Sustainable Sourcing

We take the issue of meat production very seriously and take a proactive approach to industry developments. We are a member of Quality Meat Scotland, a public body which seeks to improve the efficiency of red meat production in Scotland.

As a purveyor of frozen food, the sourcing of our raw ingredients obviously plays an important part in the overall sustainability of our business. We source our meat, fish and other ingredients as locally as possible, providing they meet our high standards and expectations of quality.


Grass-fed BeefOur beef, lamb and pork are all reared outdoors and we support traditional farming methods, rather than intensive grain-fed rearing programmes. We insist on using only grass-fed beef and lamb; happily for us, this provides the best flavour, but feeding livestock on grass, hay and silage rather than grain also considerably reduces their overall carbon footprint.


Freshly Caught FishAll of our game is genuinely wild, and is traditionally sourced in the UK. Our wild red and roe deer are culled on estates across the highlands and glens of Scotland, and our venison is widely recognised by the Scottish Quality Wild Venison accreditation scheme.


loué Free-Range PoultryWe therefore undertook a far-reaching tour of Europe until we found the Loué farmers of France, who produce slow grown, free-range poultry of superb quality. This allowed us to supply our customers with the guaranteed quantities of fixed weight poultry we require, at the high quality and welfare standards upon which we insist.

Loué poultry is part of France’s Label Rouge programme which has some of the strictest standards in the world, with more stringent requirements than any other poultry programme in the UK.

Fresh FishThese birds are raised to the highest possible environmental standards, being homed in grassy meadows with trees for shelter and roosting, and warm barns which they can access for protection from foxes at night.

Both the space requirements and the number of trees planted are far in excess of the minimum required to meet the stringent standards of the Label Rouge scheme; what’s more, the birds are fed mostly on a mixture of grains that are grown on the very same farms as the birds are raised on!


Freshly Caught FishWe work closely with our fishmonger to ensure that our fish is responsibly sourced from well managed stocks. These stocks are protected and monitored through policies, procedures and initiative schemes set up through Marine Scotland and the Scottish fishing industry.

In line with the Scottish Government’s policies on sustainable fishing, we support through the sourcing of our fish the aims and objectives of a number of independent accreditation schemes. These include those of the Marine Stewardship Council and the Responsibly Sourced Fishing Scheme, managed by Scotland via Europe under the advice of ICES, which is the world authority on fish stocks.

Fresh FishOur wild fish is landed at Peterhead, our local fishing port on the Aberdeenshire coast. This includes the majority of our white fish and oily fish, which is fished from the northeast Atlantic. Our whiting, however, is sourced off the south west coast of England, as this area has been proven to hold the healthiest and most sustainable stock levels of this particular species.

Our seafood is wild, caught from the north Atlantic and North Sea, with our langoustines for example being fished from around the entire coast of Scotland, before being landed and frozen at local ports.

Our Scottish salmon is sourced from specialist farms off the northwest coast of Scotland, where the strong sea currents ensure firm, healthy fish. Our fresh salmon cuts and cold smoked salmon are Freedom Food accredited.


Operating a mail order business necessitates using sufficient packaging to ensure the safe transport of our goods. Individual products need to be packed robustly enough to survive in customers’ freezers and kitchens, mostly in cardboard and pressed paper trays. The entire orders are sent in polystyrene boxes, which offer the appropriate level of protection and insulation during transit, and allow us to use less dry ice to pack each order than would otherwise be required.

PackagingAlthough it is possible to recycle these polystyrene boxes, facilities for doing so are not yet within easy reach of all of our customers. In an ideal world, we would prefer to use a material which was easier for our customers to recycle, but despite rigorous and prolonged tests, we have yet to identify a material that will maintain our products at a safe temperature and in suitable condition over our delivery times. The safety of our customers must, of course, be our highest priority. We will, however, continue to investigate alternatives as a matter of course.

The cardboard can be added to local council recycling collections, as can the pressed paper product trays used for packaging our mince, burgers, sausages and ready meals.

