Why All Beef Hot Dogs are the Ultimate Protein Source

A hot dog is a good source of protein, which supports muscle metabolism and optimizes post-exercise recovery. However, most grocery store options are high in saturated fat and sodium. The most healthful choices are made from coarse ground, all-beef meat and contain no binders or fillers.

Lean Meat

While all processed meats offer some health risks, limiting them is better than avoiding them altogether. To minimize the risks, opt for all-beef hot dogs. If you can’t go completely meatless, look for uncured ones that contain no added nitrates or nitrites (like those naturally occurring in celery juice) or those made with only turkey or chicken. These may be healthier options, but you should still read labels and check for other ingredients that could cause allergies or sensitivities, such as annatto seed, carmine and tartrazine. Traditionally, all-beef hot dogs are a mix of beef trimmings that can only be sold as steaks or other cuts due to their consistent size and shape. Using these trimmings reduces waste and allows meat producers to create more products from a single animal. According to the USDA, a hot dog or frankfurter must be made with beef or pork (or a combination of the two). Still, it can only contain up to 3.5 percent nonmeat binders, extenders and fillers like pulverized cereal grains or powdered milk.


Most processed meats start on factory farms, where cows, pigs, chickens and turkeys live short lives in crowded, filthy conditions before they’re slaughtered for meat products. Many of these animals end up in hot dogs made by companies, other store brands, and restaurants. Those same factory-farm animals are the source of cheap meat in most hot dogs, including nitrate-free, all-beef varieties. The beef is mechanically separated and combined with other ingredients to make the wieners into actual hot dogs. The result is a mix of meats that includes animal skin, bone, blood vessels, plant material, peripheral nerve, fatty tissue and more—not to mention lots of water and other ingredients such as food starch and corn syrup. Sodium nitrite gives the mixture its distinctive pink color, and binders hold it together. When making the best choices for your health, choose all beef hot dogs free of synthetic preservatives and containing all-beef nitrate-free meats. Also, pay attention to extra toppings and condiments, which can add a lot of sodium, calories and saturated fat.

No Nitrates

The pink slime you’ve heard about in jokes and on television isn’t actually “pink”—it’s lean, finely textured beef, which comes from high-tech food processing that separates fat from meat, then uses FDA-approved ammonium hydroxide to get rid of bacteria. Typically, it’s used as filler in hot dogs and other processed meats. You’ll want to choose uncured hot dogs because nitrates and nitrites are artificial preservatives that can cause heart disease and cancer. Those are some reasons CR experts and health professionals recommend avoiding all processed meats—including cured wieners—and eating only natural ones.

No Fillers

Whether slathering them in sauerkraut or dipping them in high-fiber chili, hot dogs are one of the ultimate A study led by a high school student found that the “meat” in store-bought hot dogs is largely comprised of body parts other than the skeletal muscle, such as bone, collagen, blood vessels, plant material and adipose tissue. When selecting a new pack of wieners, look for the words “no nitrates added” and make sure the ingredients list only contains whole meat—preferably from animals raised on a pasture or in a free-range environment. You can also opt for organic, reducing the amount of chemicals and preservatives in your diet. Look for 100% beef as the first ingredient and water as the second for the healthiest hot dogs. You can also find vegetarian options that use soy protein instead of meat, which typically has lower saturated fat and sodium levels.

If you’re concerned about nitrates, look for a kosher or halal hot dog. The USDA regulates these, and can’t be made with mechanically separated meat. But even if the label says, “no nitrates or nitrate added,” be sure to read the fine print. The USDA requires that all nitrates and nitrates, including those naturally occurring in celery or beet juice, must be listed on the package.

No Artificial Ingredients

The standard hot dog] mixes mashed-up pork and beef trimmings swirled with food starch, flavorings and sodium nitrite to help boost shelf life and color. This meat slurry in a tube is pumped into cellulose casings and cooked before being packaged for pleasure. Many conventional processed meats are high in sodium and saturated fat. They also contain nitrates, which, when combined with protein, can lead to the formation of carcinogenic compounds known as nitrosamines. When it comes to hot dogs, look for all-beef varieties that are nitrate-free or uncured. This will reduce exposure to preservatives linked to cancer and high blood pressure.

Moreover, opt for whole-meat kosher or frankfurters that contain no fillers made from mechanically separated meat. This type of meat can be less expensive but is still nutritious. It provides a good source of potassium (4% DV). This essential nutrient regulates the heartbeat and ensures proper muscle function, as well as iron (4% DV), which promotes healthy red blood cells and produces hormones in the body.

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