This article by Angus D. Birditt was produced for Pasture Fed Livestock Association
Meet Andrew Duff, the 4th generation Director at MacDuff in Wishaw, Scotland. MacDuff is a ‘Pasture For Life’ certified wholesaler, which works with the neighbouring Wishaw Abattoir, a ‘Pasture For Life’ certified abattoir. Andrew talks about the importance of traceability within the supply chain, and why working closely with all involved is vital to making it as sustainable as possible. Interview and photographs Angus D. Birditt.
What does MacDuff do, and where does it fit in within the supply chain?
AD: MacDuff is a ‘Pasture For Life’ certified wholesaler that kills and cuts meat from PFLA farmers like Johnnie Balfour at Balbirnie Home Farms and Robert Campbell from ‘Fife Dexters’ at Wester Logie Farm. Working alongside Wishaw Abattoir, MacDuff is a cutting plant and chill store. Here at MacDuff, we are the middlemen in the supply chain, a small family firm with a limited number of customers that cuts and chills meat. We believe that it is possible to maintain a proper working relationship based on a real understanding of customer specifications on one side and supplier capability on the other, where traceability is incredibly important.
How did you hear about the Pasture Fed Livestock Association, and how do you fit within the scheme?
AD: It was around 2015/16, when I first started to see the PFLA on digital platforms, and began to understand that there was a real demand for ‘Pasture For Life’ certified meat, especially from native breeds. It was a trend that really pushed us to selling the best Scottish meat – whether that’s beef, lamb, mutton or goat –, and by becoming both a PFLA member and a ‘Pasture For Life’ certified wholesaler, it was a great step forward to achieving that goal.
One of the reasons why we became certified with the PFLA was that we found that their ethical and environmental values aligned with ours here at MacDuff, working to high levels of food and animal welfare standards, whilst working with people and businesses that give something positive back to the land and soil; supporting a progressive movement in agriculture. We also wanted to highlight and celebrate the most special produce in Scotland.
"The certification enables us to place a premium price on our meat, which in turn then enables us to give a premium to the farmers we are working with, which is a really important aspect to what we do at MacDuff."
After becoming ‘Pasture For Life’ certified ourselves, we began to look at the PFLA’s list of certified farmers to work with (on their website). We found that these certified farmers mainly sold to local markets, butchers, or directly from their farms – something I have no objection to, of course! But what we give them here at MacDuff is the logistic capability, the ability to step in and help them increase their customer base and network. It is places, such as London and other large cities, where I can access ‘Pasture For Life’ certified butchers and restaurants that want ‘Pasture For Life’ certified meat. For example, The Ethical Butcher in London is a butcher we like to work with closely, certified with the PFLA as well.
We made it clear that we wanted to work with businesses, such as, The Ethical Butcher, who have the same ethos as us here, which really opened the door for many people searching for ethically reared meats. As for the ‘Pasture For Life’ stamp, it’s incredibly relevant and topical being driven by environmentally friendly farming. It was a more appealing Unique Selling Point than organic, and as it’s not sold in the supermarkets, many of my clients who are independents found that appealing. It helps us stand out from the rest.
What are the benefits of being ‘Pasture For Life’ certified?
AD: The certification enables us to place a premium price on our meat, which in turn then enables us to give a premium to the farmers we are working with, which is a really important aspect to what we do at MacDuff. It’s also a great way to reflect the high standards we work towards.
It’s all about traceability and having 100% provenance in our work. There is pride in working with farmers who want to know where their meat goes, and with the PFLA you find them in abundance. We are part of the ‘field to fork’ ethos’, which is communicating to the customer (mainly through digital platforms) the importance of what we do here. Just see our [digital] posts; we tag where the meat is from, what breed the animals are, how they have been raised, where they are going, and how they are being processed.
Take the ‘Pasture For Life’ certified farmer, Johnnie Balfour at Balbirnie Farms, for example. I know Johnnie well, and he tells me exactly what he wants. I can then oversee the whole process for him. The meat is then cut, chilled, and hung for however long he or the customer wants it. I then sell Johnnie’s meat to places like The Ethical Butcher, where they can contact Johnnie or me for any information on the meat. We then highlight through social media the traceability and sustainability of the meat, making the whole process as transparent as we can, and the PFLA has certainly helped with this networking.
As I have said, there is a premium to be certified, which goes down to the principles of the PFLA. I am sure the PFLA will grow, and with that, the market for their product. The public will hear how it helps through its various principles like high animal welfare, environmentally friendly farming, and through their championing of agroecology. Even more so now since Covid-19, people are focusing more on where their food comes from, and I want to encourage those same principles in Scotland.
What is your favourite recipe using the ‘Pasture For Life’ certified meat?
AD: My personal favourite is the rump steak, aged to around 35 days. Or perhaps, a bavette steak marinated in herbs, olive oil and spices, and then pan-fried for 8-10 minutes, and cut into thin slices when rare.