What are hot dogs made of? We asked experts after this photo went viral
It’s pink, it’s long, and it comes in lots of different sizes. That’s right, it’s the hot dog – America’s favorite sausage.
Normally, you’ll find the meat products lining supermarket shelves and concession stands everywhere, but for a brief moment, you might find them splattered on a Pennsylvania highway in mush form.
About 15,000 pounds of pink hot dog meat oozed out of a huge tractor-trailer that overturned on May 20, according to photos that have gone viral. The driver lost control of the vehicle, which turned out to have a brake failure, on Interstate 70 in Westmoreland County, according to a police report.
Fortunately, the meat spill didn’t smell too bad, despite its distressing appearance, according to Rostraver Central Fire Department, which responded to the accident.
“The only odor was from the product itself, which was minimal and nothing out of the ordinary. Not what would be described as something that ‘smelled,'” the fire department told BuzzFeed News via Facebook DM. It was definitely a unique product, but we’ve come across other things on the highway before… actually, a bunch of Twizzlers in pretty much the same place.”
The accident, which fortunately did not seriously injure the driver or passenger (they both refused to receive medical treatment), got us thinking: what are hot dogs made of? Are they bad for you? (One thing to know, they are definitely not considered sandwiches, according to the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council.)
You might be pleasantly surprised to learn that we spoke to several dietitians who all agreed that the hot dogs you eat on July 4th or any other time of year are nutritionally perfectly fine to eat. But moderation is key, of course.
“What’s summer without sausages grilled on the grill with sauerkraut?” said Keri Gans, registered dietitian nutritionist in New York City. ” Let’s be realistic.
(Fun fact: Americans will eat 150 million hot dogs on July 4, according to the NHDSC, “enough to stretch from DC to LA more than five times over.” Plus, July is National Hot Dog Month. )
What are hot dogs made of?
Hot dogs have long been referred to as mystery meat, but you can actually find a full ingredient list online. Brands may differ slightly, but the NHDSC offers a guide to what you’ll typically find inside your hot dogs, which are USDA-regulated.
“People have all sorts of ideas about the mythology of what’s going on in a hot dog, but in general it’s mythology,” NHDSC president Eric Mittenthal told BuzzFeed News. “It’s a very simple process and what you see on a package label is exactly what you get.”
Sausages can be made from beef cut from steaks or roasts, pork from larger cuts like chops and tenderloins, or chicken and turkey – or a mix of the different meats.
Certain curing agents, such as sodium nitrite and celery powder, are added to dogs not only to give them their pink flavor and color, but also to inhibit the growth of bacteria. Then other ingredients such as ascorbic acid, sodium erythorbate and cherry powder (all different forms of vitamin C) are added to the batch to speed up the curing process.
Some other contents include corn syrup, yeast extract, and flavorings made up of herbs, spices, and vegetables.
The majority of hot dogs are wrapped in a cellulose casing during the cooking process, which is then stripped before being wrapped. Others have what’s called a “natural casing,” which includes “cleaned lamb or pork intestines,” the NHDSC says. This type of casing is what gives you that “snapping” feeling when you bite into it. The skin of the hot dog may be made from another animal than the hot dog itself; if so, that information should be included on the label, the USDA says.
The meat used in the filling is cut and ground into small pieces and thrown into a blender which mixes all the ingredients into a cake batter. The mixture is then stuffed into a machine which shapes it into links and wraps the casing around them. Next, the meat is cooked in a “smokehouse”, then basted with cold water to remove the casing until it is finally vacuum sealed in its wrapper.
Some hot dogs may contain animal byproducts, such as heart, kidney or liver, also called organ meats, but these are not common in North American hot dogs, Mittenthal said. They are actually considered “delicate pieces” in some states. The labels will say “with various meats” or “with meat by-products” if they have any.
If you’re still unsure of what exactly constitutes a hot dog, Mittenthal said there are “USDA establishment numbers” found on the packaging that you can use to research where the meat came from and how it came from. was produced.