By Karen Carruth

From field to fork was the name of the game last week as four chefs from Macdonald Hotels and Resorts met their red meat suppliers, Scotbeef. They then toured one of the beef farms that supply Scotbeef to underline the provenance of the beef they serve.

Meeting at Scotbeef’s Bridge of Allan plant, top chefs Keith Shearer, Arron Sobey, Richard Dickson, and Glenn Roach met with Scotbeef procurement manager Bill MacKinnon and sales manager Cameron Scott Wallace to discuss their relationship and how best to serve the hotel’s needs.

The visit to the plant was followed by a tour around Donald and Jamie Biggar’s Chapelton Farm in Castle Douglas, which has been sending its cattle to Scotbeef for processing for three generations.

The chefs also toured the abattoir at Bridge of Allan and were impressed by the speed and efficiency of the production line.

The chefs’ main point of interest and Macdonald Hotels commitment to customers, is being able to answer diners’ questions about breed, welfare, husbandry, and provenance.

Both Scotbeef and Macdonald Hotels are on the same page when it comes to standards and the reputation they want to maintain for an outstanding dining experience.

Keith Shearer, group executive chef, said: “Our guests have much higher expectations now. They want to know how the animal is being reared, what welfare standards are adhered to, where it has come from, how old it was.

"The public have spread their wings, they go abroad far more often and they bring back those food experiences from all over the world to their dinner table. They are more knowledgeable and we understand that we can’t rest on our laurels so we always want to do better; better for guests, better for staff. The battle in any kitchen is to avoid complacency. That means complacency with the team, and the product, as that complacency can then be transferred to the guest. We will keep pushing our standards and we have found that whatever we ask Scotbeef for, they will supply the high standard we require.”

Cameron said: “Scotbeef’s main aim for our customers is to provide a consistently high quality product. Meat expectations are very high, particularly when it comes to steak.

“Scotbeef is processing 3500 cattle and 15,000 lambs each week, and we need to make sure that our suppliers are meeting our standards. We have a dedicated audit team that goes out every 18 months to advise the farmer (if needed) on what Scotbeef requires. We have a very useful tool, ‘Beef Track System’, which allows farmers to track online all the weights and grades of their stock. It’s important that farmers know what we want, and that being consistent quality. The Biggar family at Chapelton farm in Castle Douglas give us exactly what we need. Which is why we are taking the chefs down to Chapelton to show what a model producer is.

“Scotbeef also holds open days every year where farmers can come along to see the grading system in action. They see the cattle dressed, which allows them to see the difference in looking at a live animal and when it has been graded as deadwight.”

Bill MacKinnon continued: “Scotbeef receives cattle from Orkney to the Borders, they come on boats, lorries all sorts of transport, so it is really important that we are standardising everything to ensure that the meat we produce is of the same standard at all times.”

Technology now plays an important part in producing the best quality meat. Cameron said: “The processes we carried out for generations has been proven to be the best way to handle the animals.

“We can now pH test the cattle to ensure the best possible eating performance and track if the animal has been stressed in any way which may affect the eating quality. We are always looking for best in class in all aspects of our business, to provide the best for our customers and to fully support our farmers.”

An important aspect of this get together is to show the chefs the traceability that Scotbeef can provide, as they can trace the steak being served back to the farm where it was reared.

Back at the farm, it is a tremendous boost to the farmer when they hear where their meat is going. They love to know that what could be 22 months of work invested in that animal, rearing from birth, has been worthwhile and the meat they are producing is being appreciated.

At Chapelton Farm in Castle Douglas, Donald Biggar was on hand to show the chefs around his award-winning farm. Donald explained why the relationship between the family run Scotbeef, and his family-run farm was important.

“My son, Jamie, is the third-generation farmer in our family to deal with Scotbeef, and he, like me, has a close relationship with the Galloway family who founded Scotbeef.

“This relationship works well for us and for Scotbeef, we have done lots of work together over the years. We get on well and always get fair treatment. We are investing up to 22 months in our cattle, and don’t take into account the year before when the selection of females is decided. Having a close relationship with Scotbeef gives us access to the information we need to produce the best quality we can from our Angus and Beef Shorthorn beasts.”

The visit was filmed by Calum Duff of Front Edge Media in Edinburgh, speaking to the Macdonald hotel group’s chefs to hear their views on what they require, and also speaking to Mr Biggar about his relationship with Scotbeef and why it works for both parties.

The video footage can be seen at