All About Highland Premium Beef

September 16, 2012 47 Comments

All About Highland Beef

Move over Angus, there is a new cow in town!

Most of us have heard of Angus beef but how many of you have heard of this long haired breed with horns called Highland Premium? Not many I bet but the meat from Highland beef is just as good if not better than what most of us are used to.

I recently had the pleasure of learning all about Highland Premium Beef from Jon Cordonier of Great West Cattle Company. With his help, I was able to put this article together to learn about Highland cattle and how they compare to mass produced beef in this country.

What is Highland Premium Beef?

It is beef that comes from Highland cattle that is superior in flavor, tenderness and cooking. Highland (sometimes called Scottish Highland) is a distinct breed of cattle that are generally smaller than Angus and unique in their looks because of their long hair and horns. It is one of the oldest purebred cattle breeds in the world, extremely hardy and first developed on the cold north Atlantic coast of Scotland.

Why are Highland cows not used as a high growth – high performance cattle breed?

Do you remember the lyrics from the great 60’s play Hair? “Long haired freaky people need not apply”? Highland cows have the same problem.

Their long hair and horns make them unsuitable for commercial operation. What rancher wants to deal with horns these days? They are more dangerous to work around and when the cattle fight, they can cause all kinds of problems. Besides taking up too much room at the feed trough at a commercial feedlots, the slaughter houses don’t want to deal with them because they slow down production.

And what about that long hair. In a modern feedlot, the long hair gathers large mud balls so cattle buyers complain and discount their prices. Cattle ranchers quickly figure out it’s easier to switch to a different breed if they want to make more money.

What makes Highland Beef “Premium”?

Premium suggests superior to other products in its field. The taste has to be more intense in flavor and it needs to be more tender than other breeds. The ability of Highland breeders to trace the sire/dam of each cow permits them to select back the better animals to produce “premium” cows. This is a big plus for small operations over the large mass production ranches.

How does Highland Premium Beef compare to “choice” or “prime” graded beef?

According to Jon Cordonier of Great West Cattle Company, the butcher at the USDA slaughtering facility they use gives them verbal grades that amount to 50/50 between choice and prime. Because they produce only a small number of cows each year, it is too expensive for them to hire a federal USDA grader. What this means they are not able to sell their beef as prime at a much higher price even though 50% of it is likely to be prime. They hope to soon be in the position to start using a USDA grader in the next year or so.

What are the advantages of raising 300 head of cattle versus 5,000?

It’s more personal” says Jon Cordonier ” We know our cattle at 300 head. We don’t have manure disposal problems, odor problems, etc. We have a very clean feedlot. The other advantage in a small feedlot is we have lower disease problems.”

Because they are working with smaller numbers, they don’t have to automatically feed their cattle a bunch of antibiotics to prevent disease from occurring. By keeping it simple and feeding their cows a diet of corn, oats and hay and giving them more attention, they produce a more “all-natural” product.

brown sauce

Online Steak Buying Resources

Convenience - Selections - Quality - Ratings - Gift Giving - Corporate Events

Snake River Farms - Founded in 1968 by Robert Rebholtz, Sr., Snake River Farms and Double R Ranch are part of Agri Beef Co., a family owned and operated business dedicated to producing the highest quality beef and pork in the United States. The Northwest has distinct advantages over other cattle raising regions including a temperate climate that keeps the cattle comfortable throughout every season. The geographic location also provides access to a diverse range of feed ingredients.


If you sell gourmet steaks, game meats, or any other gourmet meat products, please contact me to talk about how I can get your site in front of 12,000 foodies daily. Contact Me    


Last modified on Thu 14 May 2015 4:26 pm

Filed in: Steaks

Comments (47)

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

  1. Grant says:

    In my opinion feedlot raised cattle will not produce premier Highland beef. Traditionally Scottish Highland cattle range in open paddocks and more importantly on hill country. Feedlots do not provide this kind of environment. Grassfed, hill country raised animals will produce superior beef.

  2. Gaticus says:

    We raise scotch-highland cows in middle Tennessee and I could not imagine their beef tasting good after being raised on a feed lot. Our cows are rotationaly grazed on 6-10 acre tracts and moved everyday. These cows love walking up and down the hills and hollers here, so I can’t imagine the environment of a feedlot, no matter how small the herd, being conducive to raising these animals to have good prime beef. 300 head of highlands is a lot anyways. Also, just find a USDA approved butcher instead of getting a USDA approved farm, that way you don’t have to use any antibiotics on your cows, thus not passing the antibiotics on to your customers.

    • dale says:

      going to butcher my first steer in march all hay fed .i hope you are right on the taste and tenderness

      • mike says:

        Hi Dale! Let me know how it turned out. I want to know how tender it was, how old the steer was, and did the steaks have fat marbled in.

