After 100 years or so in business, meat wholesalers PR Duff Ltd adopted the brand name MACDUFF. That was 2001. There was nothing clannish, Aberdonian or remotely Shakespearian about this. It was simply a combination of two of the directors’ names: Bill Macallum and Rory Duff. It’s as straightforward as that. And MACDUFF is a straightforward concern – it supplies top-notch beef and lamb, sourced from quality assured farms, to some of the best butchers and caterers in the UK. Having said that, the history of this fourth generation family business is peppered with entrepreneurship and innovation that justify the tagline ‘always leading the field’.
There’s a large painting in the MACDUFF boardroom in Wishaw of a drover or rustler leading a herd of cattle along a rough, whin-strewn Lowland path. “That was us, back then,” says Rory Duff, a twinkle in his eye. Drover or rustler he won’t say. It’s a wind-up of course. Come the Victorian era, the Duffs were fleshers (or butchers) in Blairgowrie. Before then was the ‘mists of time’ and open to speculation and fancy. Five, six, or seven generations in the trade is significant enough lineage.
What we do know is that in 1890 the young Peter Duff started buying cattle at the Chicago Auction Market and shipping them back live to Glasgow. This was in the days before refrigeration. In Britain at that time the only meat available during the winter months was salted. So Peter Duff brought fresh beef to the teeming, booming city of tea and tobacco barons, adding some cheer to winter diets. Records tell that he crossed the Atlantic seventeen times in one year. He was certainly dedicated. Like a drover, he even travelled alongside his beasts to make sure they were properly looked after.
Peter continued to trade cattle at his meat stance in the Glasgow Market on Duke Street until 1935. His son Laurie then took over at the helm, trading in Duke Street in the aptly named Scotch Corner. Laurie led the company through the hard years of rationing. A tough and determined character – exemplified by his being a former Scottish, British and Irish Lions international rugby player – certainly helped. And throughout his tenure he tirelessly visited the cattle markets across Scotland to supply the local Glasgow market. In the days before supermarkets there were dozens and dozens of butchers’ shops in Glasgow – one a street almost – and there was no question that everyone ‘eat local’. According to Rory, “those old butchers’ shops are fast food outlets now.”
Rory Duff joined the company in 1976 and was instrumental in moving operations to the current location in Wishaw in 1992 as a response to the phasing-out of the Glasgow meat market. Rory then expanded the range of the business, supplying top quality Scottish beef and lamb into England and continental Europe. A spanner in the works came when BSE hit in 1996 but Rory steered the company through those difficult times and has since concentrated on developing the English and particularly the London market. Such has been his success there that he has been granted Freedom of the City and is a Liveryman of London. A regular judge at carcase and live shows (like The Royal Highland Show) Rory has been much lauded by the industry. He was Deacon of the Incorporation of Fleshers in 2000, was a Trustee of The Royal Smithfield Club (and supplied Buckingham Palace for a while) and successfully took MACDUFF into the Q Guild of Butchers in 2000. The Guild has a select corporate membership of which we are one and 140 butcher retailer members, all of whom have to be inspected and verified. 2000 was a golden year for Rory, for that same year he inaugurated what became known as the MACDUFF Producer Group. This has proved to be an inspired supply chain initiative encouraging famers and butchers to work more closely together.
Andrew, great grandson of ‘Chicago’ Peter, joined MACDUFF full time in the summer of 2015 having completed an MBA at Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge. Much of his MBA focused on the meat industry. With a move back to the High Street and high quality butchers’ shops opening again all over the UK, Andrew’s mission is to take MACDUFF into the 21st Century linking the ‘The Rolls Royce of Scottish Beef’ with the connectivity of the Internet and social media. “There’s a growing demand in the UK for a well-sourced, quality top-end product that people are willing to pay a bit extra for.” Andrew wants to increase output from 60-80 carcasses a week to closer to 100. But crucially he wants to keep MACDUFF operating as a small family-run firm where personal service and knowing who’s who remains ‘king’.
Always leading the field? Definitely. Lead on MACDUFF.