Highland Beef History

An International Heritage Breed

Highland cattle are one of the oldest breeds in the world, originating from Scotland as far back as the 6th century. The extremely harsh conditions of the rugged, remote Scottish Highlands created a process of natural selection, where only the fittest and most adaptable animals survived to carry on the breed. Originally there were two distinct classes; the slightly smaller and usually black Kyloe, whose primary domain was the islands off the west coast of northern Scotland. The other was a larger animal, generally reddish in color, whose territory was the Highlands. Today both of these strains are regarded as one breed – Highland. In addition to red and black, yellow, dun, white, brindle and silver are also traditional colors. The breed is characterized by traits of hardiness, self-sufficiency and longevity. They are excellent foragers and efficient at improving pastures and clearing woodlots. A testament of this ability was in an Oak Savanna Restoration Project in Wisconsin where the cattle and environment thrived. Their moderate frame is

ideal for small and large farms alike in various climates and regions of the country. Highlands are found in all fifty states and acclimate well to the environment yet it is best to buy cattle from a climate similar to your farm. The double hair coat is a tremendous asset in adverse weather and is believed to be the reason why they have limited external fat cover. This means less to trim from carcasses and more value retained. The horns not only give them their majestic looks but are helpful with predator control. These cattle have strong maternal instincts and protect their young. 


Highland Beef Health Benefits

Our Highland beef takes a full year longer to grow to market weight than typical beef found in a supermarket.  This is due to the fact that we do not finish them on corn or grain and only feed them what they naturally graze upon.  This natural finishing gives Highland beef lower fat, cholesteral and superior flavor.  A recent study by the Scottish Agricultural College found that Highland beef more than 10% less fat per serving than traditional commercial beef.  Highland beef is also significantly lower in cholesterol than turkey, a meat commonly suggested as a beef alternative for recipes.  Pound for pound, Highland beef has more iron and protien than commercial beef.  All of these benefits are a fantastic reason to add Highland beef to your table or menu.  

Highland Beef Flavor in Cooking

Traditionally, flavor has been suggested to come from the "marbling" in a cut of beef.  Marbling, in effect, is the result of finishing animals on grain and corn in order to boost wieght prior to market.  This fast growth period produces veins of fat that run between sections of the animal and especially through the loin and sirloin parts of the animal.  By raising our cattle exclusively on grass, scrub and hay, our animals reach their market weight slowly, building more muscle and marketable meat.  While the marbling may not be present, our beef is actually more tender and flavorful than that of a tradtional commercial operation.  According to a study by Charles Bruce at the University of Glasgow in Scotland, Highland beef was shown to be 23% more tender than commecial beef.  Samples were tested from a diverse array of operations, raising their animals in varied ways, including grain and corn finishing and yet Highland beef was much more tender.  This means that dry aging is not necessary to reach a level of tenderness expected on the table at restaurants or at home.  

The slow growth of the Highland beef also lends it to superior flavor.  In his book "Steak", Mark Schatzker travelled the world in search of a steak with the best combination of characteristics expected from a great steak.  In Japan, for instance, fat is preferred.  Thus, Waygu beef is popular and touted around the world as the best steak available.  However, Mr. Schatzker states that in all his travels, "there was one steak I could not get out of my head: that red slice of scottish loin from the bank of the river Earn, barely marbled, silky even when raw, its fat the color of butter.  The Highland rib eye was the most flavorful steak I'd ever eaten.  It was also the juciest steak I'd eaten and the tenderest too."  He called it a life changing steak.  So why pay for fat pounds throughout your meat, when such tender and flavorful meat can be on your table tonight?

Naturally Raised in the Willamette Valley

Our Scottish Highland herd is raised outside Molalla, Oregon in the Willamette Valley, an area of Oregon known for wet winters and mild summers.  Closely resembling the Highlands of Scotland, our farm has been an ideal place to raise such a hardy and low maintenance breed. Scottish Highland cattle have two layers of hair, insulating them from even the harshest weather.  These multiple layers of hair also mean that they do not have to grow fat on their backs in order to stay warm.   Their stellar care for their young and ease of calving has made caring for our heard a joy over the last couple of decades.  Their resistance to most common ailments of cattle in the northwest also means that we do not have to use sub-theraputic anti-biotics to maintain their health.  We never use hormones or steroids on our herd.  We are committed to naturally raising our animals and allowing them to grow at a natural rate, with plenty of room to roam.  Our farm features both open grassland areas as well as wooded, hilly terrain for the herd to wander through.  Through rain, sleet and snow, our herd has quitely grown from one Highland cow over two decades ago to nearly one hundred animals.  Visit our photo gallery to see them and the wonderful acreage they live on.  

Contact Us Today!

Martson Farm Highland Cattle

14388 S Bagby Rd.

Molalla, OR 97038


Rick Martson

Owner / President

(503) 799-5743



Alex Martson

Vice President

(503) 702-8338


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Martson Farm Highland Cattle