Mystery solved! Find out: What’s in a hot dog anyway?

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posted on

May 18, 2022

Hot dogs are a classic all American food, but they have their lovers and their haters

Even the biggest hot dog fans have wondered, what are they made of anyway? We have also all heard the urban legend that they are made of “mystery meat!”

But even if they are made of odd cuts, I don’t think that is what would make conventional hot dogs unhealthy.

Long gone are the days when hot dogs were made with the legendary mystery meats. Today's hot dogs are required to be made from real meat, and they can’t contain more than 3.5 percent of non meat binders or fillers. (1)

That certainly is not to say the meat in conventionally made hot dogs is the best for your health. When it comes to the quality of hot dog meat, not all meat is created equal.

Popular store bought hot dog brands often include a processed meat product called “mechanically separated meat.” The USDA defines this as “a paste-like and batter-like meat product produced by forcing bones, with attached edible meat, under high pressure through a sieve or similar device to separate the bone from the edible meat tissue.” (1)

Honestly, I wonder how much nutrition is lost after that amount of processing, and is it even safe to consume?

The USDA says that mechanically separated meat is safe to eat, but only for pork and chicken. It is not considered safe for beef due to “the risk of mad cow disease.” And interestingly enough, the European Food Safety Authority considers this method of processing meat to potentially increase the risk of harmful microbial growth.

Ok, so we know hot dogs are processed meat, but conventional store bought hot dogs often contain nitrates as well.

Sodium nitrite and sodium nitrate are preservatives used primarily in processed meat products. They play several roles:

  1. They preserve the meat's pinkish color. Without nitrates the meat would look more brownish/gray or like well, cooked meat!
  2. They add that characteristic “hot dog” flavor 
  3. They prevent foodborne illness.

But they are not very good for our health at all. The main concern with nitrates is that when cooked or broken down in the stomach nitrites form “N-Nitroso Compounds”, which can cause cancer. 

*Note: Beware of hotdogs marketed as nitrite free, as many of them instead contain celery powder and it is naturally high in nitrite and has the same negative health effects.

Ok enough of the hot dog doom and gloom, how about some good news?

Do you love hot dogs but don’t want to have to risk your health to enjoy one?

Wolf Oak Farm has got you covered! Let me run you through the facts real quick:

  • Our hot dogs are made with 100% grass-fed and finished beef.
  • We only use fresh beef trim for our hot dogs, including some sinew and a combination of lean and well-marbled cuts.
  • Simple, real, organic, and non-GMO ingredients 
  • Clean pure Pennsylvania well water
  • Truly Nitrite/Nitrate free
  • Antibiotic and drug free
  • Free from dextrose, sodium erythorbate, nitrites, phosphates, corn syrup solids  - take a look at a pack of regular dogs and compare!

Because our hot dogs contain absolutely no nitrites or nitrates, they are a natural color, not the artificial pink color of store bought hot dogs.

But who cares about the color, it's all about the flavor right? And I can guarantee you will love the tates of Wolf Oak Farms hot dogs. Even better, you will feel good about feeding them to yourself and your family!

Stock up while hot dogs are on sale this month and have fun grilling with friends and family.



  1. Consumer Reports

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