It’s best not to think too hard about hot dogs. As delicious as a dog, drowned in fried onions and smothered in tomato sauce and mustard may be, we all know in are heart of hearts that there is something wrong with this picture. Still, we ignore all common sense, close our eyes and dive right in.
Unfortunately, we can’t escape the truth. Eventually, we are all going to have to face facts and try to come to terms with what we’ve been putting into our bodies. Sometimes, the truth hurts. Here is the full horrifying list of the horrible things found in the average hot dog.
1. Mechanically Separated Chicken
If ever an ingredient had an appropriately unappetising name, this is surely it. Mechanically Separated Poultry - or, “MSP” - has the distinction of having one of the unsexiest definitions in the USDA handbook, being described as “a paste-like and batter-like poultry product, produced by forcing bones, with attached edible tissue, through a sieve or similar device under high pressure to separate bone from the edible tissue.” Sign me up.
2. Beef Slime
It’s tough to decide whether beef slime may be more or less disgusting than MSP. Either way, it’s pretty horrible stuff. Cheerfully described by the industry as “lean, finely textured meat”, beef slime is actually made from the cheapest, fattiest trimmings from the cow, blended with a range of discarded cuts and body parts to form a pink gelatinous goop that looks like someone melted a Barbie.
Given their cheap price and potential for mass production, it’s a safe bet to assume that most hot dogs haven’t come from the most well-to-do farms. In most cases, this means that the animals involved will have spent their days being pumped full of various antibiotics in attempt to stop them dying before the ideal time. These can range from everything from anti-infection pills, to growth hormone.
One of the things that makes a hot dog so disturbing is the air of secrecy that surrounds its prep. No ingredient typifies this quite like the mysterious “flavour”. Under current US Food and Drug Administration regulations, a number of different ingredients can be grouped together and described on packaging simply as “Flavour”. This can make it almost impossible to tell exactly what it is you may be eating.
5. Sodium Nitrate
Used across a range of cured meat products in order to prevent the food from rotting, there’s no doubt that sodium nitrate plays an important role for the hot dog industry. Not that this makes it any less disgusting. Studies from Yale University have suggested that the ingredient can not only cause migraines, but may also lead to an increased risk of cancer.
As anyone who’s ever smelled bacon will agree, there’s nothing inherently wrong with eating pork. The trouble comes when it ends up where it shouldn’t. According to Clear Labs, an alarming 3% of hot dogs advertised as being “beef” actually contained pork - bad news for anyone looking to avoid pig for dietary or religious reasons.
Even hot dog producers haven’t yet resorted to putting human body parts into the sausage factory. Nonetheless, by hook or by crook, we somehow still manages to make its way into our own dogs. Not only did Clear Labs find that 2% of hot dogs contain human DNA, but that two-thirds of these were being marketed as “vegetarian”.
Some will no doubt argue that they were much happier being blissfully ignorant about the ins and outs of their favourite baseball snack. Obviously, that ship has now sailed. At least now you can go to your next hot dog stand fully aware of all the facts. You’re welcome.