Freshly Caught FishFor those customers as yet unable to recycle their polystyrene boxes we encourage their reuse. We showcase the best ways in which our customers reuse their Donald Russell polystyrene boxes on our website, and recommend these ideas to customers when taking phone orders. These include:

  • Using them as garden planters (the most popular use by a long way)
  • As light, stackable loft storage
  • As warm, insulated animal beds (they are very popular with rescue centres)
  • Donating to Farmers’ Markets for storage and transportation of fresh produce
  • Donating to schools and nurseries for craft projects and storage
  • Cutting up to insulate sheds and caravans
  • As drinks chillers
  • As a coolbox to defrost larger items, such as their Christmas turkey
  • Creating waterproof storage for external light fixings
  • Filling with sand or water to entertain children – or pets!
  • Craft projects, which have included puppet theatres, aquariums and a full scale model of a medieval fort.

In 2012 we introduced new bubble wrap which is inflated on our own site. This means that we can maximise delivered quantities therefore saving space, road miles and most importantly, fuel consumption. We used to receive one lorry load (approximately 24 pallet spaces) per month, and we now receive only one pallet space per month. One cut in the bubble wrap allows it to deflate, saving space upon disposal also.

Grass-fed BeefIn 2008, we trialled a 'reduced packaging' option for our customers, where we used fewer cardboard boxes within out polystyrene ones. This proved popular, and we have since adopted this approach as standard. Now, only selected items are packed in cardboard boxes, for instance if they are particularly fragile.

Packaging from our inbound deliveries is recycled off site and our suppliers are encouraged to use returnable containers. So far 50% have adopted this approach.

Dry ice, made from recycled CO₂, has replaced gel ice in the majority of our deliveries. Ours is captured at source as a by-product of fertilizer production.

Cardboard BailerWe have recently undertaken a lengthy and detailed analysis on how best to use our dry ice to ensure maximum efficiency levels, looking for instance at the optimum size of slab, the amount required for use in different temperatures, and the amount required to reach different destinations. We are now satisfied that we use the bare minimum necessary to maintain our products at the correct temperature during deliveries.

Promotional Materials

As we are a mail order company, with no physical stores for our customers to browse, we rely heavily on our promotional material to make our customers aware of what we have to offer. Our customer demographic means that many of them rely on hard copies of leaflets and catalogues, although usage of our website, email promotions and social media is on the increase.


CataloguesWe encourage our customers to be contacted by email and to order online wherever possible, reducing the amount of paper mail that we send. Our catalogues are also available as downloads from our website – click here to take a look.

We target our mailings to make them more efficient, reducing unwanted mail. We offer a reduced mailings option for our customers, allowing them to receive fewer mailings if they so wish.

We participate in the Responsible Mail scheme, run in conjunction with the Royal Mail. All paper used must be from recycled stock and be fully recyclable; there are maximum limits for print coverage of ink; and the envelope must have the recyclable logo printed on it to show the entire pack can be recycled. Furthermore, all our paper is sourced from sustainable stocks and is FSC certified.

CataloguesFrom 2011 we switched from wrapping our mailings in polythene in favour of using recycled paper envelopes. Now the only mailing we send which is poly-wrapped, is that containing our catalogue.

We also work closely with our printers to maximise efficiency and eliminate waste. We print the exact number of mail packs required, to the last individual customer, so there is no wasted printing from rounding up the print run. We also deliberately don’t print very far in advance, allowing us to change our mailings and ensure the contents are correct and up to date closer to the date of mailing, so there are no print recalls or wasted runs.

Waste Reduction

As foodies, nothing annoys us more than good food being wasted! This is an approach that we roll out throughout our entire business, as a matter of principle.

We aim to recycle as much of our waste as possible, and have paper, cardboard, plastic and can recycling points throughout our offices and butchery to enable this.

CataloguesWe compress our recyclable material on site into bales matching the size specifications of the recycling mills to which we send them.

By daily segregation and compaction of waste cardboard, Donald Russell is able to recycle 320 tonnes of this material annually. This is supported by requesting that our suppliers use returnable and reusable packaging instead of 'single use' cardboard boxes.

By compressing the waste, and also by waiting until we have a full truckload of materials before requesting transport, we reduce the amount of road miles required to deliver it for recycling.

Our butchers prepare our products to be kitchen ready, so nothing goes to waste on our customers’ plates. We trim off anything they wouldn’t want to eat, so we’re not adding to domestically generated landfill. The fat and bones which our butchers trim away goes to use in the pet food and oleo chemical industries. So as well as being diverted from going to landfill, the useful qualities of these materials are utilised in everyday products, from dry pet food to soap.

Grass-fed BeefSince we professionally freeze our products, their quality and freshness is preserved the natural way. We don’t need to add artificial, industrially produced preservatives to prolong their shelf-life – something which becomes more necessary with chilled products.

