Check out this photo of two guys making sausage back in 1912 in a basement on West 41st Street! Mmmm, botulism. The photograph was taken during an inspection by the state Factory Investigating Commission, which was created in the wake of the Triangle shirtwaist factory fire. The commission was charged with "investigating the conditions under which manufacturing is carried on," and that historic task brought an inspector to this cellar on the edge of the Hudson River at 656 West 41st Street. The description of what they found isn't specifically too appetizing.
Barrels and machinery filled the room, which one investigator described as "excessively hot, humid and foul smelling." For more on what we see here and how things have changed, we turn to fastidious butcher Tom Mylan, who founded The Meat Hook in Williamsburg after leaving the Diner/Marlow & Sons franchise. Mylan tells us:
That image is actually of guys sorting casings (one of the steps of sausage making) before they get filled. As far as today's sausage making goes, it is much less spooky and certainly not hot or stinky. Obviously, industrial sausage production includes some less than savory sounding ingredients but in general sausage production is fairly well regulated and, at the very least, made in sanitary conditions.
At the Meat Hook we make sausage 5 days a week in full view of customers in an effort to demystify the process and we even offer sausage making classes once a month for anyone who has more than an interest in whether or not their sausage contains lips and buttholes.
Given the trendiness of snout-to-tail eating, we're not really sure if animal lips and buttholes are considered a gross thing to eat anymore. After all, one of the most popular entrees at The Breslin is the pig’s foot. Head cheese is also on the menu. Can locally-sourced, artisinal assholes be far behind?