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HomeBeef129-years in business: How a mother-of-21 ignited a family butchery tradition
Catherina Cunnane
Catherina Cunnane
Catherina Cunnane hails from a sixth-generation drystock and specialised pedigree suckler enterprise in Co. Mayo. She currently holds the positions of editor and general manager at That's Farming, having joined the firm during its start-up phase in 2015.
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129-years in business: How a mother-of-21 ignited a family butchery tradition

That’s Farming, speaks to Jeff Cosgrave of Cosgraves Butchers, about the enterprise’s humble beginnings, expansion and range of award-winning products. 

Cosgrave’s roots go back over 125 years to its first victuallers established in 1892 by Ellen Cosgrave.

In 1892, with 21 children, she opened a butcher’s shop at Eden Quay. At the turn of the century, the resilient widow opened another shop in Ranelagh circa 1901.

The family then opened a third at South Richmond street circa 1930. During the onset of WW2, the business was thriving and a supplier of live beef to Great Britain. But the Lady Meath, carrying 700 of Cosgrave’s cattle, sank. A mine exploded underneath the ship, and despite no human fatalities, all livestock were drowned.

Roll onto 1983 when Ellen’s great-great-grandson, Declan, opened a shop at Northside Shopping Centre. Along with his son Jeff, they are now the fifth generation of Cosgrave butchers and proud to carry on the family tradition.

With a long history in farming and butchery, they understand the close link between animal welfare and quality meat. They possess a deep respect for their animals which carries through to every aspect of their craft.

Speaking to That’s Farming, Jeff of Cosgraves Butchers said: “Our farming history predates our butchering history, as Ellen lived on the family farm, Barn Elms, Churchtown, Dublin, in 1892. Barn Elms operated as a farm for generations before we went into butchering.”

It was a beef and dairy farm up until Declan’s father, Phil, converted to a pig farm around 1964, and this continued until 1974 when it ceased farming activity.

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20 staff and over 200 products

Today, Jeff and Declan are carrying on Ellen’s legacy and have a supportive team of managers who take care of the business’s day-to-day running.

They employ 20 staff across their four Dublin-based shops: Ashleaf Shopping Centre, Crumlin, Ballybrack Shopping Centre, South Co. Dublin, Clarehall Shopping Centre, Malahide Road and Omni Park Shopping Centre, Santry.

“We are fortunate to have a great team of staff, some of which have worked with Declan for over 20 years. Without them, we would not be where we are today.” Jeff added.

They stock a wide range of award-winning high-quality meats and take great pride in their Cosgrave Prime steak range, which has the best striploin, fillet, rib-eye, and T-bone steak that “the Irish market offers”.

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Pairing quality and convenience

Besides, they specialise in high-quality convenience products, which they make fresh in their shops; they tray these products and place them for sale in their self-serve fridges.

“We find many customers want to eat well but feel they lack the time to cook full meals from scratch. To note, we have a range of products that pair quality and convenience. These products fulfil the need in our customers’ lives to eat well in a way that suits their lifestyle.”

They have over 200 products on display at any given time, and Jeff said they are “very fortunate that we are busy enough to be able to offer a wide range of products”. These products have been developed over many years by their highly skilled team of staff, who “love creating new products”.

“We always try to source our produce from small producers or family-owned operations. We find small family-owned operations take great pride in meat the sell and are more able to supply the exact cuts we need.”

“There is also the added bonus of picking up the phone to talk directly to the business owner, which is just not possible with the larger meat producers.”

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According to Jeff, to have a successful butcher shop, you need to ensure you have the right product, in the right place, at the right price, with enough promotion to be made and sold by the best people.

“We have found the best way to make all that happen is to focus on the people. We believe in giving the people that work with us the trust and backing to make decisions and improve the business.”

“Every business needs to fulfil a need in their customers’ lives to survive and thrive. Butcher shops are no different. If butcher shops can continue to play a role in people’s lives by fulfilling a need no other business can, then we will survive and thrive.”

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“We are currently in the process of rebranding all our shops. We want to bring our history to the fore. With such a strong history in farming and butchering, we find this separates us from a lot of other food businesses out there, having been in butchering since 1892 and in farming for generations before that.”

“Our new branding shows off our history. We have rebranded our Carehall shop and should have our Ashelaf Shop finished shortly. We have big plans for the future and truly feel the sky is the limit.”

“Declan has taken the business from a traditional butcher shop to a shop that offers a modern range of high-quality convenience products. He was one of the first in Ireland to offer a wide range of high-quality pre-pack products.”

“Declan has done this by creating a loyal team around him and treating people with great respect and being able to have great craic while doing it,” Jeff of Cosgraves Butchers concluded.

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