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Couple who saved a Scots cattle breed from extinction to star on Netflix
IT is a historic breed of Scots cattle that came perilously close to extinction.
Now, for the first time in more than 30 years, cuts of Native Angus beef are to go on sale in Edinburgh.
Geordie and Julia Soutar, the two Forfar farmers credited with bringing the breed back from the brink, will be in the Capital on Thursday, joined by Netflix film-maker, Franck Ribière, to celebrate the revival of the breed and his documentary, “Look Back In Angus”.
The French director – whose previous work includes the documentary Steak (R)evolution – is behind the new film which tells the “extraordinary and compelling story of how a small Scottish cow came to dominate global cuisine”.
They are all set to take part in the exclusive “Meat and the Maker” event at Scotland’s new food hall, Bonnie & Wild’s Scottish Marketplace, on the fourth floor of the new St James Quarter, where they will chart the breed’s story from being on the critically endangered list, to the ups and downs of the Soutars’ 30-year mission to bring it back to Scotland’s kitchens and dining tables. Historic Scotch Beef supplier, MacDuff 1890, a family business with a history that spans four generations, is to host the event from its speciality retail space in the food hall.
Andrew Duff, of MacDuff 1890, said: “This ‘Meat and the Maker’ event is for everyone interested in where their beef comes from.
“We’re excited that Franck Ribière will be there to discuss his own film-making background, which includes the acclaimed films Steak (R)evolution and Wagyu Confidential, as well as his latest release, Look Back In Angus.
“We’re also giving attendees the opportunity to buy this exclusive pure Scotch beef for the very first time in 30 years.”
The Aberdeen Angus is one of the most famous beef breeds around the world, developed originally in the early 19th century from the slow-maturing, black, horned cattle of Forfarshire – now known as the county of Angus – which were crossed with other breeds.
One of the first great breeders was Hugh Watson, of Keillor Farm, who established the breed type.
William McCombie, meanwhile, is widely regarded as “the grandfather of the breed”. He farmed at Tillyfour, Tough, in the Howe o’ Alford, Aberdeenshire, and had huge success from the 1820s on, all over the UK and into mainland Europe, recognised as giving the breed its well deserved global reputation.
As the Angus was exported around the world during the 20th century, though, with large populations established in the USA, Canada, Australia, South America and New Zealand, the tendency abroad was to breed longer and taller types.
With many imported back into the UK, the original population was endangered.
Mr Duff explained that it is a small cattle farm in the north of Scotland that deserves the credit for saving the Native Angus breed.
He said: “The campaign to save the species was championed by Geordie and Julia Soutar of Kingston Farm, up near Forfar. In the 1990s, there were only 27 Native Angus cows left in existence, and over the past quarter century, Geordie and Julia have sourced the last remaining Native Angus cows, including their genetics, semen and embryos, to save the breed.”
It is now the only farm in the world to hold all nine original Native Angus bloodlines and in 2020, Geordie Soutar was awarded an MBE for his work in safeguarding the breed and getting it off the Critically Endangered List.
The couple have since achieved special designation status for this pure Scottish cattle, which has no imported bloodlines.
Mr Soutar said: “Our traditional Aberdeen Angus have no imported bloodlines. We are working with original British genetics and are currently using bulls which date back at least 50 years; bringing new life to old bloodlines.”
Of the upcoming event, he said: “I think it is a tremendous moment. It’s a great way to showcase the beef. MacDuff 1890 have gone to great effort to put these products in front of the public.
“We are looking forward to it. It’s all a validation of some of the things we have been doing getting it out there to the general public.”
Since the establishment of his Dunlouise herd in 1995, the Soutars, along with son Duncan and daughter Louise, have attracted huge interest from all over the world for semen, embryos and live cattle from their nine original cow families which date back 200 years in the breed’s first herd book.
Now, with cattle numbers at a safe level, the Native Angus beef is going on sale in Edinburgh – the first time in more than 30 years that 100 per cent Native Angus beef will be available to purchase from anywhere except the Soutars’ own Kingston Farm and their local butcher, and guests will have the option of taking a cut home or having it cooked in front of them by chef John Munro of The Gannet, before the beef goes on sale to the public.
Mr Ribiere, who is only in Scotland for this exclusive event, said: “I am thrilled to be part of this new opening in Edinburgh as I have known Andrew for a while now and I know his true dedication to good meat and good food. Also, having Native Angus meat for the show is quite a dream too.”
Look Back in Angus is viewable via The Icon film Channel on Amazon Prime.
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