A County Longford-based cattle farmer and restaurant owner has created a supply chain that dramatically reduces food miles and puts traceability and sustainability at the heart of its system.
Owner of Jolly Boys Pizza and Grill, Michael Delaney keeps around 150 Hereford crossbred cattle on a fifth-generation beef farm just 2km from Ballymahon, supplying all the beef used in his restaurants.
Talk to Agrilandhe said food miles are very low because all cattle are raised, processed and consumed within 10 miles of his farm – “a true farm-to-fork operation.”
Addressing the values of sustainability and traceability in his food business and on the farm, Michael said he thinks that’s the way things are.
“It’s something I would be strong on, I think it’s the way to go, but it also has to make economic sense,” he said.
“Fortunately, it’s worked really well so far – it’s a winner on both fronts.”
Now in his eighth year of farming, Michael took over from his father who ran a traditional 240-acre beef farm, buying cattle and finishing them for a meat plant.
However, Michael looked for new ideas to make the farm, which was still labor intensive, more efficient. With a friend who is a pizza maker, he transformed the supply chain to increase farm profits – the idea for Jolly Boys Pizza and Grill was born.
Local supply chain
Cattle from the Bord Bia-approved farm are sourced as locally as possible, and all animals are raised in Ballymahon environments, according to the cattle rancher.
Animals that are nearly ready for slaughter, at around 2.5 years old, are fed spent grain from a local microbrewery, Wide Street Brewing, which also supplies the beer served on tap at the restaurant.
However, Michael pointed out that these would be the only inputs that would be imported, as the farm tries to drastically reduce imported fertilizers as well as animal feed.
The slaughterhouse and butcher who processes the cattle are based in Edgeworthstown, approximately 13 km from the farm. Pork and other meat products are sourced from County Longford.
Currently, the butcher buys the striploin, tenderloin and ribeye from the farmer and the rest – top, underside, rump and roast – is used to make the burgers.
“The quality is exceptional,” according to Michael, who added that most burgers are usually made with flank, chuck, chin or heel and said that:
“Traceability is very simple because we kill one animal at a time, so everything comes from one animal. We can tell you the tag and the day it was killed.
The fries and pizza dough are made on site, while everything on the menu is made from scratch, the restaurant owner said, adding that Italian 00 caputo flour is used to make the pizza.
Jolly Boys Pizza and Grill
Opening the first restaurant in October 2020, amid the Covid-19 pandemic, Michael recalled that the uncertainty at the time was a big thing, not knowing how the business would go.
Reflecting on the restaurant’s early days, Michael said he believed “if you open a business when things are tough, you’re pretty seasoned when things get better.”
To date, Michael and two of his friends have a second restaurant in Athlone, which opened in March this year and offers take-out services.
Addressing future plans, Michael said Agriland on the goal of increasing the number of cattle to 200 next year and eventually having more than two restaurants.
“The more locations, the more beef we will need – that then makes the farm more lucrative,” said the beef farmer and restaurant owner.
“There are a lot more places popping up around the country right now that supply their own beef – whether it’s farm shops, boxes of delivered beef, or cafes and restaurants like us.
“People are looking for more sustainable products with fewer food miles and are willing to pay a little more for it.”
Looking to the future, Jolly Boys Pizza and Grill is also planning to offer steaks and products such as ribeye steak sandwiches at the Ballymahon branch.
“We could really maximize our margin on each animal if it took off,” Michael said.