Do you know what’s in a hot dog? More mysterious than crop circles or the Bermuda Triangle–what the heck is in a freaking frank?! And does the “organic” badge make it any better?
Hot dogs have been dodging disparagement for decades–in fact, some food historians suggest that the American term “hot dog” came from the popular belief that dog meat was used in making the sausages. Alas, all of that mystery must hold some allure; Americans consume more than 20 billion weenies annually. That’s 20,000,000,000 franks a year.
Fortunately, the USDA has set federal labeling standards which work to shed some light on the hot dog quandary. Along with a litany of other troublesome ingredients, here’s what may be lurking in a traditional dog.
If the label lists “with byproducts” or “with variety meats,” this means the product consists of more than 15 percent of one or more kinds of raw skeletal muscle meat with raw meat byproducts, such as heart, kidney, or liver.
Meanwhile, “mechanically separated pork” or “mechanically separated chicken or turkey” designates a “paste-like or batter-like meat product produced by forcing bones, with attached edible meat, under high pressure through a sieve or similar device to separate the bone from the edible meat tissue.” If the meat was produced by advanced meat/bone separation machinery but has a calcium content (from bones, yum, wait, should we be eating bones?) exceeding 150 milligrams (mg) of calcium per 100 grams product, it must be also labeled “mechanically separated.”
And needless to say, the meat that ends up undergoing such a radical makeover for mass-market franks doesn’t come from frolicking-in-the-fields farm animals. (Read my post about Factory Farming here.)
Well alrighty then. Along with those nuggets, or slurry as the case may be, you will be greeted with assorted spices and flavorings, sugar, corn syrup, water, salt, and other ingredients. In addition, a standard hot dog usually includes binders, starter cultures, phosphates, erythorbate, dextrose, refined cornstarch, citric acid, MSG and those naughty, naughty nitrites.