Hot dogging it: National Hot Dog Month

Ketchup, mustard, relish – what do you put on your hot dog? There’s no wrong answer, so long as you’re having one. Or two.

July is National Hot Dog Month, according to the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council. Americans eat approximately 150 million hot dogs on the Fourth of July alone. Some 48 million of those dogs were likely covered in mustard, according to a recent poll by Opinion Dynamics Corporation which found that mustard is the preferred hot dog topping for 32 percent of Americans.

Ketchup came in second with 23 percent; chili took the bronze with 17 percent. The more perplexing question to many people isn’t what goes on a hot dog – it’s what goes in a hot dog.

"I’ve always heard hot dogs are made of ground up horse hooves," said Ellen Johnson of West St. Paul. "I’ve also heard rat guts. Really, when you look at a hot dog, it could be either."

"It’s probably every part of a chicken, all grounded up," said Ben Doane of Mendota Heights. "The legs, the guts, the brains."

From horse hooves to chicken bits, what’s actually in a hot dog varies like a mythical tale. But the uncertainty of what’s in a wiener doesn’t stop most people from eating them.

"Some of my friends will say how bad hot dogs are for you," said St. Paul resident Katie Sullivan, who enjoyed a Dome Dog at a recent Twins game. "But I’m just like, ‘Ah, I’m not going to think about that.’"

"I know this much: I don’t care what’s in ‘em," said Nick McCarthy of Mendota Heights. McCarthy frequents Twins games on Wednesday nights so he can enjoy $1 Dome Dogs on popular "Dollar Dog Night." Three Dome Dogs in one night is his personal record.

Of course, the occasional educated, health-conscious citizen will let knowledge gnaw away at frankfurter consumption.

"I’ve seen how they make [hot dogs], so I don’t really like them," said Beth Reisdorf of St. Paul. A tour of a local meat factory has turned Reisdorf, a dietetics major at St. Ben’s University, away from dogs. "It’s all the little bits of chicken they don’t use for anything else, ground up together in kind of a globby mixture. It looks like grainy pudding."

While major league ballpark hot dogs may be a different story, the Food Safety and Inspection Service actually has federal standards for the contents of a hot dog. It says hot dogs can be made from beef, pork, turkey or chicken.

The byproducts included in a hot dog, be it the rumored animal hooves or the more likely chicken bits, must be individually named with the derived species. That accounts for the mysterious listing of "beef broth" and "turkey broth" in some hot dogs.

Another important regulation is that the finished product of a skinless hot dog, the most common type of hot dog, may not contain more than 30 percent fat.

When you consider that fact, it appears there’s only one logical thing to do: increase your hot dog consumption by 70 percent.

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