Archive for Wednesday, June 27, 2007

What’s in that tasty hot dog?

June 27, 2007


Whether sizzled on the barbecue or scarfed down at the ball game, hot dogs are so popular that it seems almost unpatriotic to point out that they're essentially tidy little bundles of sodium, additives and fat.

Going light can help, but don't think buying "uncured" or poultry dogs will do you any good. Consumer Reports tests found that the specialty dogs weren't necessarily better than regular franks.

CR did find good choices when it cooked some 620 full-fat and lower-fat hot dogs from 23 well-known brands and leading retailers. Though none were excellent, the best-tasting dogs were the full-fat beef varieties.

Such regulation franks can be a reasonable indulgence if eaten in moderation (a few times each summer). But if you or your children eat hot dogs frequently, it might be wise to choose a lower-fat variety and add condiments for flavor.

Long considered a "mystery meat," hot dogs were thought to contain all kinds of horrors. Today, according to Department of Agriculture standards, they're made of beef, pork, poultry or a blend of all of those, which can contain no more than 30 percent fat, plus water to cool the meat as it is ground, binders such as nonfat dry milk or cereal, salt, sweeteners and seasonings.

Hot dogs also may contain sodium nitrite and nitrate - curing preservatives that give franks their characteristic flavor and color, ward off spoilage and rancidity, and help prevent botulism. Those compounds, which occur naturally in some foods, spices and water, have raised health concerns because they have the potential to form nitrosamines - chemicals found to cause cancer in lab animals.

CR's analysis revealed that the nitrates and nitrites in all the hot dogs it tested were well below the maximum level for the additives established by the USDA. While a hot dog can be labeled uncured if no nitrates or nitrites have been added, that does not necessarily mean the product is free of them.

As for sodium, the hot dogs CR tested ranged from 300 mg to 760 mg per frank, meaning just one serving of any of them could contribute a hefty chunk to the recommended maximum of 2,300 mg of sodium a day. While occasionally exceeding that limit might not be harmful for everyone, studies have shown that high sodium intake can boost blood pressure in susceptible people and exacerbate certain conditions, such as asthma.

The dogs CR rated the tastiest dogs, by category:

¢ Full fat: Hebrew National Kosher Beef Franks (51 cents, 14 grams of fat and 420 mg sodium per dog), Nathan's Famous Skinless Beef Franks (48 cents, 15 grams of fat, 470 mg sodium) and Boar's Head Skinless Beef Franks (43 cents, 11 grams of fat, 350 mg sodium).

¢ Less fat: Providing a texture and taste similar to their full-fat brandmates - but with fewer calories and less fat and sodium - were Hebrew National Kosher Reduced Fat Beef Franks (57 cents per dog, 10 grams of fat, 360 mg sodium), Boar's Head Lite Skinless Beef Franks (44 cents, 6 grams of fat, 270 mg sodium) and Oscar Meyer Light Beef Franks (32 cents, 7 grams of fat, 380 mg sodium).

¢ Beefless: Ball Park Lite Franks (30 cents, 7 grams of fat, 460 mg sodium), a pork-and-turkey-blend, the best tasting of the bunch.

CR's trained tasters also screened four popular soy dogs, but declared them so off the mark that even a vegetarian might find them hard to swallow. Morning Star Farms Veggie Dogs proved to be best of the lot, but the kindest words CR's testers could find for these franks was that if you smother them with your favorite condiments, they might be OK.

- Visit the Consumer Reports Web site at


Mauidreaming 10 years, 11 months ago

Funny they failed to mention in this article what the public is really consuming is lips, butts and any other reject parts of the animal that doesn't go to the rendering plant for dog/cat food.

Geez people, just have a veggie dog and then you don't have to worry about any of these problems. But that would be just a little too simple I guess . . .

gr 10 years, 11 months ago

Well, you know they don't grind up steak to put in them! They don't even use hamburger. Only what they can't sell for higher profits would go into a hotdog.

Linda Endicott 10 years, 11 months ago

So, why are all the hot dogs "cured"? Wouldn't it take care of a lot of the problems if they weren't?

You'd just have to cook them longer, right?

Frederic Gutknecht IV 10 years, 11 months ago

I like most of the new vegetarian faux meaty things but their sure is a gigantoid list of ingredients in'em. Makes me a tiny bit nervous, though nothing looks too toxic on there. Of course: To help choose:,21770,685530,00.html To help confuse: Nothing wrong with a good hog snout, ear, eyeball, jowl, maw, lip, hock or foot!~)

Emily Hadley 10 years, 11 months ago

I actually like most veggie dogs. I definitely liked them when I still ate meat, because they weren't greasy and I never had to worry about those weird knobby bits of elbow or whatever it is that gets ground in with the meat and squeaks in your teeth. Eeesh.

Pork, beef, chicken or turkey, hot dogs are nasty.

More interesting to me would be comparing the cost of making various kinds of hot dogs. Those comparisons are often really surprising -- this site does something kind of similar, comparing a PB & J to other things you might have in your lunch.

from the site:

A PB&J will slow global warming.

Next time you have one you'll reduce your carbon footprint by saving the equivalent of 2.5 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions over an average animal-based lunch like a hamburger, a tuna sandwich, grilled cheese, or chicken nuggets.

Adrienne Sanders 10 years, 11 months ago

The kosher hot dogs have more real meat and no lips and butts. That doesn't mean they're healthy, but they're not "mystery meat."

ramsrevenge 10 years, 11 months ago

I could care less what is in a hot dog. All I know is they're da*n good!!

Seems about right you all are vegetarians. Nerds!

