Report

What’s Really in Your Hot Dog

How about some pink paste and flame retardant?

What’s Really in Your Hot Dog
Report

What’s Really in Your Hot Dog

How about some pink paste and flame retardant?

MECHANICALLY SEPARATED TURKEY

What makes mechanically separated turkey different than the legs and thighs you covet at Thanksgiving? Well it comes from the same animal, but it’s the waste you typically set out for the garbage truck. See, in the ‘60s, someone in the meat industry began to question whether there was any use for the gristly pieces of meat left clinging to carcasses after the recognizable cuts had been removed. To answer the question, processors began siphoning animal remains — bones and all — through pressurized sieves that extracted all the edible pieces and churned them into a bright pink paste. The goal was to wring every last dollar out of every last carcass, and a British chief trading standards officer estimated the cuts to be 10 times cheaper than traditional cuts. Today, mechanical separation is commonplace, and the extracted sludge is typically pressed into hot dogs, jerky, and other processed deli meats.

TOTAL FAT 16 G

You might think that all the poultry being pumped into hot dogs has made them leaner over the years, but the numbers don’t lie. According to the USDA, in 1937 the average hot dog was composed of 19 percent fat and 19.6 percent protein. The humble frankfurter has plumped up quite a bit in the last 75 years; today, hot dogs contain about 28 percent fat to just 11.7 percent protein. Ball Park, one of America’s iconic dogs, fares even worse. In its best, most unadulterated form, a hot dog can still be a solid meal option, but you must choose wisely. For our dollar, Applegate Natural Beef Hot Dogs are the best hot dogs for weight loss: Made from grass-fed beef and little else, they hark back to a day when meat wasn’t such a mystery.

SODIUM DIACETATE

Sodium diacetate battles the pathogens introduced by unscrupulous farming practices. In April 2011, researchers in Arizona tested meat and poultry samples from five major US cities and discovered that 47 percent were contaminated with Staphylococcus aureus, the bacterial strain responsible for most staph infections. Worse yet, more than half of these staph bugs refused to die after three or more separate courses of antibiotics. Where did these drug-resistant superbugs come from? By constantly pumping farm animals full of bacteria-fighting drugs to promote growth, food producers have encouraged the growth of stronger bacterial strains. According to the FDA, 80 percent of the antibiotics sold in the US are used on animals, not people, and that’s why we need additives like sodium diacetate: to protect us from our own food system. (It's enough to make you want to stock your kitchen with meat-free proteins.)

SODIUM NITRITE

The most controversial additive on this ingredient list, nitrites and nitrates are unsettlingly common in the deli cooler, and they play roles in curing and preserving the pinkish color of meats and fish. Trouble is, once ingested, nitrites can bond with amines to form cancer-causing nitrosamines. And the sodium erythorbate on the ingredients list? It’s been shown to hinder the reaction, in theory protecting you from the risk of cancer.

POTASSIUM LACTATE

Because it inhibits mold and fungus growth, potassium lactate is a commonly used preservative in hot dogs and deli meats. Interestingly, it also inhibits flame growth, which is why it often appears in fire extinguishers. Looks like you don’t have to worry too much about your Ball Park catching fire.