Procurement Horror Story: You’ll Need One Heck of a Butter Dish For That…

Did you know that road tankers carrying AMF (anhydrous milk fat – butter with the water taken out) don’t have their own heating facilities? Or certainly didn’t some 25 years ago. Instead, to preserve the right temperature during transportation, they relied on the fact that the vehicles were well insulated and that 20 tons of fat takes a long time to heat up or cool down.

So the AMF would be loaded at around 40 degrees centigrade (104 degrees Fahrenheit) and then offloaded at the food plant a day or even two later, at a temperature of only a couple of degrees lower. However, the AMF does gradually solidify as the temperature falls, and becomes a  solid fat by the time it gets to around 16C.

But what you don’t want to hear is that your tanker of AMF, without heating facility, on its way from Holland to Berkshire in England, is stuck in a freak snowstorm on the M20 motorway in Kent. And increasingly, as the hours go by, you don’t want to hear that the snow is getting worse and the temperature lower. You start imagining a 20-ton solid block of milk fat. Could you ever liquefy it again? How? Would it still be edible? There was a case of a liquid chocolate tanker going solid, and that by all accounts wasn’t fun.

I had a very nervous 24 hours or so before the emergency services got the snow cleared and the Motorway open again, and my tanker made it to the factory. There was another moment of doubt when the pump was turned on but... no problem. A couple of degrees cooler than usual but nice liquid fat still flowed into the storage tank.

Nevertheless, I still think of that incident whenever I hear of roads closed because of snow or see pictures of lorries stuck in snowdrifts.


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