      • Peter Kernohan says:

        I have three Highlands on my small hobbie farm (two heifers and a steer). The steer will be the first to the freezer but I’m not sure at what age to do this. He is nearly two years old now. Can anyone advise? Thanks.

        • Eddie says:


          Hopefully you already found an answer to your question. I have two steers coming up a on year old that I plan to have processed in the 18-24 month age range. At this point they should have reached their maximum weight so you are just feeding to keep them going at that point. As far as taste, well, there is lots of opinion on that too. I’m going to go with size and hope the meat is good because the cows got good feed and are supposed to be tasty anyway. Best of luck.

  3. Rusty Christian says:

    Steak is a primary food group in our house because we raise Highlands. Our small herd is only 20 head and they are on pasture 24/7/365. Let’s not let everyone know how good this beef is or there will not be enough to go around. I don’t like this articles mention of a feed lot, if a Highland is on a feed lot I wouldn’t want any part of it.

  4. James McAllister says:

    Can their long hair be used as wool?

  5. Susan says:

    we are about to buy our first highland calf for beef. There are two horses on the same 9 acres that the calf will use. OK? If not, why?

    • Brenda says:

      We raised our Scottish Highlands with our horses but you need to be cautious. For many years we did not have a problem but then we got a cow that was aggressive towards the horses and we ended up with lots of vet bills from injuries the cow inflicted on the horses with her horns. We ended up having to keep them in different pastures and also be cautioned as Scottish Highlands can be escape artists and most times need better fences and enclosures than horses.

  6. Ginger Hackney says:

    We are a small Highland and Hereford cattle farm in Talladega, Al. We have two full blooded Highland bull calves for sale (one is 14 months old & the other is 1 year old.) We have been having good luck with selling crossbreed calves (Highland/Hereford) at market but anticipate poor results with our two hairy “boys” at auction. Most folks want even know what they are.

    Any suggestions on how to market them in this area? They are totally grass fed animals (100 acres of pasture land for our herd of 20.)

    • David Severson says:

      I am interested in your bulls please call me 770 710 1317 l live just across the border near Cedartown ga.

      • Ginger Hackney says:

        So sorry that I missed seeing your reply until today! We had a man from Bristol, TN purchase one of the bulls. We are in Kentucky on a trip but will call you soon. Cedar Town is not a bad drive at all from Talladega,

        Will touch base with you when we return home.

        • bill short says:

          I know it has been four years since your post, but do you still have any Highlands cattle? Any bulls? I am studying about getting some new blood in my herd down near Goodwater, AL

  7. Kim Weber says:

    What is the going market price for Highland cattle?
    Someone locally is wanting sell their herd (age range 1-8 yrs of age) for $600. each. Is that a good price?

  8. Kenny Adams says:

    I am looking to get a herd started and am looking for breeding heifers or cows. I am located in west central Ohio, but will travel to purchase within a reasonable distance.

    • j.p.mcnaughton says:

      we are in west ky,if that is not to far.we are registered with the american highland many cows are you interested in and we also have a 6yr old bull for sale.

  9. Blake Sowers says:

    I am having a highland/angus calf delivered this weekend. This is also our families first time with a calf. Any thoughts on the highland/angus mix?

  10. Waz says:

    Awesome to see this site and all your comments. Its great to see so many people interested in such a great breed of cattle I have had them for many years and will praise them till the cows come home!! LOL The meat that comes from these wonderful beasts is second to none.Grass fed or Lot fed ? Just think about where they came from? Let them do what they do best? Turn all types of vegetation into the best beef you have ever tasted ! they don’t need to be lot fed !! but I understand why people run such operations ..I have crossed them with a lot of breeds with great success. Angus. Shorthorn.Hereford. British Blue. Charolais. and now just Experimenting with Wagyu. Think I may Call them the Haighgyus!
    Enjoy this magnificent breed of cattle. They are a joy to own and breed and people think they look great in the paddock ? wait till they taste them on there plate !!They are even better again !!!! Good thing come in small packages !bigger is not always better ? Cheers waz

  11. waz says:

    Dear Linda

    I still have a couple of months to wait for the first wagyu x calfs..

    My farm is in Queensland Australia and it gets very hot here and touch wood my central full blood line of Scotys have not had any heat issues ??? on really hot days they may go for a swim in the dam but the seem very tolerant even to the harshest conditions..The Angus and Charolais x have turned out even better than I expected Cheers waz

  12. Casondra says:

    I’m searching for information on how old is too old for eating the S.H.
    We have a 6-7yr old and are moving so need to send to market If we can’t sell her.

  13. edward demian says:

    I too would like to know if the highland cattle wool has ever been sheared for wool production.

    • No idea Edward but maybe someone reading this can help with an answer.

