All The Ingredients Present In The Average Hot Dog, Ranked By 'Oh No!' Factor

Voting Rules
Vote up the most shocking, disgusting things lurking in a hot dog.

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 can 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.

Photo: girlwparasol / flickr / CC-BY-NC 2.0

  • 1
    652 VOTES

    Variety Meats

    Variety meats include ground-up livers, kidneys, and hearts of various animals, and you can find them in any hot dog with "byproducts" or "variety meats" listed in its ingredients.

    The next time you see "variety meats" advertised on the side of a pack of hot dogs, maybe reach for something else.

    652 votes
  • 2
    561 VOTES


    Antibiotics are more of a backdoor ingredient that ends up in your hot dog via the meat used to create it. On factory farms, antibiotics are fed to livestock to promote rapid growth and prevent illness. There's no way for you to know how much of those antibiotics survive the journey from cow to pink slime, but you likely end up consuming at least a little bit.

    This is also an issue because it contributes to the spread of antibiotic-resistance diseases.

    561 votes
  • 3
    699 VOTES

    Chicken Trimmings

    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."

    The resulting mixture is sometimes added to hot dog recipes.

    699 votes
  • 4
    579 VOTES

    Beef is a totally normal thing to put in a hot dog, but it undergoes a weird process first. Rather than simply being ground down, beef is mixed in with chicken trimmings and turned into the pink slime that haunts your dreams.

    The grossest part of beef being included in trimmings is that consumers have no way of knowing how much beef slime is in their hot dogs. The USDA doesn't require meat companies to label whether beef includes trimmings.

  • 5
    564 VOTES

    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 as Haggis for hundreds of years, so it's really just a matter of what you can mentally and physically digest.

    564 votes
  • 6
    422 VOTES


    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.'"

    422 votes