty colour with a creamy coloured fat signifies when the beast has been grass- reared (hard feed turns the fat white, except corn, which turns it yellow). Grass-reared beef has a lighter front-of-tongue flavour but a bigger impact on the top of tongue and sides of mouth, with a greater longevity of taste too. (If you enjoy the fat, grass-reared Aberdeen Angus fat makes the most fabulous contrast to the lean, particularly on the rump).
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- Marbling: Leanness is often cited as the main characteristic shoppers look for when buying beef. That said, very lean beef can be hard, leathery and bland when cooked. Meat is far better when it is well ‘marbled’, with fine threads of fat interwoven throughout, as this ensures tenderness when cooked. A popular myth is that marbling also carries flavour, but tests by the Rowat institute have shown that this is only the case if the marbling is ivory coloured, white marbling is taste neutral..
- Which abatoir? Beef that has been stressed before slaughter goes tough. A good abatoir will prevent this. In Scotland the SCOTCH beef logo signifies the use of a Scotch quality approved abatoir and haulier as well as Scotch Cattle.
- Hanging. Hanging allows enzyme activity to tenderize the beef and strengthen the flavour. A good bit of naturally reared beef should be hung (ie. Left on the bone, hanging in a chill) for 2-4 weeks. It should be fairly tender anyway, and if you hold it for too long it risks becoming a bit gamey.