German food – A Fresh Look at a Key Industry

German industrial output is known for fast cars and reliable machines, but not for a vibrant food or agricultural industry. And “lean cuisine” or “haute cuisine” would not come to mind when thinking about German meals. True? We’d like you to take another look.

Germany is almost identical in size to the US state of Montana. However, while 900,000 people live in Montana, over 82 million reside in Germany. So, it may surprise you to learn, that in such a highly populated country, nearly 80% of the land is used for agriculture and forestry. Food production alone is the fourth largest industry with over 500,000 employees and if you add agriculture, retail and restaurants, food accounts for the second largest industry in almost all 16 federal states.

In the global trade of food and agriculture, Germany is one of the big players as the # 2 importer and # 3 exporter of agrifood products. The US is Number 1 in both categories. Germany’s food exports amounted to 48.4 billion Euro in 2011, growing 13.1% over 2010. Agrifood export to the US were 1.3 billon Euros, growing 17.3% over 2010, while the US exported food stuff worth 1.7 billion Euros, making Germany one of the few European countries with a trade deficit in agriculture in relation to the United States.

Food always played a big role in Germany, not just during Oktoberfest. The organic food movement, although “invented” by the Austrian Rudolf Steiner, had its birthplace near Berlin. Health food stores, called “Reformhäuser” have been around since the 1880s, primarily to offer medicinal and herbal foods that would counteract the effects of heavy air pollution in the coal mining area of Western Germany at the time. In fact, the recent wave of wellness, health, natural, organic, fresh foods is simply a reincarnation of previous waves.

It is true that France and the Southern European countries have a much greater emotional relationship to food than Germans. The culinary arts seem to emanate from warmer climates. However, the there’s also culinary craftsmanship and this is where Germans excels. It was in 1979, when the German master chef Eckhart Witzigmann was the first German speaker outside France to earn the coveted Michelin 3 star award for his restaurant Aubergine. Today, Germany boasts nine 3-stars restaurants, the most of any European country – besides France, of course. Chefs experiment with molecular cuisine (from Spain), New German cuisine (old favorites fused with new ingredients and presentations) and flavor sensations.

The following presentation provides the latest snapshot of German agriculture and food production, the system of food safety, the roots and current size of the German organic food market, the exports to and imports from the United States and many more interesting facts and figures.