How the doddies conquered the world

How the doddies conquered the world

Tracing Aberdeen Angus beef back to its roots

The Aberdeen Angus breed of cattle traces its origins to three dedicated and innovative Scottish farmers in the 19th century. In 1808 tenant farmer Hugh Watson took on Keillor farm, not far from Dundee, and began sourcing and breeding pure breed doddies: black and polled cattle native to the north east of Scotland. In 1824 William McCombie took over Tillyfour farm in Aberdeenshire and used the bloodline of the Keillor cattle to establish a pure-bred herd. From 1861 Sir George Macpherson-Grant took up the refining of the breed, now named for the two counties of its origin, which he continued to do on Speyside for the next 50 years.

Aberdeen Angus beef has an enduring appeal. The hardy but gentle nature of the animals ensures they are relatively easy to keep, and their excellent conversion of grass to meat makes certain a delicious combination of red flesh marbled with succulent fat. In 2006 the fast food giant McDonalds began blind testing Aberdeen Angus burgers across the US. They found the customer response so positive they created The Angus burger, still on the menu today, further widening the breeds immense influence on the beef market and exposing it to a whole new consumer market.

Today there are Aberdeen Angus beef societies dedicated to representing and protecting the breed in countries as far away as Australia, America, New Zealand, Uruguay and Canada. While cross-breeding is a reality in much of cattle-rearing, in theory every Aberdeen Angus steak can trace its origins back to the north east of Scotland. For those really looking for a beef-kick, an Aberdeen Angus Trail was recently established, mapping a route through Angus and Aberdeenshire that takes you past some local landmarks to family-run businesses where you can sample the delicious meat.

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