Butchers in the city of Munich are locked in a bitter dispute with their counterparts in other parts of Bavaria over who should be given the patent for "Weisswurst," or "white sausage," a local speciality.
Both sides agree that sweet mustard's a must.
With two patent applications before the German Patent Office, signature drives and even a report by the Bavarian ministry of agriculture on the issue, the Munich sausage controversy has reached boiling point, something that should never happen to the water in which the mushy specialty is heated to perfection.
But that’s beside the point for a group of Munich mass-production butchers and restaurateurs, who are trying to secure exclusive rights to produce “Munich white sausages.” They claim that only the city’s butchers can produce edible versions of the delicacy, and as evidence they claim that some of their Bavarian competitors substitute cheaper pork for the sausage’s signature veal base.
Munich by name, Munich by origin
Karl-Heinz Wildmoser, who runs a beer tent at Oktoberfest and serves as president of Munich’s TSV 1860 soccer club, said he’s had to suffer through sausage ordeals during games away from home. “We’re often treated to white sausages by other clubs -- that’s a nice gesture, but sometimes they’re gruesome,” Wildmoser recently told Münchner Merkur newspaper.
The logo for the Association for the Protection of the White Sausage includes a drawing of the twin tower of Munich's cathedral, the city's landmark.
Wildmoser, himself a Munich original, is an adamant supporter of the Association for the Protection of the Munich White Sausage. The group has filed a copyright application with the patent office, saying that calling sausages produced beyond Munich county borders amounted to defrauding consumers.
The association has received the backing of Munich Mayor Christian Ude as well as other politicians. “The white sausage belongs to Munich like no other food and that’s why we think it’s our duty to protect it from abuse,” said Helmut Schmid, the leader of the Social Democrats in the city’s parliament.
Other Bavarians make good sausage, too
It’s a sentiment shared by the Trade Association of Bavarian Butchers, which has also filed a copyright application trying to patent the sausage’s original recipe. Unlike the Munich-centric sausage supporters, this group believes that butchers south of the so-called “white sausage equator,” which roughly corresponds to the course of Bavaria's portion of the Danube river, can also craft excellent products.
A butcher in a restaurant on Munich's St. Mary's square allegedly created the Weißwurst in 1857.
“We believe that a quality Munich white sausage can also be made in Old Bavaria and Swabia, not just Munich itself,” Georg Schlagbauer, himself a Munich butcher, told the Süddeutsche Zeitung newspaper, adding that it shouldn’t be geography but rather sausage ingredients that matter.
In his opinion, the other side was simply trying to secure its market share, he added. “Munich’s largest white sausage producer is part of the group,” Schlagbauer told the Agence France Presse news service. “There is a financial motivation behind this patriotism.”
Following Nuremberg’s and Dresden’s lead?
Patent Office officials will likely take several months to decide on the issue, according to a spokesperson. They can rely on a survey commissioned by the Bavarian ministry of agriculture, in which 48 percent of Germans believed Munich white sausage came from the city and its surrounding areas. Should the patent office decide in favor of one of the applications, the German ministry of justice and the European Commission still have to sign off on them.
Similar protection of local delicacies has already been approved in the past: Nuremberg’s Bratwurst has to come from the city. Dresdner Stollen, a popular Christmas bread, must be made in that eastern German city.
Werner Siegert with his book on white sausages.
“What’s happening now in Munich is pretty much the same,” Werner Siegert (photo), who has written a book on the etiquette rules of white sausage, told DW-WORLD.
He believes stagnating sausage sales at Munich’s restaurants, where the Weisswurst and a beer have been a traditional mid-morning snack, had provoked the campaign.
“I think people should rely on marketing and not on the legal system, however,” Siegert said, adding that he’s working on a collection of short stories on leaflets restaurants could hand out to their customers to bridge the five to eight minutes it takes to serve the perfect Weisswurst.