A beef farmer and restaurant owner based in Co. Longford has created a supply chain that significantly reduces food miles, and puts traceability and sustainability at the heart of its system.

Owner of Jolly Boys Pizza and Grill, Michael Delaney holds about 150 Hereford-cross cattle on a fifth generation beef farm just 2km outside of Ballymahon, suppling all beef used in his restaurants.

Speaking to Agriland, he said food miles are very low as all cattle are reared, processed and consumed within 10 miles of his farm – “a truly farm-to-fork operation”.

Addressing the values of sustainability and traceability in his food business and on the farm, Michael said he feels this is the way things are going.

“It is something that I would be strong on, I think it is the way forward, but is also has to make economic sense,” he said.

“Thankfully, it has been working great so far – it is a winner on both fronts.”

Now in his eighth year of farming, Michael took over from his father who had run a 240ac traditional beef farm, buying in cattle and finishing them for a meat factory.

However, Michael looked at new ideas to make the farm, which was still quite labour intensive, more efficient. Along with a friend who is a pizza chef, he transformed the supply chain to increase farm profits – the idea of Jolly Boys Pizza and Grill was born.

Local supply chain

Cattle on the Bord Bia approved farm are sourced as locally as possible, and all animals are reared within the environments of Ballymahon, according to the beef farmer.

Animals that are almost finished for slaughter, at about 2.5 years of age, are fed spent grains from a local microbrewery, Wide Street Brewing, which also provides the beer served on tap in the restaurant.

Michael’s cattle on the beef farm in Co. Longford. Image source: Michael Delaney

However, Michael emphasised that these would be the only inputs that are brought in, as the farm is trying to cut back majorly on imported fertiliser as well as feed stuffs.

The abattoir and the butcher that processes the cattle is based in Edgeworthstown which is about eight miles away from the farm. Pork and other meat products are sourced from Co. Longford.

At present, the butcher buys the striploin, the fillet and the ribeye from the farmer and the rest – topside, silverside, rump and roasting joints – is used for making the burgers.

“The quality is exceptional,” according to Michael who added that most burgers are usually made using flank, chuck, chin or heel and said that:

“The traceability is very straight forward because we kill one animal at a time, so it is all from one animal. We can tell you the tag and the day it is killed.”

Chips 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, the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, Michael remembered that the uncertainty back then was a big thing, not knowing how the business would go.

Jolly Boys Pizza and Grill owners: Fenton White, Leo Flanagan and Michael Delaney. Image source: Michael Delaney

Thinking about the restaurant’s first steps, Michael said he believes that “if you open a business when things are tough, you are quite battle-hardened when things are improving”.

To date, Michael and two of his friends own a second restaurant in Athlone, which opened in March this year offering take-away services.

Addressing future plans, Michael told Agriland about the aim to increase cattle numbers to 200 next year, and to have more than two restaurant locations eventually.

Jolly Boys Pizza and Grill. Image source: Michael Delaney

“The more locations, the more beef we will need – it makes the farm more lucrative then,” the beef farmer and restaurant owner said.

“There are a lot more places springing up around the country at the moment that are supplying their own beef – be it farm shops, beef boxes delivered, or cafes and restaurants like ourselves.

“People are seeking out more sustainable produce with lower food miles and are willing to pay a little extra for it.”

Looking ahead, Jolly Boys Pizza and Grill is also looking into potentially offering steaks and products such as ribeye steak sandwiches at the Ballymahon branch.

“We could really maximise our margin on each animal if they took off,” Michael said.