Hot dogs are one of the greatest American foods. They're perfect in their simplicity: savory sausages in buns. But what's in a hot dog? Those seemingly basic sausages aren't just blank canvases awaiting hot dog toppings. Hot dogs are made through a process known as "meat emulsion," during which a mixture of protein, fat, and water is blended into a kind of meat batter and piped into a casing. Unfortunately, some gross hot dog ingredients go into that mixture. Even the best hot dog brands have some surprising additions to their recipes.
It’s safe to say that there are some unexpected things in hot dogs. Sure, all the ingredients in sausages are edible. But all of them, from the smallest cocktail wieners to the world's biggest hot dogs, contain some disgusting stuff. This list might just change your summer barbecue plans.
Also known as "mechanically separated chicken," chicken trimmings are described by the USDA 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."
To be clear, hot dogs do not contain human flesh. But research performed by Clear Labs found that 2% of all hot dogs contained human DNA. More troubling still, two-thirds of the wieners that were found to have human DNA were marketed as vegetarian hot dogs. Apparently the hot dog industry isn't immune to irony.
Natural Sheep Casing
Natural sheep casing is one hot dog ingredient that is very straightforward, for better or worse. Natural sheep casing is made from the cleaned intestines of lambs, and it's the balloon-like structure that holds in the delicious mystery that is a hot dog.
Is it gross that you're eating a meat tube wrapped in intestines? Scots have been enjoying a version of this for hundreds of years, so it's really just a matter of what you can mentally and physically digest.
This ingredient is unsettling, to say the least. Under current U.S. Food and Drug Administration guidelines, many combinations of flavoring agents can simply be listed as "flavor" rather than being spelled out individually.
According to the Code of Federal Regulations, "If the flavor consists of two or more ingredients, the label either may declare each ingredient by its common or usual name or may state 'All flavor ingredients contained in this product are approved for use in a regulation of the Food and Drug Administration.'"