One of the real treats of spending a week in Germany to attend the IFFA show — don’t worry about what the acronym stands for; nobody does — is not just rubbing shoulders (literally) with the more than 60,000 attendees swarming through the Messe Frankfurt exhibition halls, but the endless opportunities to sample a wealth of specialty sausages unique to Bavaria, Saxony, Hamburg or other regions of the country.
Many of the hundreds of exhibitors at what’s billed as the world’s largest meat show set up elaborate deli cases at their booths that display an incredible variety of bratwurst, knackwurst, leberwurst (liver sausage) braunschweiger, landjager (a type of dry salami) and every American’s favorite, blutwurst, a dark, almost black ring sausage made with congealed pig’s blood and added chunks of pork fat.
And it’s all free for the sampling.
In fact, most visitors to Frankfurt assume that Germans have one of the world’s largest appetites for meat products, and it’s true: per capita consumption averages about 90 kilograms a year.
Of course, do you know what country exceeds Germany’s total meat consumption — I mean, other than Spain, Portugal, Italy, Denmark, Austria and Luxembourg?
Not sure why, but according to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization, Bermudans consume about 102 kilograms of meat per person per year.
Now, however, despite its centuries-long love affair with processed meat — if we’re to believe multiple news reports — German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government has “descended into disarray” after the country’s environment minister reportedly banned the consumption of meat at official functions.
Barbara Hendricks, who is Germany’s Minister for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety, is said to have imposed the ban after insisting that meat is damaging to the environment and vegetarian food should only be served at official events, according to the UK’s Daily Express newspaper.
Immediately afterwards, Christian Schmidt, the Federal Minister of Food and Agriculture, accused Hendricks of “nanny-statism” and trying to force vegetarianism on the German people.
Schmidt reportedly said, “I’m not having this Veggie Day through the back door. I believe in diversity and freedom of choice . . . instead of paternalism and ideology. Meat and fish are also part of a balanced diet.”
News of the ban was allegedly leaked in an email from a senior civil servant (sound familiar?), who works in the environment ministry. The email reportedly stated that the ministry has a responsibility to combat the “negative effects of meat consumption” and must “set an example.”
Hendricks now faces accusations of hypocrisy after news stories revealed that even after the ban was announced, meat and fish entrées were still available to ministry officials in the staff cafeteria.
The environment ministry issued a statement that said, “We’re not telling anyone what they should eat. But we want to set a good example for climate protection, because vegetarian food is more climate-friendly than meat and fish.”
Not friendly enough to remove them from the ministry’s cafeteria, however.
The opinions in this commentary are those of Dan Murphy, veteran journalist and commentator