Meet the Head Butcher

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Mark Farquhar:
Head Butcher, Donald Russell

Mark is the omniscient presence in our butchery hall and retains a watchful eye and guiding hand at all times...

"It was 1983 that I began my first butchery job with a local shop in Aberdeen, it seems like only yesterday that I started; fresh faced and eager! In 1990 I joined the team here at Donald Russell and the thing that makes my job so satisfying is the enthusiastic team I work with. When I was promoted to Head Butcher in 2003 it was great knowing that I had the support and skill of a traditionally trained team behind me, and when you are this passionate about what you do it doesn't seem like work anyway."

Lamb Saddles

I often wonder if people know what I'm on about when I speak of saddles and racks. I'm not talking about equestrian equipment, that's for sure!

Once upon a time, housewives knew all the cuts their local butcher would produce. Furthermore, they'd know where in the cow, sheep or pig those cuts were to be found. However, in these days where we are used to seeing our meat already conveniently cut and laid out for us in individual portions, I can see why butchery terms could come across as a foreign language.

So, let me tell you about one of the key parts of a lamb – the saddle. Now, if you'd imagine for a daft moment that you were to hold a race with lambs instead of horses, then the saddle is the area the jockey would sit on. This primal includes most of the high-end, tender cuts of lamb such as the loins, which sit tucked up under where the ribs join the spine at either side, and the fillets. Like in a beef carcase, these are also contained in this prime area, nearer the tail end than the shoulder, and are the most tender parts of the animal, being the least worked muscles.

Not many people want a Whole Saddle, with all its ribs and everything intact. In fact, to get the most out of the tender cuts housed within, I would recommend splitting the saddle into smaller cuts which have been designed for easier cooking.

(This is where butchery gets a bit 'rack and roll'...!)

Lamb RackFirstly, we have the Racks of Lamb, which are simply loin meat still attached to a given section of the ribs, depending upon how many folk you want to serve. Our butchers will also 'French trim' the rib bones, leaving them clean of fat. A great dinner party cut – once the rack is cooked, just slice between the ribs to serve as individual cutlets.

Lamb Short Saddle

We can also decide to take the loin meat off the bones completely, in which case we roll it up, wrap it in a thin layer of fat to keep it moist, and tie it together, all neatly trimmed. This is a Short Saddle, and can be roasted and sliced really easily.

Lamb Valentine

There are many other smaller cuts we can get out of the saddle. These include all the styles of chops, and little tender steak cuts like Mini Steaks, Noisettes and Valentines – some of which are very fiddly to prepare – but we’ll leave those for another time.

Right, I hope you now feel suitably enlightened about where these favourite lamb cuts come from. I could go on forever, but really must get back to the butchery hall, as it's rack and roll day today. If you want a little more information on from where we cut our other lamb products, have a peek at our How To Meat Perfection guide.

What's your favourite Lamb recipe? Contact us on Facebook or on Twitter.


What are the Big 4?

Fillet, Sirloin, Ribeye and Rump – these are the Big 4 Steak cuts us Donald Russell butchers cut every day. But where do they come from, and why are they different from one another? Let’s take a closer look…

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Fillet is the most tender, lean and mild flavoured of all the steaks, therefore the most luxurious and expensive. We mature it for a minimum of 21 days, to bring out its subtle flavour. The majority of our steaks are cut from the centre of the fillet for the best shape, appearance and overall taste.

Cuts include: Centre Cut Fillet Log, Chateaubriand, Fillet Steaks, Fillet Medallions, Fillet Tails

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Sirloin – known as The Nation’s Favourite – is tasty and tender with good marbling and a covering of fat on the outside. This fat is what makes our sirloin taste so good, but you only need a little to get the full flavour benefits, so we pare most of it away. We mature our Sirloin for 28 days for the best balance of flavour and tenderness.

Cuts include: Sirloin Roast, Sirloin Steaks, Sirloin Sandwich Steak, T-bone Steaks

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Ribeye is juicy and richly flavoured with a rugged appearance, generous marbling and firm texture. It has a wide ribbon of fat at the core which melts during cooking to make it taste extra succulent and mellow, and this has resulted in it being named ‘The Butcher’s Favourite’. Our Rib and Ribeye cuts are matured on the bone for a minimum of 28 days.

Cuts include: 2-Bone or 5-Bone Rib Roast, Ribeye Steaks, Minute Ribeye Steaks, Carnivores’ Rib Steaks

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Rump is lean with a robust, firm texture and strong beefy flavour, which is due to its long maturation time (minimum 35 days) to ensure it’s as tender as can be. Unlike Traditional Rump Steaks, our Pave Rump Steaks have the sinew carefully removed, leaving a thick cut steak which is very popular on the continent.

Cuts include: Heart of Rump Roast, Tafelspitz, Pave Rump Steaks, Pave Rump Medallions, Traditional Rump Steaks

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What we do

The range we specialise in is a broad and uncompromising one and all the traditional cuts, including naturally reared beef, pork and lamb, can be found alongside some more contemporary classics like our range of gourmet seafood, game and veal.


More useful links

Butcher's Guide to Veal
Fish and Seafood Guide
Guide to Game and Poultry



What makes us different?

Donald Russell butchers have built a reputation on a number of unique factors below and kept it through an uncompromised commitment to excellence.

Hand Selection


Grass-fedAll Donald Russell meat is sourced, where possible, from local suppliers or reputable farms across the U.K by our experienced team of buyers.