Emily Hadley 10 years, 11 months ago

Meat hot dogs? OK then, give us vegetarians back our buns, ketchup, pickle relish, onions and mustard and truly enjoy your hot dog!

karensisson 10 years, 11 months ago

ramsrevenge (Anonymous) says: I could care less what is in a hot dog. All I know is they're da*n good!! Seems about right you all are vegetarians. Nerds!

Maybe they don't eat hot dogs because they are vegetarians. Or maybe they read how hot dogs are made, including that tumors are tossed into the vat along with the other meat scraps. That did it for me.

I still like the bun, sauerkraut, ketchup, mustard, onions and dill relish though. Don't miss the dog.

staff04 10 years, 11 months ago

When I was in junior high, we did an experiment where we ran a current through a hot dog...they have so much sodium that they actually glow like a sodium tube...

Confrontation 10 years, 11 months ago

"I don't have anything against meat-eaters, but stop with the condescension."

"I remember now why I don't eat meat. But by all means, if the above sounds good, go for it!"

"Hey, by all means, you enjoy eating the o-ring out of a pigs butt, you just belly on up to the hot dog stand. All I'm saying is, not me boy-o."

***It's kind of funny that the same poster wrote all of these sentences.

trinity 10 years, 11 months ago

i didn't read the article, did read the comments. pywacket, kidding or not, your post earned a standing ovation from me.

i love my damn hotdogs and always will. steamed with kraut, burned nice&crusty crispy black on the grill, or hell even raw; i love 'em&will eat 'em.

there are sooooo many other more pressing issues to use persuasive powers on.

Mkh 10 years, 11 months ago

Stop Eating Processed Corporate Meat!

Flap Doodle 10 years, 11 months ago

Ah, the scent of self-righteous lettuce-eaters.

gr 10 years, 11 months ago

"disguise tofu & other ground-up crud as meat to get people to eat it."

I guess I thought grinding up soybeans are still soybeans. I guess I never considered ground-up soybeans as ground-up crud. However, what specifically do you think is the "ground-up crud" in hotdogs? Animal? Innards? Outards?


======== From "If you would like to slow global warming, if you would like to save water, if you would like to slow deforestation and overgrazing and cut back on the pesticides and fertilizers used to grow your food, all you have to do is change your lunch today"

Hmmm. Anyone ask how much energy it takes to produce processed peanutbutter and jelly? Supposedly less, but is just being less, good? Don't forget how many rainforests were burned to provide land for sugarcane. Added sugar to peanutbutter makes it "taste better", you know. And then there's a whole list of ingredients you better watch out for.

Don't blindly grab the first jar you come to and think you are doing anything real or imaginary for the planet or any good for your body.

TheHeartlessBureaucrat 10 years, 11 months ago

sigh Even an article about hot dogs went and got political.

I've eaten a LOT of processed foods AND a lot of fresh stuff. Personally, I prefer that what I am eating to have once had a face, a name and that someone loved it. Yes, I eat meat.

I enjoy hot dogs...I know that they contain stuff that in situ, I wouldn't let my lips touch, but on a bun, drowned in Ketchup and Chili, they're delish. I also dig processed cheese, minute rice, beer, Bacon, mayonnaise and coffee.

I relish (sorry for the pun) the opportunity to eat in moderation the stuff I like. And if this stuff kills me before I'm 40, feel free to attend my funeral and tell me you told me so.

Snacks will be served,


ScottyMac 10 years, 11 months ago

Mr. Ramirez: "All those wearing leather shoes please raise your hand?

Do you think they just borrowed that leather to make your birckenstocks?


Who eats shoes?

purplesage 10 years, 11 months ago

Hebrew Nationals, sizzling on the grill. MMmmm.

I wonder, since they are kosher, and kosher laws prohibit the eating of fat, how all of that jibes, but they sure are good, with a topping of mustard, relish or kraut.

coneflower 10 years, 11 months ago

I wish there were a way to have a weenie roast without weenies.

Emily Hadley 10 years, 11 months ago

"All those wearing leather shoes please raise your hand?

Do you think they just borrowed that leather to make your birckenstocks?


It never ceases to amaze me when those who follow the corporate path of least resistance assume that vegetarians/vegans oppose meat politically yet wear leather shoes without realizing the hypocrisy.

I haven't bought a pair of leather shoes or a leather belt since 1998. You would, however, assume my shoes were leather if we passed on the street.

If, on the other hand, I didn't eat hot dogs because I found the idea of eating meat repulsive, yet I did not find leather shoes repulsive, I would hope that that would be acceptable and that we could talk about our views on eating meat and soybeans without the topic turning to my feet. Just because someone will accept a material for a shoe does not make them a hypocrite for not wanting to ingest the stuff!

white_mountain 10 years, 11 months ago

all this talk about Heineken, cold beer, and cool crips Busch Light is making me forget all about the dogs.. I'm just thirsty!

Confrontation 10 years, 11 months ago

Oh, scenebooster. You flatter me by posting my previously posted wisdom. Now, how about explaining your contradiction. What? Not enough protein to fuel your brain?! No surprise there :)

oldvet 10 years, 10 months ago

2 Nathan's with spicy brown and kraut... a big cold beer.... play ball!!!

Flap Doodle 10 years, 10 months ago

"purplesage (Anonymous) says: Hebrew Nationals, sizzling on the grill. MMmmm. I wonder, since they are kosher, and kosher laws prohibit the eating of fat, how all of that jibes, but they sure are good, with a topping of mustard, relish or kraut." Not sure what variety of kosher you are referring to, but traditional European Jewish cooking uses schmaltz (chicken fat) in a lot of dishes.

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