    • Bruce Wilson says:

      I am no expert, but my knowledge of what wool is would suggest no. Most animals with fur actually have two layers of hair. There is the wooly undercoat that actually provides insulation. In your long haired dogs and cats this is what you are pulling out when you comb their fur. Sheep have had their guard hairs bred out and their undercoat increased so this wooly undercoat actually becomes the main coat that you see. Then there is the overcoat made up of guard hairs. These are typically longer and straighter, but worthless for wool. They help protect the wooly undercoat. What you are seeing with the Highland cattle is the opposite of your wooly sheep, whereas the cattle have been bred so their guards hairs are much longer than normal.

      You could comb your cattle though, and collect the wool that way. Dogs and goats have been used for that purpose for a milleania.

    • John Streur says:

      We raise pure bred Highland Cattle and we have the hides tanned; they come out similar to a buffalo hide. The hides are beautiful, and are used for bedding, rugs or furniture covering. We haven’t thought of shearing the animals because we raise them on a ranch in Washington State, hilly with a mix of forests, meadows, streams and shared with wild animals and predators. They need that long hair for their well being.

  14. sandi eberhard says:

    I am a supplier of fine venison to the best restaurants in the US. I have been in business for 25 years and have always been on the lookout for extraordinary products to offer our Chefs. We only deal with the best talent in the US. Do you feel that the Highland Scottish breed would fit this niche?

    • Hi Sandi, not being a professional chef or beef distributor, I don’t think I’m the person to ask. I’m hoping now that I posted your question, someone from the group with better credentials than I have will give you a hopeful response.

  15. Chad says:

    Waz, any update on the highland/wagyu cross?

  16. waz says:

    G,Day Chad
    Yes, the Hagyus have arrived and they are even better than I imagined they would be! Square and full bodied Meat machines. I will try to take some photos but dont know if I can upload them here? they turned out dark chocolate brown to black and are filling out awesome with great confirmation and are bulking up way faster than full blood Wagyus.
    Cheers, waz

  17. Russell J Lester says:

    I was wondering if anyone has butchered a highlander bull and did it tast ok

  18. Aneah Epshteyn says:

    We recently purchased 1/4 of a Scottish Highland – or at least that’s what we were told. I have been preparing pastured organic grass fed beef from companies like US Wellness meats, or other local organic grass fed cows, and using pressure cooker, stew or slow cooker, resulted in a tender meat. With this new meat though, I am getting tough and dry results most every time. Lots of liquid, tenderizing and even marinating don’t seem to make much of a difference. Does anyone (pretty please) have any suggestions as to why this would be happening, or have a suggestion for a different way to prepare this meat? I was told the animal was older and a bull (around 4?), and not sure if that makes a difference. Thank you.

    • Dave says:

      Hi Aneah. I would say the age of the animal and the fact he is a bull is what is making the difference. Typically beef animals are slaughtered between 18-24 months old. After this tenderness starts to deteriorate. The fact that he is a bull also significantly changes the meat profile. Hope this helps!

    • Howard Kline says:

      to anser your question,,Yes, it is all about the age, we have raised scotties for the last 10 years and we do private sales of beef and replacement heiffers and bulls, i have been down this same road, we processd and older cow 5 yr old and had much the same results, so glad we did not sell any of the beef to friends

  19. Peggy says:

    As a spinner and my main business spinning fiber, I thought,,,why couldn’t their undercoat be spun? I was lucky enough to get some musk ox wool a few years ago and it sold at a very high price. Mostly the way it’s collected is picking up the fluff that caught on items, or like with my Samoyed,,,the tufts just end up on the ground. When I sold musk ox, I read it’s the most expensive wool on the market. If Highland cattle’s wool is as soft,,,there is a market for it! I couldn’t believe what people paid for 1 oz. of Musk Ox. It’s been a few years, so don’t ask me now. Even if I did remember, it’s probably gone up.

    Rare wool really does drive up the price and there are many willing to pay for it. So, brush the cattle if they let you and you’ll see you can get more from them then just their meat.

    I’d be real curious to find out how soft the wool is! Anyone?

    • Bill Tramp says:

      Hi Peggy,
      The highland undercoat that is shed each spring is pretty fine and soft especially on calves. It will naturally felt on the animal when they rub on things. The fibers are short, however, which would be an issue when spinning.

      It can be combed out fairly easily and collected that way. My ex-wife was an avid spinner and chose to spin shetland wool in the lock from our flock of shetland sheep. I don’t recall her attempting to spin the highland hair.

      If you go on the American Highland Cattle Association website, you can find a highland breeder near you.


  20. Selwyn Smith says:

    I’ve just opened a pack of the beef stir fry msa. What are the two black plastic sachets ( connected ) that were underneath the meat? The sachets are filled with a fluid, i think.

  21. Ashley says:

    I liked that you said that one thing to consider when you are thinking about raising cattle for Angus beef is to make sure that you feed them well so that you can achieve premium meat. I have been thinking about starting my own business but I have been worried that I won’t be able to acquire quality beef to sell. I would be sure to feed my cattle quality food and take good care of them so that I could sell their quality beef for a lot of money.

Leave a Reply