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 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.
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.
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.
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