There are many breeds of Scotch beef, but the most famous breed is probably the Aberdeen Angus, which, more than a cattle breed, is a brand in its own right, renowned for its tenderness, flavour and juiciness. The carcass is known for having a high ratio of lean meat to fat and bone, and the meat is known for its marbling, which stops the beef from becoming leathery with cooking. Aberdeen Angus Scotch beef is sold at a premium price worldwide and are the fastest-growing breed of cattle in the world. When grass-fed, it tends to be higher in Omega-3 and lower in fat. Other Scottish breeds include Galloway, Shorthorn and Highland. Like Aberdeen Angus, pure Highland beef is able to command a premium price over other beef due to its fine texture, succulent flavour and healthy eating appeal. It is slow-maturing, producing beef that is lean but well-marbled with low fat and cholesterol levels, whilst remaining rich in protein and taste.
To be classed as Scotch beef, the meat must have PGI (Protected Geographical Indication), which indicates the cattle have been born, raised and slaughtered entirely in Scotland. Orkney cattle are fed on the island’s grass pastures, producing a certain character in the meat. Orkney beef also retains special European protected status, and only the highest quality is selected to be Orkney Island Gold. Orkney Island Gold Scotch beef is matured on the bone for a minimum of 10 days and only sold to independent butchers, not supermarkets or chains.
The Scotch Beef Club is a group of restaurants that serve Scotch beef and will promote it clearly on their menus. The club is by no means exclusive; it is open to any restaurant that uses Scotch beef and is able to provide full traceability for the beef it uses, and show a commitment to doing so.
The neck and shoulder area of Scotch beef is a cheaper cut, suited to being diced and cooked slowly in methods like stewing, casseroling or braising. The shin is another inexpensive cut which should be cooked slowly, such as in stock, or in a stew or casserole. The more adventurous may enjoy the marrow in the bone. The flank is made from the cow’s stomach muscles, and is perfect for steak served rare. The brisket is similar, and excellent for curing. The chuck and blade suit marinating and slow cooking such as casseroling and pot-roasting when properly trimmed. The loin is where the most well-known steak cuts come from: sirloin, T-bone, porterhouse etc. Cuts from this area generally suit higher temperature cooking methods such as frying, grilling and roasting. The rump suits being roasted as a joint or sliced into high quality steaks. The topside is generally roasted, and can be served whole, rolled, cap on or off. It should be cooked medium or medium rare in order to remain moist, or if it is to be well done, using a longer, slower method. Silverside is another joint suiting roasting, but also curing or salting.