What’s Really in a Hot Dog?

  • Breaking it Down

    Hot dogs are a classic American favorite and a well-loved mystery meat product, but there are actually strict definitions for what a hot dog, frankfurter or wiener actually is. Let’s take a look at what they’re made of and some other delicious options you might just want to grill up as well (or maybe instead). Photo Credit: lululemon athletica
    The Everyday Hot Dog: Meat
  • The Everyday Hot Dog: Meat

    Hot dogs may contain “variety meats” and meat byproducts including the heart, liver and kidneys of various animals along with regular meat cut from the bone, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. To be considered hot dogs, frankfurters, wieners or bologna by the USDA, the processed meat product must also “consist of not less than 15% of one or more kinds of raw skeletal muscle meat with raw meat byproducts.” Every species of meat must be named individually in a hot dog package’s list of ingredients, the USDA says. Hot dog producers often make their products from mechanically separated meat, “a paste-like and batter-like meat product,” the USDA explains. Photo Credit: Bennett 4 Senate
    The Everyday Hot Dog: Salt
  • The Everyday Hot Dog: Salt

    Not too surprisingly, hot dogs and bologna are fairly similar to other cured meats; they tend to contain a lot of salt. Just one classic Oscar Mayer hot dog (Stock Quote: KFT) contains nearly a quarter of your recommended daily intake of sodium, according to package labeling. So if you’re a hot dog enthusiast who’s supposed to limit sodium intake, you may want to steer clear of hot dog eating contests. Photo Credit: kevindooley
    The Everyday Hot Dog: Preservatives
  • The Everyday Hot Dog: Preservatives

    Preservatives like sodium nitrite prevent hot dogs from going rancid, but they also give them that hot dog flavor and color, according to Consumer Reports. Too many hot dogs and other cured meats with nitrates could increase your risk of chronic illnesses like cancer and lung disease. Uncured hot dogs don’t contain added chemical preservatives, but some preservatives occur naturally in spices that may be used in the making of a hot dog as well, Consumer Reports says. Photo Credit: stevendepolo
    Another Option: Uncured Dogs
  • Another Option: Uncured Dogs

    If you’d rather steer clear of preservatives, you can opt for uncured hot dogs, and the Uncured Beef Hot Dogs from Applegate Farms, for example, have less sodium than average hot dogs. One of these Applegate dogs contains 380 milligrams or 16% of the recommended maximum daily intake of sodium, 6 grams of fat and 5 grams of protein. A regular Oscar Mayer hot dog contains 540 milligrams of sodium or 23% of your daily limit, 12 grams of fat and 5 grams of protein. They may be healthier, but some reviewers say they’re just as good as any traditional dog. Photo Credit: applegatefarms.com
    The Everyday Dog: Casing
  • The Everyday Dog: Casing

    Casings are often made of cellulose, which is later removed, and give hot dogs an exact size and weight, according to the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council. But natural hot dog casings are made from cleaned and processed animal intestines, the group explains. Photo Credit: andriux uk
    Another Option: Tofu
  • Another Option: Tofu

    If these common hot dog ingredients and casings make hot dogs unappetizing for you, tofu dogs like Tofu Pups are an extra-healthy alternative that are still high in protein. And you might be surprised to find that, while they may not be meat, they still have that smoky flavor that meat-filled hot dogs have. Each of these veggie dogs has 300 grams of sodium, just 2.5 grams of fat and 8 grams of protein compared with 5 grams in a regular dog. Photo Credit: lightlife.com
    The Everyday Dog: What’s Not Allowed
  • The Everyday Dog: What’s Not Allowed

    Mechanically separated beef, which is a paste-like substance made in a process that separates meat from bone by machine, isn’t allowed in hot dogs or any other food for humans because it could contain Mad Cow Disease, also known as Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy. Additionally, hot dogs can’t contain more than 20% mechanically separated pork. Photo Credit: Brent_Zupp
    Are Bratwursts Any Better?
  • Are Bratwursts Any Better?

    Bratwurst can definitely be a more meaty and flavorful experience than your average hot dog, and its ingredients might be more easily identified by taste. A Coleman Natural brat is nearly twice the size of a regular hot dog, and given its size and weight, contains much less sodium for its weight than a regular dog with 650 mg, or 27% of your daily max. Besides being bigger than hot dogs, bratwursts originally hail from Germany and consist of finely chopped pork, beef or veal. Photo Credit: Stu_Spivack
    Get Grillin'
  • Get Grillin'

    Excited for food fresh off the grill? Check out the delicious meats in MainStreet's slideshow, 10 Mouth-Watering BBQ Festivals. Photo Credit: stevendepolo
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