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Posted 06.28.06


Curious About What's Inside the Bun? MU Specialist Offers Answers

MU Meat Specialist Answers the Age-Old Question about What's Really in a Hot Dog

COLUMBIA, Mo. -- More than 150 million Americans will fire up the grill on the Fourth of July to cook hot dogs. But, do they really know what they are putting between the buns? A University of Missouri-Columbia meat specialist has the answer to that age-old question.

"It may surprise people to know that some of the ingredients that could be chosen for use in a hot dog or frankfurter can include what is called 'variety meats,'" said Andrew Clarke, associate professor of food science in the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources. "Variety meats are a long list of ingredients that can include the heart, tripe (parts of the stomach), lips or the tongue. Basically, a lot of the organ meats can be incorporated."

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According to Clarke, other non-meat ingredients can be included to help hold it all together. Soy or dairy products could be added to the ground beef, pork or chicken. Processing plants also can use mechanical separation to loosen the remaining meat and other soft tissue from the bone after the main cuts have been removed. The United States Department of Agriculture doesn¿t allow mechanically separated beef in human foods. However, hot dogs can have up to 20 percent of mechanically separated pork and any amount of mechanically separated chicken or turkey.

"All the ingredients go through many steps. Processors have to grind it, chop it, emulsify it, stuff it into a casing and then cook it. Then, of course, the casing is peeled off for the consumer," Clarke said.

While it doesn't really sound appetizing, it doesn't seem to bother the millions of Americans who have their mustard and relish ready for National Hot Dog Month in July. Nearly all American families will celebrate by downing millions of franks. According to the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council, Americans will consume more than 2 billion hot dogs in July.

"We don't need to know how to build a car in order to drive one," Clarke said. "Likewise, we don't need to know what is in hog dogs in order to eat and enjoy them!"



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