FOR THE first time in decades, beef connoisseurs in Scotland's capital city can buy cuts of meat sourced from 100% native Aberdeen Angus cattle.

While the modern Angus breed bestrides the world, there is no denying that the genetics Scots breeders first exported centuries ago – the first Angus bull reportedly arrived in Australia in 1820 – have since undergone some adaption to modern production systems.

The A-A bulls of the Antipodes and Americas, north and south, are far larger creatures, and the accepted baseline for marketing under the breed name is only 50% Angus blood. While Scotland's modern Angus breeders may disagree, there are some who would argue that the true character of what began as a small, hardy, dual purpose breed, has been sidelined in its campaign for world domination.

But famously, a very small core of native A-A genetics survived – and at an event in Edinburgh last week, meat from those bloodlines went back on sale through MacDuff 1890, a family-run butcher that deals directly with 'trusted' farmers to source premium meat, and makes a marketing virtue of its detailed traceability and a fulsome back-story.

In this instance, MacDuff's partners are Geordie and Julia Soutar of Kingston Farm, near Forfar, whose Dunlouise operation has driven the effort to preserve, expand and promote the native A-A gene pool, with such success that they can now spare the occasional beast to rekindle consumers' interest in what Mr Soutar himself described as the 'sublime' eating experience offered by those vintage genetics.

Speaking to the assembled audience of foodies in the Bonnie & Wild Scottish Marketplace, in Edinburgh's plush new St James Quarter shopping centre, Andrew Duff of MacDuff 1890 paid tribute to the Soutars for their dedication to saving the native A-A from extinction: "In the 1990s, there were only 27 native Angus cows left in existence, and over the past quarter century Geordie and Julia have sourced those genetics, semen and embryos, to save the breed. Now, Dunlouise is the only farm in the world to hold all nine original native Angus bloodlines.”

But the actual star of the launch event was French film director Franck Ribière, creator of several beef-flavoured documentaries, including 'Steak Revolution', 'Wagyu Confidential' and, most recently, 'Look Back In Angus', who was there to discuss his experience of sampling speciality steaks around the world – and the emergence of an 'ultra-premium' tier of beef production, where traditional genetics, high welfare, and most often forage-based diets offered a route around the political and cultural brick wall that the commodity beef sector is now hurtling towards.

M. Ribière's position is that vegetarianism and veganism will increase in the general population, just as the pressure on carbon emissions and resource use will shine an ever more unfavourable light on intensive grain-fed systems – but committed beef eaters will always seek out a steak, although they will expect it to deliver an eating experience that justifies their loyalty.

As such, the MacDuff-Soutar offering of perfectly aged beef, with undiluted native genetics fed on home turf, and a substantial back story, fits perfectly into that evolving marketplace of ultra high-end beef. Further, given the direction of travel of agricultural and environmental policy, it highlights a potential new route to profitability for smaller scale farmers, where the pursuit of volume and turnover can come second to quality and character, in a marketplace driven by connoisseur consumers willing to pay a premium for their meat.