Day in the life: Head butcher

Published: 09 Jan 2015

Mark Farquhar joined Aberdeenshire-based butcher, Donald Russell, 25 years ago. He has since worked his way up to head butcher, and is responsible for 90 colleagues, who butcher an average of 50 tons of meat every week.

My morning
I get up at 4.45am and head straight out, arriving at work for 5.30am. A strong cup of coffee sets me up for the day, and I check my e-mails and take a walk round the butchery to see what’s what.

We have a team meeting at 7.30am, where we plan the day’s activities in detail. In theory, that’s how the day should then pan out, but I always have to be ready to think on my feet.

I eat breakfast, lovingly packed by my wife, at 9am, and the day just gets busier from there. I do a lot of spot checks on the quality of the workmanship. Butchery is a highly skilled job that takes years to learn, and I’ve got a bit of a reputation for being a stickler for quality. It’s fair to say that I’m pretty fussy. The way I see it, quality is what we’ve built our reputation on and is the reason we hold the Royal Warrant – and that won’t be changing under my watch.

Mark Farquhar


I also keep in close contact with our commercial director to make sure we’re cutting the right products, and I often get our chefs to cook up a random selection of our freshly cut steaks, to be certain they’re all coming up to scratch (thankfully, it’s very unusual for them not to).

My lunchtime
I don’t usually get to eat lunch until about 2pm (again packed by my lovely wife) and even then, it’s taken at my desk while I catch up on paperwork. This can be anything from liaising with our chefs on potential new products, to confirming the exact specifications of any bespoke products we’re
creating.

My afternoon
A lot of my afternoons get caught up in meetings. We hold weekly planning meetings to make sure we’re fully prepared for what’s coming up, management meetings so we all know what’s happening across the business, and quality control meetings to ensure we’re providing the very best.


In between the meetings, I’ll be planning some of our seasonal purchases, drumming up new business and updating our sales figures. I’ll take a walk round the butchery, doing the usual spot checks and also double checking that all our fresh orders are ready to go.


Later, I’ll have a ‘wash up’ meeting with my deputy manager, David Bergin. We discuss how the day went, go over any problems and make sure everything’s ready for the next day.


We do this while the butchery is being scrubbed down – hence the name.
I usually end up leaving between 5 and 6pm.

My evenings
My life doesn’t get any less hectic in the evenings. I’m a keen cyclist, and started doing triathlons this year, too – I’ve done five already. I train three nights a week, and play football with some colleagues on a Thursday.
I make sure I always sit down for dinner with my wife Lynn and my daughter Lauren, and dry the dishes afterwards – my life wouldn’t be worth living if I didn’t do that bit! Unless the football’s on, I’ll be in bed for about 9pm, ready to start all over again the next day.

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