From bad to wurst for Germany’s famous sausage as demand for treat has slumped due to perfect storm of rising costs and a farming crisis

Bavaria, which claims to be the sausage-eating heartland of Germany, has seen such a slump in production of their classic traditional bratwurst that the state political leader has warned their culinary culture is under threat.

Regional Prime Minister Markus Söder issued a stark warning to his fellow Bavarians, saying: ‘Without bratwurst, life makes no sense at all.’ 

Bratwurst – the giant, sizzling, hot, roasted sausages originating in Germany – are famous across the world, with various regional sub-varieties being those of Berlin, Thuringia in the east, and Nuremberg and, best known of all, Bavaria.

But a combination of pressures on farmers, inflation and changing culinary tastes have lately seen a sharp decline in both production and demand.

And this has prompted bratwurst-loving Söder, 57, to warn: ‘We need regional food and are opposed to the fact that agriculture is constantly being banned for ideological reasons. Germany will only be strong if there is more recognition for rural areas.’

Regional Prime Minister Markus Söder has warned Bavaria’s culinary culture is under threat after the state saw a slump in production of their classic traditional bratwurst

Rein Strobl, 52, lives in Augsburg, Bavaria. He says having Bratwurst being more expensive is a good thing not a bad thing

Rein Strobl, 52, lives in Augsburg, Bavaria. He says having Bratwurst being more expensive is a good thing not a bad thing

Aerial view on the historic center of Munich in Bavaria, Germany

Aerial view on the historic center of Munich in Bavaria, Germany 

Söder, who leads the conservative Christian Social Union (CSU), spoke out as figures emerged showing that since 2020 the number of pig farms has dropped by a fifth in Bavaria. 

Meanwhile, the first half of 2023 saw a 5.9% plunge in meat production compared to the previous year, reducing mat production to 3.3 million tonnes of meat, according to the Federal Statistical Office in Wiesbaden.

But as if this was not bad enough, VAT on restaurant meals – dubbed the ‘gastronomy tax’ has soared to 19%.

This rate had been reduced during the coronavirus crisis to support the hard-hit industry, restaurant operators were able to charge just 7%.

But now it has returned, and many restaurateurs have also said they will then round up price increases to full percentages.

A schnitzel and chips, for example, which used to cost an average of 16.90 euros now suddenly costs 18.71 euros. But many restaurants will then round this up to 18.80 euros.

Renate Tempel, 67, from Schweinfurt in Bavaria says: ‘We like eating Bratwurst and we eat them regularly, after all it is piece of our regional culture.’

Bratwurst ¿ the giant, sizzling, hot, roasted sausages originating in Germany - are famous across the world, with various regional sub-varieties

Bratwurst – the giant, sizzling, hot, roasted sausages originating in Germany – are famous across the world, with various regional sub-varieties 

Frank Schipper, 51, says it is getting ever hard to afford to afford to buy Bratwursts in Würzburg

Frank Schipper, 51, says it is getting ever hard to afford to afford to buy Bratwursts in Würzburg

Renate Tempel, 67, from Schweinfurt in Bavaria says she regularly eats Bratwurst

Renate Tempel, 67, from Schweinfurt in Bavaria says she regularly eats Bratwurst

‘We are fairly comfortable I would say, and we have fairly good pensions so I don’t think we would be too affected if the prices of these sausages would rise, but I know many people who can’t afford them right now even.

Rein Strobl, 52, lives in Augsburg, Bavaria. He says having Bratwurst being more expensive is a good thing not a bad thing.

‘Meat is just far too cheap in Germany, so things are about mass production. In Germany we just don’t spend enough on our food, and probably pay the least in Europe.’

‘So I would much, much rather pay more and just eat Bratwurst on special occasions and know that what you are getting is top quality then just constantly have loads of cheap ones.’

‘For me, for example, Christmas is just not Christmas without being able to smell roast Bratwurst.’

Tobias Gnauch, 36, lives just outside Munich, the state capital of Bavaria, and says he only has about one bratwurst per quarter.

‘In eastern Germany, in Thuringia, they are very proud of their local bratwurst, and in Bavaria you have the Nuremberger bratwurst, a smaller one, and its very popular.’

