FrankfurterOrganic or regular: big difference! Photo by Sarah Lewis | SXC.



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STEPHANIE ZONIS focuses on good foods and the people who produce them.



September 2006
Updated June 2009

Product Reviews / NutriNibbles

Organic Hot Dogs Vs. Conventional Hot Dogs

Page 1: Hot Dog Facts & History Of The Hot Dog

Click here to read other Organic Matter columns

CAPSULE REPORT: Learn all about hot dogs: their history, how they’re made, the issue with nitrites, the benefits of grass-fed beef, whether kids should eat hot dogs, and the grand finale, a taste test of the best organic hot dogs. This is Page 1 of a six-page article. Click on the black links below to visit other sections.


The United States is a wiener nation. O.K., let me rephrase that: Americans consume a vast number of hot dogs. How many? According to a recent article in The New York Times, almost two billion dollars of hot dogs annually. Nearly 30 million hot dogs will be eaten in one year in ballparks alone! Seven billion are consumed between Memorial Day and Labor Day, 150 million on July 4th. Many of the remainder are eaten year-round by children, hot dog manufacturers’ target consumers.

There has been much discussion regarding whether children should be eating conventional hot dogs at all: They’re high in fat and sodium and contain nitrites, which have been shown to have carcinogenic effects. Hopefully, parents will do some research of their own and make informed decisions about their kids and hot dog consumption. Perhaps that’s why sales of conventional hot dogs have been declining over the past four years, while sales of the organic hot dog, a relative newcomer, have been skyrocketing. Organic hot dogs have seen an increase in sales of more than 50% in the last four years, which is doubly surprising when you consider that organic hot dogs often cost significantly more than those produced conventionally. Why is this happening?

Hot dogs have been a favorite of the masses for a long time. They’re cheap and filling, they’re quick to prepare and convenient to eat as a handheld food. They can be customized with toppings, and most people really like the way they taste. You can tell they’re not a low-fat food as soon as you bite into one, and that’s part of the attraction. Hot dogs can have a succulent juiciness not found in, say, water-packed tuna or a skinless chicken breast.

Plus, they’re readily available; You can find them in shopping mall food courts, Franks On Grillconvenience stores, markets, and on kids’ menus almost anywhere. To a degree, and to the dismay of producers, Americans continue to associate hot dogs with inferior cuts of meat, whether the hot dogs are made from pork, beef, poultry or some combination of the three. Given recent fears rooted in Mad Cow Disease, bioterrorism, hormones and antibiotics fed to conventionally-raised livestock, and concerns with nitrites and the American food supply in general, people are turning to organic meat in record numbers—and that includes hot dogs.

Hot Dog History

The history of the hot dog explains the terms frankfurter and wiener. The hot dog traces its lineage to the 15th-century Viennese sausage, or wienerwurst in German. Johann Georghehner, a butcher from the German city of Coburg, in Bavaria, is credited with inventing the “dachshund” or “little dog” sausage in the 17th century, and brought it to Frankfurt. Yet, it was still a sausage eaten with a knife and fork, no bun.

The hot dog, a slender sausage in a bun, was undeniably an American invention. The attribution is given to a German immigrant named Charles Feltman, who began selling sausages in rolls at a stand in Coney Island in 1871. The 1893 World Exposition in Chicago marked the debut of the hot dog vendor. According to National Hot Dog and Sausage Council, around this time that the hot dog first made its first appearance at a ballpark, at a St. Louis Browns. The first published mention of the term “hot dog” as a food first appeared in print in a September 1893 issue of The Knoxville Journal. However, it was well established prior to then.

Continue To Page 2: How Hot Dogs Are Made

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