Scottish meat

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  • A lamb shank sits on a bed of mashed potato, broccolli and carrots in a restaurant with diners in the background

    Lamb shank, Pierhouse Restaurant,Tarbert

  • Steak with salsa verde, served with black olive bread

    Food writer Sue Lawrence's steak dish

  • The range of sausages by the Extraordinary Sausage Company, a butcher based in Kippen, near Stirling
    The range of sausages by the Kippen-based Extraordinary Sausage Company

Scotland produces some of the world's best beef, lamb and pork thanks to generations of breeding and raising livestock. Skilled butchers and chefs present tender Aberdeen Angus steak, spicy haggis and more unusual meat such as sea-weed fed lamb, roast hog and rare Kobe-style beef.

Scottish beef

The majority of beef in Scotland is traditionally produced from cross-breeds, with the selected Scotch Beef breeds being Aberdeen Angus, Highland Cattle, Galloway Cattle and Shorthorn Cattle.

Aberdeen Angus

Aberdeen Angus is arguably the best known breed of cattle from Scotland, renowned for the rich and tasty flavour of the meat which makes first-class steaks. The story of the meteoric rise of the breed has seen no parallel in the history of cattle. Many mistakenly presume that Aberdeen Angus beef must be Scottish but it is in fact produced from herds all over the world.

It evolved during the early 19th century from hardy hornless animals known locally as 'doddies' and 'hummlies', which populated north-east Scotland. Within just 50 years it spread to all the major beef producing countries across the globe and is still a dominant breed today. According to the Aberdeen Angus Cattle Society, this is due to the breed's easy management, economy of production and superior eating quality.

Highland Cattle

Another of Scotland's oldest and best known breeds is the Highland, known as the ‘Heilan’ coo’. An iconic national emblem with its thick, shaggy coat of red hair, long fringe and sweeping horns, it is thought that the original stock may have been brought to Scotland by the Celts.

They are one of the few breeds that can survive the rigours of winter in the mountainous Highlands and islands of Scotland. Long-lived, hardy and easily handled, they thrive naturally without the need for intensive farming and their meat is lean and succulent with a distinctive flavour.

Scotch Beef

When buying beef, look out for Scotch Beef which holds the coveted PGI Promise (Protected Geographical Indication). It's a European scheme that identifies high-quality products which are unique to a particular region. Restaurants who are accepted as members of the Scotch Beef Club, such as The Three Chimneys on the Isle of Skye, promote it clearly and unambiguously on their menus.

Kobe-style beef

Originating from Japan, Kobe meat comes from Wagyu cattle and is highly regarded for its excellent marbling. Herds have been established in Scotland, including at Blackford Farm in Perthshire.

Wagyu cattle have been crossed with Aberdeen Angus, to produce Scottish ‘Kobe-style’ meat. Although much of the meat is exported elsewhere, steaks and burgers are also available to buy online and in some restaurants, such as the Grill on The Corner in Glasgow.

Find out more about regional beef and other local produce in:

Aberdeen City & Shire
Dundee & Angus
The Scottish Borders
The Highlands

Lamb

Scottish lamb is renowned for its high quality. This is due to a range of factors such as its breed, the way in which it is reared, when and how it is slaughtered and its grazing environment.

Breeds

The dominant breed in Scotland is the Blackface, or 'Blackies.' They are often cross-bred with larger sheep, and are ideally suited to hilly terrain where they are naturally reared. The taste of the meat is known to be sweet and succulent.

Rare and minority breeds of sheep such as Boreray, Soay, Hebridean and Shetland often feed on herbs, wild flowers, heather and even seaweed. This not only provides the sheep with essential minerals, but also add a distinctive flavour to the meat. The lamb on North Ronaldsay in Orkney are particularly famed for their seaweed diet, and the meat is becoming increasingly popular.

Scotch Lamb

Scottish Blackface, Cheviot, Scotch Mule, Texels and Shetland Sheep are all Scotch Lamb breeds. Meat with the Scotch Lamb branding has the coveted PGI Promise, a European scheme that identifies high-quality products which are unique to a particular region. The promise guarantees a superior character, 100 percent traceability and clear labelling.

Seasonal lamb

Certified Scotch Lamb is a seasonal natural product and  is at its best from July to September. Spring lamb (available in autumn) is reputed to be extremely tender and succulent with rosy-pink flesh whilst summer and autumn lamb (available until October) has a richer, darker meat. Hogget (mature lamb) is available mid-winter and is used in exceptional fine dining. At two years or more lamb becomes mutton, a dark and juicy flavoursome meat which is coming back into vogue.

Find out more about regional lamb and produce in:

Shetland
Outer Hebrides
Ayrshire & Arran

Pork

Well over a century ago most Scots kept their own pigs and today Scotland is known to have some of the best bacon in the world. A variety of pork cuts are available in restaurants, and there has recently been resurgence in pork belly, trotter and offal dishes.

The Tamworth is thought to be the oldest breed in Britain. These red-haired pigs are gradually reappearing in Scottish farms and are sometimes crossed with wild boar to create an Iron Age pig with distinctive, gamey pork.

Bacon and sausages

Ayrshire, the original Scottish bacon, is world renowned, with its reputation upheld by such traditional producers as Ramsay of Carluke who continue to cure bacon using the same methods and recipe pickle as their great-grandfather back in 1857.

Bacon usually features as part of a full Scottish breakfast, along with other meat such as  sausages, haggis and black pudding . In recent years sausages have become more and more adventurous with their ingredients, such as the pork, leek and apricot by J & J Preston of Strathaven.

Wild boar and roast hog

Wild boar herds once roamed the Highlands back in ancient times until they were wiped out through hunting in the 17th century. They have now been reintroduced and their meat, also known as hog, is often roasted on a spit and served at farmers' markets.

Quality Meat

Almost all pork produced by the Scottish red meat industry is covered by the Quality Meat Scotland assurance scheme which is reputed for ensuring stringent standards of animal welfare and production, from farm gate to the dinner plate.

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