The first batch of lambs was ready for market yesterday and our direct selling venture has now officially begun.
Having spent the last two weeks battling with red tape – livestock transportation regulations, refrigerated vehicle regulations and regulations for sale of meat (this is France remember), we finally had everything in place for the first trip to the abattoir.
My husband had spent hours building a special, independent livestock carrier that fitted snugly into my brother-in-law’s van; a big, heavy thing that was made-to-measure down to the last centimetre. Unfortunately the last centimetre was one too many and the van doors wouldn’t shut properly. When it was time to go, I noticed that he had used a bit of string to hold them closed. The lambs were securely ensconced in their carrier, they weren’t going anywhere, but I somehow doubted that string was in complete conformity with EU transportation regulations.
The journey to the abattoir was short, but once we arrived, we were unsure of where to go to unload our cargo. I climbed out of the van to ask directions from a couple of men wearing white plastic pinnys and wellies and was rewarded with the same look that they probably reserve for a slab of meat on a hook. They pointed us round to the other side.
The stench was overpowering. A fork lift truck was shovelling a reeking, brown substance onto a huge mound and I suddenly regretted my decision to come. It is one thing to see the lambs loaded onto the cooperative lorry and disappear from view at the farm and quite another having to deliver them oneself.
The foul smell turned me over and I know deep in my heart that I would never be able to eat another chop again. Indeed, I vowed that not another morsel of animal protein would pass my lips. As a sheep breeder’s wife, becoming a vegetarian wouldn’t be without difficulties, but I wouldn’t be swayed.
5 minutes later, we had unloaded the lambs and we set off to see the butcher who would be preparing them for us. The lambs need to be ready for next Wednesday as we will be making our first delivery to a certain village in Provence.
We met the butcher in his shop which is next to the abattoir. It was full of customers and a very impressive array of different meats. Cured hams hung from a rack that ran the length of the room. The memory the abattoir was still fresh however and I wasn’t about to change my mind.
Saucisses, jambons, saucissons My husband was in full negotiation about pick-up times for Wednesday. I sidled up unnoticed to the counter and started looking at the display.
Côtes de boeuf, caillettes, pâté. Thoughts of the abattoir were fading fast. But I still couldn’t make up my mind – what should my final decision be?
In the end, I decided to go with my first choice: “4 steaks please”