‘I don’t eat them so often as Bavarian cuisine tends to be very heavy and stodgy, so younger people tend to move away from this, either have non-traditional home-made meals or eat more fast food.’

‘It is more of a thing that people eat at sporting events, maybe the Christmas market or a football match – but as a prepared meal, I hardly ever eat it. I probably only eat about 3-4 a year.’

Tobias Gnauch, 36, lives just outside Munich, the state capital of Bavaria

Tobias Gnauch, 36, lives just outside Munich, the state capital of Bavaria

He says he only has about one bratwurst per quarter

He says he only has about one bratwurst per quarter

‘What is definitely noticeable now though is that the sausages are getting smaller and smaller, even though the prices are rising.’

But in Würzburg in the neighbouring southern federal state of Baden-Württemberg, Frank Schipper, 51, says it is getting ever hard to afford to afford to buy Bratwursts.

‘I’m getting more and more annoyed at how politicians are telling us what to do when it comes to food – and whether food is going to become more expensive by adding a form of ‘meat tax’.

Here I would like to quote Bismark – he said there are two things you don’t want to see being made – sausages, and legislation.’

At the other end of the country in Reckenförde, Schleswig-Holstein – Germany’s most northern state, vocational school teacher Anne Indinger, 41, says

‘Bratwursts are still popular with people my age, but I get the feeling they are becoming less important.’

‘They’re not that pricy up here in Schleswig-Holstein, and they are great to cook with, you can use them in a traditional German meal, or make meatballs out of them in soups.’

‘But on the other hand they are very greasy and unhealthy. I prefer eating mediterranean food which experts say is the healthiest type of diet.’

Kristina Ahlig, 44, from Halle in eastern Germany said: ‘I quite like to eat a bratwurst from time to time, especially in summer, at barbecues. it’s just all part of it. As to whether it’s a key part of German culture now – I don’t know, but I do think they’ve become quite expensive. that’s why I only eat them in summer.’

‘I definitely I prefer Thürginger Bratwurst – the bratwurst from Thuringia in eastern Germany, because I’m also from eastern Germany. But I do know that down in Bavaria they definitely wouldn’t approve of that!’

In Thuringia, which competes fiercely with Bavaria to definite itself as the true home of the Bratwurst, Uwe Keith is the chairman of the association ‘Friends of the Thuringian Bratwurst e.V’.

Uwe Keith is the chairman of the association 'Friends of the Thuringian Bratwurst e.V'

Uwe Keith is the chairman of the association ‘Friends of the Thuringian Bratwurst e.V’

Kristina Ahlig, 44, from Halle in eastern Germany says she likes to eat Bratwurst 'especially in summer, at barbecues'

Kristina Ahlig, 44, from Halle in eastern Germany says she likes to eat Bratwurst ‘especially in summer, at barbecues’

‘The regional prime minister of Bavaria may well have just said that life makes no sense without Bratswursts – but what people don’t know is that at the Bratwurst museum here in Thuringia they have had a sign saying the same thing since 2006 saying ‘Life without bratwurst is possible, but pointless.’

‘But for us it is all about the Thuringian Bratwurst – not about the bratwurst they eat down in Bavaria. For us the Thuringian Bratwurst is exemplary – and is more than just a foodstuff, it’s a cultural asset.’

‘Here we grow up with this smell, with this flavour, it is associated with family celebrations, with birthdays, with positive events and this weekend the Thuringian bratwurst is celebrating its 620th birthday!’

‘But even here in Thuringia we see a decline in the market, because times are tough and we are concerned because we don’t want the craftmanship – being a sausage farmer and being a sausage butcher – to die out.’

The traditional Bratwurst sausage can be made from pork, beef or veal. Pork is still the undisputed champion of Germany’s dining tables, contributing 62 percent of the meat production.

However, pork production has been sliding since 2017, with a daunting 9.4 percent less pork churned out in the first half of 2023.

Beef, on the other hand, has been on the rise, with a 0.9 percent increase and a total production of 481,500 tonnes in the same period.

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