What’s Really in that Hotdog?

  “You wouldn’t eat that hotdog if you knew what was in it”.  Have you ever had someone tell you that?  Only a few hundred times?  You’d probably be rich if they’d paid you $10 every time, or, perhaps you are one of the people who believe the stories of tails, lips, ears, eyeballs, hooves, and even squeals as being the parts from which hotdogs are made.

Every semester I ask my students to read a similar article I wrote about hotdogs on another website (www.itsaboutfood.com) and give me their response.  There is a common theme from them that goes like this, “I’m so glad to know all those awful things aren’t in hotdogs, now I can quit feeling bad when I eat them”. This always makes me wonder why they’re eating them if they believe it.  Another common response is, “I would never eat them just because of what people (usually family members) say about them”.  This always makes me wonder why being a relative earns such credibility on this subject. 😉

Here are a few facts about hotdogs and what is in them.  The USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) sets and oversees the compliance of the following standards the processors must follow to produce and market hotdogs:

  • Beef, pork, and poultry can be used.
  • Label must indicate which species are included in the product.
  • Finished products cannot contain more than 30%fat & 10% water, or combo of 40%.
  • Label must indicate fat%.
  • Label must identify casings as natural or manufactured (made from edible cellulose, a natural fiber in plants). Some do not have casings, modern technology is able to remove them after cooking and before packaging. Label will tell you.
  • Meat used must be skeletal muscle meat, i.e. the same kind of meat that would be used in ground meat…muscle tissue. If the product contains any organ meats (heart, kidney, liver, etc.) it must be stated on package and listed in ingredients. 
  • Ears, lips, eyeballs, and tails aren’t in your hotdog.

You may have other issues with the nutritional content of hotdogs, like salts and preservatives used, but now you have the facts about the meat that is used. Check the label, as you always should. Be informed and educated by good, sound science and information. We’re here to help you so you can make good choices when shopping.

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For more information on the rules and regulations:  www.fsis.usda.gov/factsheets/hot-dogs

Blog post by:  Gay Gardella, Prof. Animal Science