Regular and unannounced inspections from recognised monitoring bodies (Quality Meat Scotland & Scottish Executive Environment & Rural Affairs Department) are the best way to uphold our stringent measures.


The highest butchery standards

Ribeye SteaksDonald Russell had developed its own specifications for many of its cuts which will always guarantee you get the most meat possible without the eating quality or flavour being reduced. This also ensures consistent quality. By trimming away all unnecessary fat, silverskin and gristle our butchers leave only the finest meat and fat for taste, which means that you get far more meat for your money.


Fillet Sirloin RibeyeDonald Russell beef has a deep red colour, which is characteristic of well-aged beef. (A bright red colour does not necessarily indicate the meat is either fresh or good quality, simply that it has not been given the time to fully mature). Top quality beef is also richly marbled, with small creamy-white flecks and streaks of fat throughout the meat. This is essential for a fabulous flavour, as the fat melts during cooking to make the meat juicy and tasty.

You'll often hear Ribeye being referred to as 'The Butcher's Favourite', that's because of the rich flavour that comes from the marbling of this cut. Fillet and Sirloin have less marbling but many people prefer these cuts due to them being so lean.


The tenderness of our meat

Matured BeefOf course the welfare of the animals has a major impact on the tenderness of the meat. However, achieving optimum tenderness from matured meat is actually quite a skilled process. There are many points that must be considered including storage temperature and maturing time and method. The longer meat is matured, the tenderer it becomes. All Donald Russell meat is traditionally matured on the bone in a temperature controlled environment, optimum conditions for tenderness.

All our beef is matured for a minimum of 21 days
All our lamb is matured for a minimum of 10 days
All our pork is matured for a minimum of 7 days

'Meat the team'

Dave Bergin - Boning Line Manager

Dave's 20+ years of Butchery experience come in handy in his role as Boning Line Manager. Dave is responsible for the heavy deboning of all our primals, preparing the products so they are ready to be cut into steaks. He does have a softer side though as he's also in charge of our lamb products - including our lovely Lamb Valentines - and our humble cuts team. Responsible for costings and yield, Dave ensures products are of good value and high quality and believes "passion really does drive this company".


Bill McRitchie Bill McRitchie - Intake Manager

"When your business is supplying the best, you need eyes in the back of your head - Bill's keen eyes don't miss a thing... You'll have to get up early to catch out our resident Inspector Morse for his day begins at the unenviable hour of 4am. Bill's responsible for the inspection of our beef and every detail is under scrutiny, "it's the only way we can be sure of the best every time - it's 100% quality or nothing".


Stefan Kolsch Tomas Petkevicius - Coldstore and Stock Manager

Just like a car needs fuel to run, a busy butcher like us needs to make sure that stock levels never go 'into the red'. Having spent several years as our Coldstore and Stock Manager, Tomas knows how vital it is to set procedures in place at the onset of a process, "it ensures you start as you mean to go on, by doing everything to the very best of our abilities" and means you don't have to wait long for your favourite products


Ian Strachan - Morning Despatch and Packaging Manager

Ian looks after all aspects of packing and despatch. From purchasing bubble wrap, dry ice and our poly boxes, to arranging transport lorries, vehicle servicing and dealing with the odd break down here and there, Ian ensures your order is packed and transported to perfection!


Iain MatthewIain Matthew - New Product Development Manager

An unquenchable drive, relentless imagination and thick skin, all wrapped up in an understanding of customers' needs are the desired criteria for the job of culinary inventor...Working alongside Stefan our Head chef, this pair is an unstoppable duo when it comes to inspirational new product ideas. They understand cuts, how they cook and eat and what to put together to continually give you the best value products. You won't find many of their inventions anywhere else.


Marco Ingold - Special Projects Manager

Having successfully completed his Master of Business in Engineering whilst working at Donald Russell, Marco is rather used to being challenged every day, which comes in handy in his role as our Special Projects Manager. Having to plan production, productivity and conversion for three months at a time, as well as working on a new stock management system keeps Marco on his toes – it’s a full time job!



Butchery Videos

The Butcher's Guide To Beef

'The Big 4' - Guide to Steaks

Choosing the right steak

Everyone has different preferences, and every cut of steak has its own unique blend of taste and tenderness. At Donald Russell we want your steak experience to be the best it can be.

Fillet SteakFillet Steak

This regal cut has a reputation as the most tender, elegant steak of all. Carved from the prime matured fillet, this delicate, lightly marbled cut has the neatest appearance and mildest flavour of all our steaks and deserves its premium price tag.

To read more about Fillet click here

Sirloin SteakSirloin Steak

Sirloin is a succulent, marbled steak from the heart of the striploin. It offers the perfect balance of taste, tenderness and value for money. It has a thin covering of fat on the outside to help bring out the full flavour and aroma.

To read more about Sirloin click here

Ribeye SteakRibeye Steak

Probably the juiciest steak of all, with a rich, mellow flavour thanks to its characteristic wide ribbon of fat running through the core. This rugged-looking steak is enjoying a huge surge in popularity, thanks to its exceptional flavour.

To read more about Ribeye click here

Pave Rump SteakRump Steak

Rump has the firmest texture and a robust beefy flavour. Our hugely popular Pavé Rump Steak is a special cut, often seen on the Continent, which is very lean with a neat presentation. It's a superior cut to the traditional

To read more about Rump click here