Hog dogs promote the idea of using many animal parts


Hot dogs and mustard (and even ketchup, despite what the diehard hot-dog lovers would say) is an affordable staple in many households, but there is more to know about how it’s made and what its history is. The hot dog is an America’s ballpark snack and is commonplace at festivals, backyard cookouts, and kids events.

Hot dogs are sausages that are cured, smoked, or cooked and can be traced back to Rome and Germany. It even possibly began as a joke about the Germany’s thin, long, and small dogs. The food items was brought to the United States around the 1860s, and now there are many different versions of the hot dog enjoyed with many toppings, but the meat itself is quite complex.

Image by Karin Hildebrand Lau, Shutterstock

Products such as hot dogs use a variety of selections of meat off an animal, and it’s one way food researchers and scientists are tasked with feeding a growing population. This approach reduces food waste by using more pieces from an animal (hence, fewer animals), thus putting less stress on the environment. Hot dogs can made of parts of pork, beef, and even poultry and is made with trimmings that don’t make good steaks or roasts. Likewise, it’s the same meat that would be made into ground pork or ground beef. Some hot dogs are made of only two additional ingredients (salt and seasoning), and some hot dogs may include preservatives or other additives.

The ingredient statement will list more of the specific ingredients, and if you are wondering what does “mechanically separated chicken or turkey or pork” mean, the U.S. Department of Agriculture refers to that as using mechanical means to pull the muscle off the bone. With whatever meat is used, it will be grounded up finely for a homogenous texture. While there can be many ingredients added to any processed foods, one of them, nitrites, will help protect the hot dog, giving the hot dog a pink color and specific flavor, and protecting the product from bacteria that can cause botulism.

It’s typically a cheaper protein source for the family, especially during periods of inflation. Most of the time, it’s easy preparation for the hot dogs since they are already cooked, twice. Once in the pre-cook stages and the second time is during the meal emulsion stage that includes the process of casings.

Image by Vava Vladimir Jovanovic, Shutterstock

Just like any processing plant, there are guidelines in place to produce the product safely. Since workers are dealing with a food product, they must wear clean suits, hair nets, and gloves alongside ensuring procedures are checked off for the product to reach safely to your house.

Whether you’re enjoying a hot dog in the many different combinations or even waiting for the long tradition of the promotional Oscar Mayer Wienermobile traveling across the country, the process varies from company to company. Some are more transparent about their operations, but others are wary what information they should relay to their end consumers.

There’s even a National Hot Dog and Sausage Council that shows which cities eat the most, relaying that Lost Angeles residents consume more hot dogs than any other city. Even so, in 2021, Americans spent more than $7.5 billion on hot dogs and sausages in U.S. supermarkets. That’s a lot of hot dogs — and especially a great choice for a quick and easy meal!

Michelle Miller, the “Farm Babe,” is an internationally recognized keynote speaker, writer, and social media influencer and travels full time to advocate for agriculture. She comes from an Iowa-based row crop and livestock farming background and now resides on a timber farm in North Central Florida.

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