Hot dogs are gross. Right?
They’re one of those foods you just know you shouldn’t eat.
And for good reason! Hot dogs have a reputation as a processed foodstuff made from questionable meat-parts and iffy ingredients. And yet, we just can’t get enough of ’em. The hot dog remains an American institution despite its reputation for yuck.
But what’s baseball, backyard barbecues, and the county fair without a good old hot dog?? Not much, friend, not much. We love them, we hate them, we eat them.
Well, take heart, because there’s a new dog in town. Yes, no-yuck hot dogs, made with quality ingredients do exist! A better frank is here, and you can eat it without a grimace, gag, or glare from your health-nut friend.
There is one catch though. To find these elusive dogs, you can’t just go grabbing any 8-pack off the grocery store shelf. The key to finding no-yuck franks is identifying what makes hot dogs gross in the first place.
Here are the four hot dogs to avoid when perusing the aisles this summer.
1) Avoid Cured Hot Dogs
What to avoid: Hot dogs that say ‘Cured’ on the label.
What to look for in a no-yuck hot dog: ‘Uncured’ on the label.
Uncured is the word… ‘Cured’ is definitely not. On the label that is.
Curing is the act of food preservation through the addition of chemicals. In fact, by law, a synthetic preservative must be used for a food to bare the term ‘cured’ on the label. Specifically, synthetic sodium nitrite or nitrate used as the curing agent. Yep, them’s the rules.
So what’s the issue with these chemical preservatives? Well, sodium nitrite is that little gem of a chemical that the World Health Organization basically proclaimed a cancer causer. When the WHO reported that processed meat may be linked to colorectal cancer, they were referring to the ingredients used to make processed meats, i.e. preservatives such as sodium nitrite.
Sodium nitrite isn’t evil in and of itself – in fact, it’s naturally occurring in many fruits and vegetables. But when synthetically manufactured and used to cure meat on a mass scale, it can form a harmful compound called nitrosamine that’s been linked to an increased risk of cancer.
The lesson here… look for franks that are labeled as ‘uncured’. The ‘Uncured’ moniker means no synthetic preservatives were used.
Rather, natural ingredients are used as the ‘cure’, most often celery. Celery? Yep! Celery is composed of lots of great things, one of which is naturally occurring sodium nitrite that can be used to make no-yuck hot dogs. But because a natural ingredient was used as the ‘curing’ agent, not a synthetic preservative, by law the label must read ‘Uncured’.
Remember uncured is the word, cured is not.
2) Avoid Hot Dogs with Weird Ingredients
What to avoid: Hot dogs with a long list of weird, hard-to-pronounce ingredients.
What to look for in a no-yuck hot dog: A simple list of ingredients.
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: The biggest testament to food quality is the ingredients list. An easy rule is to look for foods with simple ingredients that you might have stocked in your kitchen pantry. The same applies to hot dogs.
A package of the most popular hot dog brand in America (rhymes with Pall Bark), lists the following ingredients: “pork, mechanically separated turkey, mechanically separated chicken, water, corn syrup, contains 2% or less: salt, potassium lactate, sodium phosphate, flavors, beef stock, sodium diacetate, sodium erythorbate, maltodextrin, sodium nitrite, and paprika extractives.”
When’s the last time you reached into your pantry for a dash of sodium diacetate? How about a pinch of maltodextrin?
These aren’t just weird ingredients, they’re weird and chemically. These chemicals make your hot dog cheaper to buy, but your health may be the trade-off.
Just say no to hot dogs with weird ingredients. Now you can have your hot dog and eat it too.
3) Avoid Mechanically Separated Hot Dogs
What to avoid: Hot dogs that list mechanically separated meat in the ingredients.
What to look for in a no-yuck hot dog: Meat, plain and simple.
Mechanically separated meat is that pink slime you’ve heard so much about.
It’s meat that’s been separated from the bone, then mixed-up and emulsified with water in a big vat. The result? A puree o’ meat that’s used to make many of your favorite brand-name hot dogs.
This process does make your hot-dog cheaper to buy, but goodness it’s gross!
Here’s the good news: The term ‘mechanically separated’ must be used when mechanically separated chicken, turkey, and pork are used. That makes it easy to identify and avoid.
One more watchout on labeling – a label reading as 100% meat does not necessarily mean it’s not mechanically separated meat. “100% Turkey” just means that only turkey was used to make the hot dog, but that turkey could be the mechanically separated stuff.
The ingredients will reveal all, so give it a gander to avoid this hot dog no-no.
4) Avoid Factory Farmed Hot Dogs
What to avoid: Hot dogs that don’t list no-antibiotics or hormones, 100% grass fed, pasture raised, or free range on the label.
What to look for in a no-yuck hot dog: No antibiotics or hormones, and100% grass fed beef, pasture raised pork, or free range poultry on the label.
Factory farms are the epitamy of yuck. They pump out cheap food that’s bad for your health, bad for the animals, and bad for the environment. And with 94% of meat in the US coming from factory farms, that puts almost every package of hot dogs on the shelves in the yuck category.
To avoid a factory-dog, look for the ones with no antibiotics or hormones on the label, and 100% grass fed beef, free range poultry, or pasture raised pork. If you see all of these things on the label, it’s a good indication of no factory farm, and no yuck.
Even better, find a local farmer that you can actually reach out to and who’s willing to answer your questions. Ask them how they raise their animals, what they’re fed, if they’re ever confined, and if they use antibiotics or hormones. Then, ask them how they make their hot dogs.
Having a relationship with the people that make your food will save you a lot of guess-work, give you new confidence in your eating choices, and ensure you always have the healthiest, best tasting foods.
This is the essence of no-yuck meat altogether, and makes a world of difference in flavor, nutrition, and a whole slew of environmental and economic factors.
With the average American eating 50 hot dogs per year,
these tasty treats will surely be a summer staple for generations to come.
Just remember that there’s a better dog out there. If you know what to look for, you’ll be wearing a yellow mustard stain of pride around all summer long!
And when planning your backyard grill-out this summer, go for the no-yuck hot dogs that are made with real meat, aren’t cured with synthetic chemicals, and that come from responsible farmers you trust.
Your guests will notice, and you’ll forever be known as the Hot Dog Hero. Really.
Buy No Yuck Hot Dogs
If you’re in search of a guaranteed no-yuck frank, we got ya covered!
Farmer Girl Beef & Pork Franks are made from whole cuts of premium meat with no antibiotics or hormones. When you eat a Farmer Girl frank, you’re eating steaks, roasts, and ribs from 100% grass fed and pasture raised meats and no synthetic preservatives, chemical additives, antibiotics, or hormones.