Ten revered English chefs got some hands-on experience of Scotch Beef production during a visit to a family-run Perthshire beef and sheep farm.
The chefs, including Chris Galvin who runs three top London eateries with his brother and David Colcombe chef/owner of the acclaimed Opus restaurant in Birmingham, spent an afternoon with the McLaren family at Netherton, near Blackford.
The farm visit, along with a butchery demonstration from Aberfoyle-based butcher Jonathan Honeyman and John Webber of the Nick Nairn Cook School, was organised by Quality Meat Scotland.
Willie McLaren and son William gave the high profile visitors an insight into their Aberdeen Angus enterprise from a new-born calf to some of their most senior pedigree cows, whose genetics are sought after throughout the world.
“Modern breeding technology has allowed us to select for a good amount of marbling with not too much back fat so nothing is left on the plate,” Willie McLaren told the group.
“Quality assurance has also played a hugely important role in building the reputation of our beef throughout the world. Our beef is quite different from other parts of the world where hormones can be used and welfare is not a priority,” he added.
Work has just started on a brand new steading at Netherton which, say the Mclarens, will be state of the art in terms of cattle comfort and welfare.
William McLaren also emphasised the importance of good welfare in their management system. “Our cows are bred to be able to calf themselves with a minimum of interference from us and we view straw bedded yards as the best housing option.
“With an eye on the future, we are also very much breeding animals which perform well on a grass-based diet. Our cows receive no concentrates and thrive on a grass, including silage in winter, and we are more and more focusing on genetics which are best suited to a grass-only diet.”
The chefs also met Andy McGowan, Head of Industry Development with QMS, who talked them through the ground-breaking IMEQ meat eating quality project which is currently underway in Scotland.