Beef farmer wins award for his business growth

Beef farmer Donald MacPherson from Berwick scooped a national business prize after using what he discovered abroad to boost business.\n

Donald MacPherson, of Berwick burger business Well Hung and Tender
Donald MacPherson, of Berwick burger business Well Hung and Tender

A globetrotting beef farmer scooped a national business prize after using what he discovered in the US and Australia back home.

Donald MacPherson from Berwick picked up the Steven and Gill Bullock award for applying what he learned on a study trip abroad to grow his business and boost the British beef industry.

He learnt about the American and Australian focus on quality over quantity of meat and applied it to his Aberdeen Angus brand, Well Hung and Tender.

Donald received the news at a conference run by the Nuffield Farming Scholarship Trust, which funds travel to learn about farming around the world.

He said: “I’m chuffed to bits with it and it’s nice to get a wee pat on the back. The scholarship changed everything for me – I’ve worked on a farm all my days and it really opened my eyes to what else is out there.

“Over there they do not think about subsidies but just about doing it properly and well and making money.”

Donald, 51, started the Well Hung and Tender burger business after the foot-and-mouth outbreak in 2001, selling his four-week hung beef at farmers’ markets in Northumberland and Scotland.

He embarked on his Nuffield study tour in August 2002, spending four weeks Down Under before heading to America to understand how farmers there turn out their famously delicious meat so consistently.

He found the US and Australian beef industries, without a subsidy system, were more focused on creating the best possible productsfor customers and had pricingsystems that graded meat on eating satisfaction.

On his return he struggled to introduce that system in the UK, but what he learned abroad helped him start selling his Well Hung and Tender beef in shops, restaurants and online.

Since the 2008 financial crisis, the business has focused on event catering based out of the family’s 90-acre Castlehills Farm, which now provides 80% of its revenue.

The company employs 140 casual staff at events across the North East and Scotland and in February Donald will travel with his son Nicol, 24, to serve Aberdeen Angus beef at Australia’s Adelaide festival for the third year running.

Donald said: “When I came back from my trip I was all fired up and went for it. We made a lot of changes to the farm, a lot of big decisions and not everything went right.

“But you have just got to be adaptable for change and if something is not working drop it and start something else.

“We would not have had the business where it is now without the Nuffield experience.”

The Steven and Gill Bullock Award celebrates farmers who used what they learned on a Nuffield Scholarship to develop their business innovatively and to contribute to the industry over the past 10 years.

After writing a summary of their experience, the three shortlisted candidates were invited to 40-minute interview at the Farmers Club before the winner of the £1,000 prize was announced on the weekend.

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