For What It’s Worth

Hot dogs: You eat them?

Hot dog! It’s hot dog time. Monday is Memorial Day and likely a bazillion or so grilled or flame-cooked hot dogs will be consumed at parties and celebrations this weekend.

Most of the dogs likely will be the traditional hot dogs; but, for those interested to try it, there is a new dog in town. A major meat company recently introduced its new Bacon Dogs—hot dog, that’s interesting news. It has bacon cooked right into it and is one of five new hot dogs introduced by the meat company. An article on Yahoo! Shine reports that true bacon aficionados have quickly noted that the new hot dog isn’t made entirely of bacon; its ingredients list includes mechanically separated turkey, chicken and pork, as well as bacon pieces. The packaging promises no artificial colors, fillers or by-products, but does disclose that additional smoke flavor is added. Sans bun, the new bacon dog weighs in at 130 calories, 11 grams of fat, 35 milligrams of cholesterol and 270 milligrams of sodium. That’s each dog, not the whole package.

Oh, the other new hot dogs from the company are tamer versions: a gluten-free chicken-breast hot dog, bigger versions of the Smokies smoked sausages, lite hot dogs, and fat-free hot dogs.

Before you dash off to the grocery store and wonder why hot dogs come in packages of eight and buns in packages of 10, you might be wondering what’s in those dogs you are planning to toss on your grill or maybe stab with a sharpened stick or straightened out coat hanger and cook over an open fire. Actually, it’s unlikely you are wondering what’s in those dogs, but perhaps you should be.

According to Ad Week, the most popular hot dog in the U.S. has this list of ingredients: Mechanically separated turkey, pork, water, corn syrup, salt, potassium lactate, sodium phosphates, flavorings, beef stock, sodium diacetate, sodium erythorbate, maltodextrin, sodium nitrate, extractives of paprika.

The USDA describes mechanically separated meat and poultry (MSM and MSP) as “a paste-like and batter-like meat [or poultry] 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.” In other words, poultry and pork carcasses and scraps are turned into pink mush to be squeezed or molded into hot dogs after the more meaty cuts have been removed. However, beef cannot be treated this way in order to protect consumers against Mad Cow Disease. Hot dog for that.

Corn syrup, a sweetener that has little nutritive value and adds calories, is used for flavoring and as a thickening agent and filler. Maltodextrin, made from starch, is also a filler. Seems like a hot dog can be filling, huh?

As we all know and as my family doctor and cardiologist have both stressed to me, salt and other forms of sodium in excess can lead to high blood pressure and contribute to heart disease and stroke. In one stroke a single hot dog can contain as much as one-third of your daily allowance of sodium, and who stops at one dog? Add condiments, pickles and chips to your hot dog Memorial Day weekend and you may be maxed out on sodium for the day.

Other hot dog ingredients potassium lactate, sodium phosphates, sodium diacetate and sodium erythorbate are preservatives whose function is to discourage the formation of bacteria and fungi. Wow, that relieves one worry about eating hot dogs.

Another preservative, sodium nitrate, adds flavor and color to hot dogs, but it has been linked to increased risk of colorectal cancer and pancreatic cancer.

The casing used on most commercial hot dogs is made of synthetic collagen, but some dogs get their snappy bite from “natural casings.” These are lamb or pork intestines.

Those of you still salivating for a hot dog smothered in mustard and relish might want to look for uncured, organic hot dogs. Generally, they are lower in fat and sodium and don’t contain nitrates. Look for those containing fewer than 150 calories and 370 mg of sodium.

We have a family and friends gathering this weekend and, hot dog, we might grill some brats. Wow, brats and sauerkraut! But, I’m not going to check the brats label for the list of ingredients. What I would find might be wurst than hot dogs.

Happy grilling!

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6 Responses to For What It’s Worth

  1. Charity says:

    Preach! If you’re going to be eating that stuff, it’s good to be honest about what’s in it.

    For further reading on what our “meat industry” has become, I recommend “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” by Michael Pollan.

  2. Marilois Kirksey says:

    What a party pooper! 🙂


  3. Hubert Edgar says:

    You gotta die of something. Hot dog! And, let’s not forget corn, pasta, sugar, peas, and possibly hot dog buns.

  4. Harry Hix says:

    There you go barking up another tree.

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