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Âľ:/EA:793A/CA/53A cease to inspire respect in proportion as we know how they are made.â€? This quote from American poet John Godfrey Saxe is commonly misattributed to Otto von Bismarck. The Prussian statesman echoed the sentiment years later, saying, â€œLaws are like sausages, it is better not to see them being made.â€? No matter on which side of the pond this quote originated, when youâ€™re approaching the entrance to the Dietz & Watson deli-meats factory just off Tacony Street in Northeast Philly, thereâ€™s a moment of pause when these two quotes ring very true. If youâ€™re familiar with Michael Pollanâ€™s The Omnivoreâ€™s Dilemma or Eric Schlosserâ€™s Fast Food Nation, food politics or the concept of pink slime, the idea of setting foot in a meat-processing plant isnâ€™t exactly comfortable.
But in the conference room at Dietz & Watson, the small marketing team assures me that they had all toured the factory recently, and it was an eye-opening experience in a totally different way. They explain that the company supplies lunch to all of its employees every day: cold cuts and condiments with a BYOB policy (that would be bring your own bread) and that no one had skipped lunch after seeing how the proverbial (and not-so-proverbial) sausage was made. But before suiting up and heading into the plant â€” a task that requires a shin-length, powder-blue lab coat, a pair of black rubber waders, a hairnet, a pink plastic helmet and an in-ear microphone â€” letâ€™s back up a little. Seventy-five years to be exact. Gottlieb Dietz emigrated from Stuttgart, Germany, in 1939. Trained as a wursthersteller, or sausage maker, he brought his pork know-how with him to Philadelphia. â€œHe came over and worked in the sausage-making business here in Philadelphia, but he always wanted to start his own business,â€? says Louis Eni, Gottliebâ€™s grandson and CEO of Dietz & Watson. A few years later, the trained butcher and sausage maker crossed paths with a mysterious Mr. Watson, a ham smoker with whom Dietz began his delicatessen empire.
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Watson parted ways with Dietz shortly after the company was founded, but his name remains. The early days of Dietz & Watson were based on batter, basically a finely emulsified blend of pork and beef that could be piped into casings for hot dogs and wieners and molded into bologna and loaves. Loaves? Well, loaves of pimentoand-olive-studded luncheon meat might not be deli bestsellers these days, but at the time they were everyday lunch. â€œItâ€™s interesting to see how the business has changed. That was the deli business. If we made a handful of hams, that was a big week. Nobody went to a little neighborhood deli and bought ham or turkey. No one had even heard of turkey breast in those days,â€? Eni says. The company operated out of a nowgone building at Front and Vine streets until 1975 when I-95 was built and the company was forced to relocate to its Tacony Street digs. Marketing manager Kevin Rider Jr. says the the operations at the Philadelphia plant (there are two other locations, one in upstate New Q]\bW\cSR]\^OUS$