Now then: I love sausages. Europe is home to a rich sausage culture and I love every link of it. Chorizos, kielbasas, salsiccias, Nürnberger, Cumberlands – as long as I can line my larder with strings of judiciously seasoned processed pork, I could endure any plague quarantine. Having in recent months given some thought about how I would deal with such a crisis, I have decided I could occupy myself well for a long time with nothing but internet access and a supply of salty, easily stored meat. I’m not saying I would be happy. Obviously that would depend. But in general I could get by.
And I don’t have anything against cheap sausages either. Far from it. One of the beauties of the sausage is that it is one area of the culinary world (chocolate is another) where the gap between cheap and fancy is practically insignificant. I have found that the immediate hit of salt and meat to your croc-brain is the same whether it’s a spiced Moroccan lamb merguez or a Bi-Fi from the Tankstelle.
But in recent weeks I have been forced to think about my sausophilia more deeply, because Germany’s new Minister for Agriculture Cem Özdemir, a much-respected Green party heavyweight, has pointed out that Germany’s current sausage situation is unsustainable. Or rather, it is very sustainable if you’re Edeka or Rewe or the colossal pig-slaughter-machine Tönnies. But it is not sustainable if you’re a farmer or a consumer who values their health, or the medium-term survival of the country’s biodiversity, or indeed the food supply.
Özdemir has appeared on TV and in the papers a lot recently declaring war on Billigfleisch (cheap meat) and told German consumers a hard truth: Meat and dairy products are going to have to get more expensive if we have any chance of restoring some kind of ecological order, though he didn’t say exactly how much, and insisted that meat should not become a “luxury” item.
He didn’t, for example, mention the figures that the special commission for the future of industrial agriculture came up with in their official report last July. This commission, set up under the last government and including both environmentalist and farmers’ groups, concluded that beef should cost five or six times more than it does now, or over €80 per kilo, rather than the current €14, while dairy products should cost two to four times as much as they do now.
That money, the commission decided, would potentially be enough to repair the damage to the environment caused by the animal industry, and it recommended that €7-11 billion of public and private money should be invested per year to finance the transformation of the agriculture industry into something vaguely ecologically sustainable. But – and here’s the thing – even if all that happened, there is no way around reducing the number of livestock anyway.
What Özdemir said is in line with the Green party’s general plan: We can invest our way out of ecological disaster without losing things like Billigfleisch. This is wrong. One way or another, the price of meat is going up and the Tankstelle Bi-Fi will go extinct.