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.
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.
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."
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.
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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. There's no way of knowing how much of those antibiotics survive the journey from cow to pink slime, but you likely end up consuming at least a little bit of that growth hormone.