Posted July 4, 2013 by renospiteri in Don't Miss

What do you know about authentic Aberdeen-Angus beef?

Aberdeen-Angus prime beef

Is all beef that one finds at a butcher’s shop or listed on a restaurant’s menu as Angus beef, the same regardless as to which country it was imported from? Or regardless of what type of “feed” the herd was reared on? This is very far from the truth, so much so that a new DNA test has been developed to allow retailers to authenticate pure-bred Aberdeen-Angus beef, in a bid to protect its name and heritage, as distinct from beef simply labelled as just “Angus beef” or “Black Angus beef”.


If you get a bright red chunk of beef, it may well look nice on a tray, but it certainly won’t taste very well once cooked, eatable but not really very good. But if you get one with a little bit of white fat around it and speckles of marbling through it, it will cook and taste sublimely. Before one can cook a great steak, one has to buy a great steak, but many people don’t know how to buy steak even when looking at the meat at a butcher’s case with row upon row of different cuts and prices staring back. Before one can know how to buy a steak, one has to know the source and the grades, the type of steak one wants to buy, (fillet, rib-eye, sirloin, T-Bone, etc), and the bovine, that is the cow or bull from which the meat has been cut. Before the grilling is the buying and before the buying is the grading. Premium Aberdeen-Angus beef is graded in accordance with the intra-muscular quality of the carcass, and certification is not issued unless the meat is of a high standard as required by the Aberdeen-Angus breeders establishment.

Aberdeen-Angus fillets and rib-eye selections.

Authentic Scottish Aberdeen-Angus cuts shown are avaliable from Zammeats at Arkadia, Portomaso.





The original Aberdeen-Angus was first bred in the early 19th Century in northeast Scotland, but now the cattle are bred in South America, Canada, the USA and South Africa. Cross-breeding and changes in the actual “terroir”, water, feed (grass or cereal feed, etc.), cross breeding, seminal inductions etc, create havoc and a drastic change in the final texture, taste and flavours of the beef when cooked.

Now most Angus cattle are cross-bred, and the amount of pure-bred Aberdeen-Angus beef on the market is very small, according to the Aberdeen Angus Breeders Society. This means breeders are keen to ensure that imitation beef lacking in fat and flavour do not spoil Aberdeen Angus beef’s reputation. Premium beef demands premium prices and just like authentic Kobe Wagyu beef, pure-bred Aberdeen Angus beef from Scotland comes at a premium as the quality is exquisite. So one has to be careful what he is buying – if it’s cheap, then it is not premium, Scottish Aberdeen-Angus

To ensure that such beef is legitimate, a DNA test has been developed for The Aberdeen-Angus Cattle Society, and for beef to be classed as Aberdeen-Angus, the minimum specification required by the European beef labelling directive is that the animal must have been sired by a pedigree registered, Aberdeen-Angus bull.

The DNA test involves swabbing the carcasses at point of slaughter and traces the animal’s origins all the way back to its father on the farm where the animals were conceived.

If the test puts an end to the exploitation of the Angus label, (because a lot of people have rode on the Angus name), both breeders and consumers will only benefit.  Meat is a very expensive commodity, and the last thing one wants is to go into a restaurant and have a disappointing steak. It might have been DNA tested, but how can diners actually taste the difference between their steaks?

It is the distinctive “marbling” of inter-muscular fat that makes premium Aberdeen-Angus beef almost unique, as the fat melts and drains off when the beef is cooked. The succulence adds to the flavour, which adds to the taste. The further a breed gets away from authentic Aberdeen-Angus genetics then the less likely one is to have that marbling.


The Aberdeen-Angus rib-eye, and one of the fillet steaks shown above after griddle-searing medium-rare as they are recommended to be cooked. Excellent, tender and succulent. One can see the juices oozing out from the melted marbling. Rib-eye weight 400gm; Fillet weight 200gm

Supplier: Zammeats at Arkadia, Portomaso.


To help achieve this meat quality, the cattle are fed on grass, rather than cereal animal-feed. It’s been proven that grass-fed beef is much higher in omega-3s; conjugated linoleic acids, which are healthy, are much higher in grass-fed beef.  Also how beef is handled and matured post-slaughter, dictates how succulent it is. One also has to realise that premium Aberdeen Angus cattle are slaughtered about when they are 19 months old, rather than the 24 months for other breeds in the United Kingdom.

Pure Aberdeen-Angus beef is British (with the main origin being Aberdeenshire Scotland), and fully traceable. Two to three days before an Aberdeen-Angus animal is slaughtered, a signed declaration from the farmer with sire and registered pedigree details has to be sent to the agricultural authorities, which is checked thoroughly and is backed up by regular farm audits.

Pure Aberdeen-Angus beef is available in Malta and has to be asked for by name when ordering. A kilogram of certified fillet retails at something like Eur55 per kg, and rib-eye retails at about Eur35 per kg. This is in stark contrast to beef sold as Angus or Black Angus, with originated outside the United Kingdom, and which retails for much less depending on grading.

One might argue, as I’m sure that some will, that USDA Angus beef is also good quality beef. Let me put it this way: USDA Angus beef is classified in accordance with the quality of the carcass of a bovine after slaughtering, depending on the fat, and marbling content of the saleable meat. It comes mainly in three grades which are “Prime” for the topmost quality, well marbled cuts and which on 2% of slaughtered cattle are graded as; “Choice” which falls in the middle and which is what one finds in top restaurants; and “Select” which is mainly lean meat without marbling, and is the cheapest. “Select” graded Angus is what is mainly found in supermarket butchers in Malta.

We have experimented with various beef cuts from different bovines, purchased from different suppliers in the last months, and have come to the conclusion that most cuts of steak that are used and served in the majority of restaurants, with the exception of a very few, in my opinion is only equivalent to the “Select grade”. . Also closer examination as well as cooking these Angus steaks indicated a much inferior quality, texture, flavour and overall taste. When one compares the quality of an authentic grass fed Aberdeen-Angus fillet or rib-eye steak, to one labelled differently, (e.g. just Angus or Black Angus), the quality difference can be even seen when the steaks are still raw.  When cooked medium-rare, the difference in taste and texture is vast. Prime Aberdeen-Angus fillet, rib-eye and other cuts take much less time to grill, griddle sear or pan-fry, than most cuts from other bovines, and are much more tender and succulent.

If one can afford it always by the best and if one is going for Angus beef, than Scottish Aberdeen-Angus beef is manifestly the best.