Frozen food is also less wasteful by its very nature. It’s much less likely to sit unnoticed at the bottom of a fridge, and since much of it is packaged in individual portions, our customers tend only to defrost as much as they need at any one time – meaning less is thrown away unused.

A Sustainable Working Environment

Our working environments here at Donald Russell vary greatly between the individual departments – from office space to butchery and cold stores, over two sites. We try to ensure that each of these different areas is maintained and equipped as sustainably as possible.

CataloguesWe have invested in energy saving devices, including ‘Energy Star’ computer monitors, Dyson ‘Airblade’ hand dryers and energy-efficient LED lights throughout our premises wherever practical. The Airblade dryers produce up to 76% less CO2 than the paper towel dispensers which they replaced.

We have also invested in specialist chairs throughout the company, which as well as providing enhanced lumbar support and maintaining the health of our employees, are designed to have replaceable component parts, so that chairs may be repaired in future rather than fully replaced.

We are working towards paperless filing across the company, reducing our use of paper, toner, stationery and energy. The paper that we do use is from an accredited sustainable supply.

PackagingIn our butchery, our products are cut and trimmed by hand, by our own expert butchers. The vast majority of meat is machine-prepared these days; hand cutting is significantly more expensive, but is of course less energy intensive.

The heat extracted from our large freezers is recycled to provide underfloor heating on the premises, and some is also directed to where our delivery trucks park, to remove the risk of ice in the wintertime.

We have invested in high pressure, low volume water system equipment for the cleaning of our butchery. This means we use less water, and therefore waste less. The handwashing facilities throughout our production areas require pressure from knees to operate them, which has the added advantage of ensuring that taps cannot be accidentally left running.

CataloguesWe work closely with our couriers, offering an efficient delivery service to our customers. This approach has included requesting larger trucks, so that fewer journeys are required. Our delivery transport efficiency is under constant scrutiny, and through working in conjunction with our couriers we have prevented ‘empty’ journeys and limited re-deliveries.

In terms of travelling to work, the Donald Russell premises in Inverurie are accessible by bus and train, and the Kintore premises by bus (work is due to start shortly on reopening the Kintore trainstation, which will improve the sustainable transport options for those premises). We have alsoadopted a bike to work scheme as a company-wide environmental policy.

The Future

As we head into the future, the issue of sustainability is likely to become increasingly important. Here, we list some of the ways in which we aspire to limit our company’s impact on our environment.

Our parent company, Vestey, is implementing the Energy Saving Opportunity Scheme (ESOS). This involves engaging consultants to provide a full audit and review of what we are doing on our sites, and going on to suggest energy saving opportunities. We have already costed this exercise and have engaged a company to provide the service, so we look forward to seeing the results and identifying further areas in which energy savings may be made.

CataloguesWe intend to contact every one of our external product suppliers with a questionnaire about the actions they take to provide a sustainable business model. Where possible, we will also contact our wider suppliers, of office equipment, services etc, to request the same information.

In this way, we aim to remind our suppliers of the importance that we place on sustainable business practices and potentially to consider changing suppliers should they not meet our criteria in this respect.

We will trial a pilot scheme in the North East of Scotland, with aim of re-using, returning and recycling our polystyrene boxes. If this scheme is successful it may filter to the whole of the U.K.

We are actively continuing to investigate alternative packaging materials that could provide the appropriate level of protection and insulation for our perishable products, and will be looking at some potentially useful new materials in 2016. In the meantime, we will continue lobbying the relevant authorities to provide more widely available recycling facilities for polystyrene.

Freshly Caught FishMany of our employees already share transport to and from the premises. We will investigate the possibility of making this a more structured scheme, by identifying further opportunities for people to share cars.

As we look to expand our Kintore site in the future, we will keep sustainability principles in mind during the planning and construction.

We will investigate the possibility of creating an enriched wildlife habitat in the grounds of the Kintore site, for instance by installing bird boxes and insect homes in the surrounding trees, amphibian ramps in the SUDS soakaway, and planting locally sourced wildflowers to support our increasingly endangered pollinators. This has the potential to become a community-led project, enhancing awareness of the small actions everybody can take to protect our native wildlife.

In conclusion, we trust that the above information confirms our intentions to reduce our impact on our environment wherever possible, and to question, re-examine and reassess our actions continually, to ensure that the issue remains at the forefront of our business.