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July 17, 2014

Wurst Practice

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2014: A group of German sausage manufacturers finds itself in hot water this week after a scheme to fix the prices of wurst, brats, and other cased meats was revealed. While the companies involved are denying any price-related colluding, German government representatives allege scheme has been going on for decades. The Guardian reports:

In a statement outlining its findings, the FCA said it had evidence of a “basic consensus” among the sausage manufacturers to inform one another about demands for price increases. The cartel met regularly but also reached agreements using “organized ring-round calls,” it said. Due to the many different types of sausage—there are more than 1,500 kinds of wurst according to the German Food Guide website—it was not possible to set the price of a particular banger, the cartel office said, so price ranges were agreed for products such as cooked sausage and ham.

The FCA does not give any information about individual fines but said they ranged from a few hundred thousand euros to in the “high” millions. Eleven companies admitted wrongdoing in exchange for reduced fines.

1917: What good is a sausage without beer to wash it down? WWI-era English laborers found themselves thirsty indeed as the prices of ale, stout, and porter rose—and the glasses got smaller. Calling foul, newspapers like the Weekly Dispatch insisted it was a scheme devised by brewers and bar-owners to set the prices firm and profit off the working man:

Furnacemen are very indignant that when they ask for beer they are told that only whisky is obtainable. Rightly or wrongly they consider that beer or stout is, in view of their occupation, a necessity to their health, and teetotal faddists would be surprised at the insistence of well-educated men on the strong character of this point.

There is no drunkenness in Woolwich and the neighborhood worth speaking about. First of all it is urged that the money will not run to anything like overindulgence with drink at such a price, and secondly it is pointed out that few publicans will supply more than two or three drinks to the same person.

The disparity in prices undoubtedly tends to create resentment. Munitions workers who went for a trip to Tonbridge found that the beer for which they were paying 5d. and 6d. in Woolwich was only 2d. there, and they want to know the reason why.
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