Encouraged by the success of the sale of the first lambs, it was soon back to business with our direct selling venture. The second batch of lambs had been duly taken to the abattoir and cut into pieces by the butcher. We then faced the seemingly impossible task of getting the meat half way across France. Preferably before it went off.
It had been a work of art, coordinating the abattoir, butcher, refrigerated transport company and the restaurant in Rennes, where they would be delivered. With my usual optimism, I prepared for the worst with the hope that I would be pleasantly surprised if all went to plan.
We headed off early to the butcher’s to ship the lamb, both dressed in summer attire, because it had been so warm recently. The butcher looked me up and down when we arrived, taking in my new sleeveless top, then with a sly grin he showed us to the cold room where we would get the palette ready. Icy air blew down from vents in the ceiling and hermetic doors ensured that all glimmer of heat stayed firmly outside. I forced a smile as I thanked him, cursing silently. I had been caught out like a tourist on the beach; I hadn’t even brought a jumper with me.
Shivering, I started on the paperwork whilst my husband began loading the palette with the pre-prepared boxes. We weren’t the only occupants in the fridge – huge carcasses were being dispatched of at a remarkable rate. Gleaming slabs of red and white, flesh and bone were hauled off hooks in a refrigerated lorry, by a stream of different butchers. They threw them effortlessly over their shoulders, before disappearing to an unknown destination that was probably no warmer than the one we were in.
By the time we had finished however, I was shaking more from concern, than from cold. The lamb would take two days to get to Rennes, where it would be tested on arrival to ensure that the temperature of the meat was at a maximum of 3 degrees. One degree above and the merchandise would be refused, or so I had been informed. I had visions of the palette being sent back to us and turning up on the doorstep a week later; the cardboard boxes full of stinking, worm ridden lamb chops, still wrapped in pink butcher’s paper.
The refrigerated transport company was very murky concerning insurance issues due to delays, and I feared that any problems en route would cost us dearly. I tried not to envisage the palette abandoned for days in a warehouse between here and Brittany.
As usual, I worried too much. Two days later, the much awaited phone call came, from the manager of the restaurant in Rennes. The meat had just arrived in perfect condition and at an acceptable temperature. He was delighted with the quality and would certainly be ordering more.
I hung up and heaved a heart felt sigh of relief. The refrigerated transport experiment had been a success. Our lambs wouldn’t be coming home again after all.