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Our Beef is Aberdeen Angus – So What?

Our Beef is Aberdeen Angus – So What?

April 26, 2016

Since the 1990s, the beef industry has seen an awakening among chefs and consumers regarding the breed of cattle used to produce their beef. The restaurant diner expects the chef to be an expert and to be able to speak intelligently about their menu items.

So when we say our beef is Aberdeen Angus, you might wonder, what’s the big deal?

To answer that, you need to understand how the “Angus” breed has changed from the original Aberdeen Angus breed to the modern Angus that most beef programs use today. The original Angus breed was officially established with Aberdeen Angus Bull #1, Old Jock, born in 1842 in Scotland, the result of centuries-old breeding for hardiness and red meat quality.

Aberdeen Angus genetics

Modern Angus has a large frame (up to 1000 pounds dressed) with more mass in the chuck and round primals, longer legs, and a digestive system has been adapted for a grain-finishing diet. Modern Angus exhibit many traits of domestic breeds that have been crossed into the bloodline to improve feedlot efficiencies and increase red meat yield.

Furthermore, some of the major branded “Angus” beef programs don’t even require the cattle in the program to be Angus at all.

The requirements for entry to the program are simply carcass traits that are exemplary of Angus, like black hide, no shoulder hump, etc. True Angus are known to thrive on a grass-only diet. Ancient grains were, for centuries, grown for human consumption and not for fattening livestock.

In post WWII America, a surplus of Ammonium Nitrate (no longer needed for bombs) was converted to chemical fertilizer, and the production of government-subsidized corn created a boom. The newly cheap and plentiful corn was quickly found to be a desirable foodstuff for cattle production as the animals gained weight quickly and marbled very well.

The breeders responded by selectively breeding for grain diets, creating a breed vastly different from the original Aberdeen Angus of Scotland.

The Aberdeen Angus used by Joyce Farms, on the other hand, is a smaller-framed animal (700 pounds dressed) with a rounder shape, shorter legs, and an unaltered digestive tract, which is needed to digest a 100% grass diet.

Simply put, the Aberdeen Angus cattle used by Joyce Farms thrive on a grass-only diet. A Modern Angus removed from the feedlot and put on pasture will not “finish,” or fatten up. A Joyce Farms Aberdeen Angus would become ill if put in a feedlot, a result of the bloat and acidosis that often occur in the bovine rumen when fed grains.

When we say Welcome Back To Flavor®, we mean welcome back to the way beef and poultry used to taste. It means we want you to taste the old breeds, produced the old way, and see what you’ve been missing.