Just now I was sitting working when a mobile butcher’s shop pulled up outside my house. The driver sauntered over to the house and hit me with his rehearsed speech.
He travels round neighbourhoods from as far away as Ballymena and Ballycastle selling fresh meat. He used to have a butcher’s shop in Ballymoney until his father died. Ever since the family business has switched to the van.
On invitation I wandered over to the van and had a look inside. It was like a very small village butchers with cuts of meat set out in a small counter, much like you would see at one of the country markets that appear in our high streets. This guy was showing his meat to the people.
He had a food standard rating of 4 out of a possible 5 he told me up front. I admired his resourcefulness and his honesty. And his enterprising nature. I was surprised when he told me he had no high street or even village street presence. This was it, one man and his meat. In a van.
I admit I wasn’t blown away by his set up, but it was impressive. It reminded me of the old grocery vans that used to deliver back in Omagh in my distant childhood. There was something homely about them and the combination of smells that assailed my childish nostrils when I ventured in there.
In the butcher’s van the smell of flesh was heavy, oppressive and slightly overwhelming. He had a fridge on board, the place looked clean and tidy. And crucially for me there were no flies, always a good sign. I told him I would keep an eye for him on his return. I think it is the second such van doing the rounds of late – I may have imagined it but I thought I saw a fresh fish van drive up our way last week. If it appears again I will stop it and board it for inspection.
The point of this story is this. A while ago I wrote a piece for the Marketing Institute of Ireland on the use of social media in marketing. It referenced the way a crêpe seller in San Francisco with a handcart promoted his wares using Twitter. It was brilliant.
It got me thinking today, as you do. What if our mobile meat man had a Twitter account. What if he could tell his followers of his whereabouts each day?
What special offers he had, what special cuts and what this week’s sausages were. How do his customers know where to find him? Could the one man van and his meat have a Facebook page? And why not?
Without this insight he is like a modern day Telemachus travelling aimlessly in a meat Odyssey hoping to meet Ulysses. Along the way he may run into sirens posing as desperate housewives and the odd oxen of the sun. Whatever, the opportunity is there. Likewise the opportunity is also there to all those doing the country market circuit.
I let him go without offering any insight. Maybe next time. First I’d need to be sure I would buy his meat myself. After all, it’s all about the product.