A celebration is being held to mark the arrival of New Zealand's first frozen lamb shipment in the United Kingdom 140 years ago.
The Beef + Lamb New Zealand dinner will take place on May 24 - National Lamb Day - at Oamaru's Loan and Mercantile building.
It was a chance to reflect on the important contribution the red meat sector made to the country's economy, Beef + Lamb Central South Island extension manager Rebecca Nind said.
"New Zealand's red meat sector exports reached $10 billion in 2021 despite Covid-19 disruptions and it employs over 90,000 Kiwis," Nind said.
The original shipment had been processed at Totara Estate, south of Oamaru. It left Port Chalmers for London, aboard the vessel Dunedin, on February 15, 1882.
Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga had planned a mini-symposium event for February, to celebrate the shipment leaving port but that was thwarted by Covid-19.
The May date signified when the shipment arrived safely at its destination.
"It is a critical milestone that founded New Zealand's world-renowned lamb industry and kick-started our other food exports," she said.
While this celebration was not replacing the mini-symposium, when Beef + Lamb reached out to Heritage New Zealand to be involved in the Lamb Day event, it "jumped at the chance".
"Heritage New Zealand is very kindly offering a complimentary voucher to enjoy free entry to Totara Estate to every person attending our National Lamb Day event — which will be a fantastic way for our sheep and beef community to learn about the history of our first frozen shipment. Totara Estate was also opening on May 23 and 24, especially for attendees of the dinner."
Retired Oamaru lawyer George Berry, who had owned the Totara Estate home farm for 50 years with his wife Carol, would be a guest speaker at the dinner, sharing his knowledge of Thomas Brydone, and the beginnings of the meat export trade.
Other speakers include Meat Industry Association chief executive Sirma Karapeeva, New Zealand Meat Board director and Beef + Lamb Central South Island farmer director Nicky Hyslop.
Despite uncertainty concerning Covid-19, it had been an aspiration of Beef + Lamb's Central South Island farmer council for more than a year to mark the milestone, she said.
"Since things have been starting to look a bit more positive for face-to-face events, planning got under way about three months ago," Nind said.
Four new Beef + Lamb ambassador chefs, Cameron Davies of The Fat Duck in Te Anau, Andrew May of Amayjen in Palmerston North, MacLean Fraser of Artisan at the Bolton Hotel in Wellington, and BJ Sebastian from Mudbrick Vineyard on Waiheke Island, will also be guests.
Lamb most definitely would be on the menu.
The evening also tied in with the New Zealand Meat Board celebrating its centenary.
"So we will be celebrating that, too, and highlighting some of the key milestones that have led us to where we are today."