If only laws were like sausages

It’s a tired analogy, but given the fantastical failings of the feds to pass the most basic food safety rules, sausage makers are fighting back.

Robert Pear writes in Sunday’s New York Times that, in defending their work, members of Congress love to repeat a quotation attributed to Otto von Bismarck: “If you like laws and sausages, you should never watch either one being made.”

In other words, the legislative process, though messy and sometimes unappetizing, can produce healthy, wholesome results.

But a visit to a sausage factory here, about 10 miles from the Capitol, suggests that Bismarck and today’s politicians are mistaken. In many ways, that quotation is offensive to sausage makers; their process is better controlled and more predictable.

“I’m so insulted when people say that lawmaking is like sausage making,” said Stanley A. Feder, president of Simply Sausage, whose plant here turns out 60,000 pounds of links a year.

“With legislation, you can have hundreds of cooks — members of Congress, lobbyists, federal agency officials, state officials,” Mr. Feder said. “In sausage making, you generally have one person, the wurstmeister, who runs the business and makes the decisions.”

Sausages are produced according to a recipe. And while plenty of pork goes into many sausages and laws, the ingredients of the edible product are specified in advance, carefully measured out and accurately identified on a label. An inspector from the United States Department of Agriculture visits the plant every day.

Granted, Simply Sausage is a small, artisanal sausage maker, not an industrial-scale slaughterhouse. But the comparison is still faulty, said Mr. Feder, a political scientist who took up sausage making after retiring from the Central Intelligence Agency.