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What's the beef on Angus?

Written by  Nikki van Coller
| in Landbou
| November 20, 2015

Angus cattle have fascinated people for centuries, due to their solid colour (particularly solid black) and lack of horns.

Today, Angus Beef is widely known as being the tastiest, most tender beef available and is fast gaining popularity among chefs and gastronomists alike. We take a look at these beautiful animals; their origin, selection and judging criteria, and beef availability in South Africa.

The Livestock Agri Expo, hosted by the  Western Cape Department of Agriculture took place at Sandringham from 15 to 17 October 2015, and was by all accounts a fun and informative event. Visitors were enthralled by a large number of agricultural exhibitions, exciting kids’ events, shows and displays, as well as information sessions. Dairy cows, Percherons, Alpacas and goats were on display for young and old to interact with; guests were treated to cow-milking and sheep-shearing demonstrations; and for the first time, a beef cattle information day was held at the expo conference centre. The Angus Championships also took place, where breeders from the region showcased their best Angus bulls and heifers for judging by some of the country’s most respected judges.

The coveted BKB Supreme Beef Champion title was awarded to Black Mamba Nelene, from Black Mamba Stud Farm in Moorreesburg. This is a remarkable achievement as she competed against eleven beef cattle breeds to win this title.

“They are well known for being very good mothers with excellent milking ability.”

Superior Stock

Why are Angus cattle so popular with farmers? Besides having superior beef qualities, Angus cattle breed small calves, that are born without assistance, which translates into less management and labour, and more live calves at birth. Angus cows also reach puberty early, get in calf soon after birthing and continue to breed to a late age. They are well known for being very good mothers with excellent milking ability.

Angus bulls are an excellent crossbreeding option, because breeding to an Angus bull eliminates most calving problems; calves are born polled (with no horns), which makes for an easy birth and minimises injuries in feedlots. The Angus’ black colour also prevents sunburn, helping to prevent cancers. And because of their origins, Angus cattle are very hardy and can survive extremely cold weather.     

What Makes a Winner?

nov 2015 landbou angus 2There are a number of elements considered both in the selection of stock, and in the awarding of championship titles. A non-farmer might mistakenly believe that an
Angus bull simply needs to be big and strong to qualify as good Angus stock, but, as discovered at the information session with Jan van Zyl (Voermol’s South African Beef Cattle Farmer of the Year), as well as during the Angus Bull Championship judging, there are a number of very stringent criteria that come into play:

• In general, the bull should show vigour, walk with an easy gait, be alert and masculine.
• Red and Black Angus bulls and heifers are considered equally good; if any white is present, it is only acceptable if it is a very small patch below the navel.
• A white switch on a Black Angus is highly undesirable.
• The head should be masculine, with a broad forehead and muzzle and wide nostrils; refined, feminine features on a bull are a no-no.
• The eyebrow muscles should be well developed and the ears of medium size and slightly erect.
• There should be absolutely no sign of horns or bare patches on the head.
• The throat should not have too much loose skin.
• The testes are very important; they should be of an ample size, fully descended, with the scrotum descending down to hock level, with a distinct neck.
• The bull should be of an impressive, but well-proportioned size, have a broad back, which is straight on the top line from the crops to the hipbones – there should be no dip or hump in the top line.
• The rump should be long, wide, and absolutely level – no high tail head, and no dropping of the rump.
• The hips must be in proportion to the rest of the body; neither too wide nor too narrow.
• The legs are extremely important – they need to be strong enough to support the bull getting on top of a heifer. Bulls with hind legs too close at the hocks or bowed at the hocks should be avoided, as should those with hind legs which are too straight or too crooked.
• The feet should point straight ahead and all toes should be of equal size.
• Finally, the skin should be of moderate thickness, be quite pliable and covered with thick soft hair that is not woolly.

“Angus Beef is fast becoming recognised as meat of a very high quality; tender, succulent, and tasty.”

Beef Production

Angus Beef is fast becoming recognised as meat of a very high quality; tender, succulent, and tasty - largely due to being quite marbled when raw. The marbling of fat in Angus Beef is very fine, which means it melts when cooked, unlike other beef products which tend to have layered fat.

In South Africa, certified Angus Beef is marketed by Angus Beef. The meat is matured for 21 days, vacuum sealed, then wrapped in a blue printed sleeve with the Angus Beef logo. Angus Beef is produced by registered Angus stud bulls only, with the registration numbers of the bulls recorded by Angus Beef and the Angus Society.

When a calf is born, Angus Beef issues it with an ear tag, containing a unique serial number, which is recorded and invoiced to feedlot operators who purchase the calves from the farmer. The serial number remains with the animal right up to the retail stage. This is to ensure that the beef can be traced all the way back to its farm of origin.

Angus Beef can be found at most Pick ‘n Pays, as well as at some of the top restaurants in the country. Why not get your hands on a lovely piece of Angus fillet and try the recipe included?

nov 2015 landbou angus 3Angus fillet with creamy paprika sauce

6 fillet steaks, 30mm thick
10ml butter
10ml olive oil
300g brown mushrooms, slivered
15ml capers
5ml paprika
100ml sour cream
15ml fresh lemon juice
5ml salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste

Fry steaks in heated butter and cooking oil for about 7-10 minutes or until cooked as desired. Remove steaks from pan and keep warm. Add mushrooms to pan juices and sauté until soft. Add capers, paprika, sour cream, lemon juice, salt and pepper and cook rapidly for 1 minute. Place meat on plate, pour a little sauce over each steak and serve immediately with balsamic baby onions.
Servings: 6; Preparation time: 15-20 minutes

Brief History of Angus Cattle

Angus cattle, known as Aberdeen Angus in many parts of the world, are a breed of cattle commonly used in beef production and largely considered the only pure breed in the world, bred exclusively for beef since its very beginning.

Developed from cattle native to the counties of Aberdeenshire and Angus in Scotland, these beautiful, hornless animals are recorded to have been in Scotland since at least the 16th century – and most likely earlier. The first herd book was created in 1862 and the breed society formed in 1879. Around this time, Angus and Aberdeen cattle were also being introduced into Australia, the USA and other countries around the world. 

The first record of importation into South Africa was in 1895, when Mr. J. Newburg, a Free State farmer, imported ten Black Angus from Scotland.  More consignments followed and by 1910, Angus was being recognised as superior stock, with an Aberdeen-Angus bull winning the main prize at the Johannesburg cattle show that year.

The Aberdeen-Angus Cattle Breeders’ Society of South Africa was founded in 1917 with a membership of only 12 farms. It was affiliated to the South African Stud Book Association in 1918 and received its certificate of incorporation in 1921.

The first Red Angus breeders were imported into South Africa in the 1950‘s and today, around 70% of all registered Angus in the country are red, and around 30% black, possibly due to South African farmers’ traditional preference for red cattle.

There are currently 160 registered Angus stud breeding members registered with the Aberdeen-Angus Cattle Breeders’ Society of South Africa. Angus cattle are registered with the society at birth, with registration certificates awarded after a visual inspection of the animal by the Society.