Sausages are undergoing a
renaissance with American consumers, as new flavors are being added with
new strains to make it more of a health-safe fast food variety.
However, along side many good tasting old standards go on enjoying an
unblemished record of steady category growth. Thanks to the combination
of taste, food value and convenience to prepare. In fact sausages are
filled with such a mouth-watering array of herbs and spices, there's no
need for lots of extra ingredients to create a tasty dish. And this has
made sausages a favorite pick for home-made meals and event-time savory
It's not unusual to see as much as five tons of sausage being consumed
in one day at a special event -- to say nothing of the 20 gallons of
mustard, 930 pounds of onions, 125 gallons of pickles, 40 gallons of
ketchup and more than 3,000 hard rolls. Whether it is called a festival,
fest, or fair, special events like these take place in cities and towns
all across the nation every year.
But what is there so much 'hot' about the hot dogs?
For centuries together, hot dogs and sausages have suffered from a
fair share of misperceptions about their content and manufacture. But
today's traditional hot dogs and sausages are growing leaner. The fact
is the U.S. Department of Agriculture requires by law that meats used in
hot dogs and sausages must be muscle meat, just like the fresh ground
meat sold in supermarkets. The vast majority of hot dogs and sausages
consist of the same high quality meats that shoppers buy straight out of
their grocer's meat case.
Even for the health freaks hot dogs and sausages can be a positive
component of a healthy diet. As meat products, hot dogs and sausages are
good sources of vitamins, minerals and protein. In fact, NASA has
approved hot dogs as a regular item on Apollo moon flights, Skylab
missions and space shuttle flights.
Protein, vitamins and minerals...
All hot dogs and sausages are cured and cooked sausages that consist
mostly of pork and/or beef, although many new varieties are made from
either chicken or turkey. Other ingredients include water, salt, sugar
(sucrose), spices and curing agents.
Hot Dogs, like all meat and poultry products, are nutrient-rich sources
of protein, vitamins and minerals. Among minerals hot dogs are regarded
as a good source of iron and zinc. Vitamins include niacin, riboflavin
and of course B vitamins. Pork, used in both hot dogs and sausages, is a
good source of thiamin. The average regular 1.6 ounce hot dog contains
five to seven grams of protein. Also it is about 150 calories, and
contains about 13 grams of fat and 450 milligrams of sodium. Hot dogs
may contain up to 3.5 percent non-meat ingredients, such as non-fat
milk, cereal or dried whole milk, or 2 percent isolated soy protein.
Above all else, hot dogs and sausage should be viewed as part of an
overall diet. They can be enjoyed as part of a well-balanced diet that
includes a variety of foods.
Those who are concerned about their weight will find a wide variety of
great tasting no-fat, low-fat hot dogs - some with zero fat and as few
as 35 calories. For example, Weight Watchers includes hot dogs in
its diet regimen, as do other popular and medically-approved diets.
The safety seal
Hot dogs are among the safest meat products consumers can buy. Consumer
surveys indicate that shoppers perceive "spoilage," including
bacterial pathogens, as the greatest threat to food safety. One of the
major advantages of hot dogs and some sausages is that, as pre-cooked
and cured foods, they are far less susceptible to spoilage and other
contamination than other meat products.
However, all the ingredients which add to the nutritive value, must be
clearly labeled. When variety meats, such as livers and hearts are used
in processed meat products, the manufacturer must declare on the front
of the package and the ingredients statement, "with variety
meats" or "with meat by-products."
Hot dog consumption is fairly uniform throughout various income levels.
Larger families with five or more members tend to eat larger numbers of
hot dogs as do younger families where heads of households are under 35.
And Southerners eat the largest share of hot dogs, followed by those in
the North Central region, Northeast and West.
The hot dog economics
The steady popularity of hot dog as one of the most favorite fast food
must mean a steady demand for it across the nation. The question is
whether the supply is adequate to cater to the huge demand. A 1997
report from NPD Group revealed that the average household purchased 7.65
pounds of hot dogs annually, valued at $12.55. Retail sales data also
reflects strong demand for hot dogs during the summer months. Hot dog
retail sales from May to August represent more than 44 percent of the
annual total, with July, National Hot Dog Month, leading the pack.
Consumers were estimated to take 7 billion hot dogs between Memorial Day
and Labor Day, 1999.
Until 1987, the U.S. Department of Agriculture tracked the amount of
processed meat products that were processed under federal inspection.
After 1987, the Department discontinued its reporting of these numbers.
However, in 1987, the last year for which numbers are available, USDA
reported the production of 1.5 billion pounds of meat franks and
wieners. The National Hot Dog and Sausage Council estimates that today
total hot dog production is approximately two billion pounds with
roughly 64 percent comprised of pork/meat combination hot dogs, 24
percent all beef hot dogs and 12 percent poultry hot dogs. This
translates to approximately 60 hot dogs per person per year.
According to a 1999 National Hot Dog and Sausage Council survey of major
league ballparks, for every ten tickets that are sold, approximately
four hot dogs are eaten. This will result in more than 26 million hot
dogs consumed in major league ball parks this year.