Ask EpicentRx™

Sep 27, 2023

“Hot dog! It’s Q&A time!”

“Do you relish an answer? Then read on”.

Q: “What’s in a hot dog? And do I want to know?” A.J. from Saratoga, California

A: Well, the good news, A.J., is that you don’t have to wonder. The label lists the ingredients in order from highest to lowest amounts, as mandated by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).

That said, the main ingredient in hot dogs aka franks or weiners is meat, typically a combination of “mechanically separated” pork, beef, and poultry meat. Some hot dogs contain different meat fillers like the snout, heart, liver, etc., but these fillers must compose no more than 20% of the product.

And what does “mechanically separated” mean exactly?

According to the USDA, mechanically separated meat is “a paste-like and 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.”

To this meat mixture are added other ingredients like preservatives, spices, and coloring. The emulsified meat is then stuffed into casings, which are mostly made from cellulose, an inedible plant based polysaccharide, or, more rarely, from pig or sheep intestines. These casings are twisted by machine to make links of equal sizes.

Then the hot dogs are transferred to a smokehouse where they are thoroughly cooked under controlled conditions usually for about an hour. From there the inedible cellulose casings are cut away in an automatic peeler (although the animal casings are not removed) after which the hot dogs are vacuum packaged, and sent to retailers for sale.

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