How John Pallagi of Ripon-based Farmison & Co is leading a food revolution

John Pallagi, Farmison & Co’s founder and CEO is securing the future of rare cattle breeds. He spoke to Deputy Business Editor Greg Wright.

As the guests prepared to dine at the wedding of Princess Beatrice and property tycoon Edoardo Mapelli Mozzi ,they had good reasons to toast John Pallagi and his team at Farmison.

Farmison & Co, the sustainable online meat retailer, supplied the main course steak for the private marriage ceremony. The company is set to spend a lot more time in the spotlight as it gears up for growth.

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Ripon-based Farmison, which works closely with more than 40 farms across Yorkshire, recently won its first supply deals with London stores Selfridges and Fortnum & Mason. It has secured an agreement to supply them with its new Saucepan Ready range, which features menus created by Farmison & Co’s Michelin-starred executive chef Jeff Baker.

John Pallagi’s career has taken in hotels, restaurants and catering. Under his leadership, Farmison & Co has built a new supply chain from scratch.

The move comes after Inverleith LLP, the Edinburgh-based specialist consumer brand investor acquired a majority stake in the business, so it could press ahead with expansion plans. Founded by chief executive John Pallagi, the business has a growing following among customers across the UK. Since childhood, Mr Pallagi’s life has revolved around food. As a boy, he would spend Saturday afternoons watching his Hungarian grandparents cook everything from scratch at home.

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He said: “I learned from an early age to respect food. My Hungarian grandparents were used to living off the land. I remember seeing my grandfather walk home through Billingham with half a pig over his shoulder, which he would expertly butcher at home.

“I was surrounded by fantastic flavours. I learned that focus on hospitality from my grandparents. At Farmison, we offer the same exceptional experience for our customers. We’re not a purely digital company that hides behind a parapet, you can still pick up the phone and speak to us.”

Farmison is bringing restaurant quality products to the consumer in a sustainable way, according to Mr Pallagi.

“We had always been doing things in a sustainable way but not waving the flag about it,” he said.

“Yorkshire has the best livestock in the world and amazing farmers and we are right among them here in Ripon,’’ he added.

Britain’s decision to leave the EU has had an impact on the business, although the company has seen its sales rise since the first lockdown was imposed.

“Before Brexit we were selling to 21 EU countries,’’ said Mr Pallagi. “Now we aren’t selling to any of them due to bureaucracy on both sides. I can see both sides of the Brexit argument but I have to focus on what is best for our business.”

“We’re four times bigger than we were pre-Covid,’’ he said “The direct to consumer market has grown considerably and has held its own. Significant changes in consumer habits take time, and the pandemic has given them time to break their habits.

“We’ve been working with Harrods for three and half years. It’s all about supplying meat in a sustainable way, that educates chefs and consumers. We are encouraging people to think and eat differently.”

The company is on a mission to widen the homecook’s access to heritage breed meat. Stuart Raw, the company’s Dexter cattle farmer has doubled the size of his herd up in Wensleydale, and David Harrison Farmison’s Galloway farmer has invested in a new bull, named after Leeds United legend Billy Bremner, to grow his herd.

In 2021,the company financed the foundation of two new herds of rare breed cattle at Castle Bolton in Wensleydale.

Mr Pallagi said: “We are helping secure the future of the White Park and Gloucester breeds for the years to come. These are the Pinot Noir of breeds. Nobody has cattle breeds like Yorkshire; we are the breeding and grazing capital of the world.”

“The inspiration for Saucepan Ready was taken from lockdown.

“Jeff fed the team during these very challenging times with his saucepan’ flavours as we stayed open throughout lockdown,’’ Mr Pallagi said. “We converted these dishes into carcass balance convenience meals.”

The company also introduced what Mr Pallagi described as “Amazon Prime delivery standards” , if you order by 1pm your order will be delivered to your house the following morning.

“The meat sector is so large and there are many angles to go at,’’ he said. ”New funding will allow us to compete and grow the business.

“We want to take the mantle of being the first premium meat brand. We are also due to announce a really interesting new approach to product traceability which we are set to roll out in September. Today, everybody wants to know where their food has come from.

“We have had some great business angels that have helped us and now we have the backing of a small, boutique private equity house to help us realise our opportunities.

“We have found somebody with a portfolio of similar businesses who wants to invest for the right reasons,” Mr Pallagi added.

“I want to be remembered as somebody who tried to make standards of food better in Britain. I can see huge opportunities for this sector.”

John Pallagi’s career has taken in hotels, restaurants and catering. Under his leadership, Farmison & Co has built a new supply chain from scratch.

Farmison & Co now employs more than 100 people in Ripon and supports more than 40 farms across Yorkshire and the north of England.

Farmison & Co was awarded the title of Online Butcher of the Year for the third time in 2020.

In 2021, it was also named as one of Yorkshire’s top Butchers in the Countryside Alliance’s Rural Oscars. It sells British dry aged, hand-cut and free-range meat to home cooks and professional chefs throughout Britain.