The Ugly Truth Behind What Hot Dogs Are Really Made Of

Hot dogs are an iconic part of American cuisine, however, an accident involving pink slime may cause you to rethink eating them.

By Crystal Murdock | Published

pink slime

Covered in cheese, doused in ketchup, mustard, piled high with chili, onions, or whatever favorite toppings are piled on top of it… the hot dog is truly a coveted staple on the long list of U.S. national cuisines. Though many people would rather not know what the actual ingredients of the hot dog consist of, an accident last week on I-70 in Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania that left pink slime all over the interstate, called hot dog filler truly makes one wonder what they are really eating.  

According to ABC7NY, the driver of a tractor-trailer traveling at a high rate of speed lost control of his semi-truck and the trailer filled with 15,000 pounds of hot dog filler. According to ABC’s account, when the driver’s brakes failed it left pink slime oozing all over the interstate. The Pennsylvania State Police found the crash along with the pink slime mess after the driver crashed into a bunch of trees on off the side of Interstate I-70. Both the semi-truck driver and the passenger suffered minor injuries which were treated at the scene of the accident by medics. The Police say numerous citations will be filed against the driver for the brakes being completely inoperable which resulted in the total loss of stopping power. There should also be a citation for the shattered mental image of the American summer favorite dish. This is due to the reminder the public received that hot dogs are being injected with pink slime (aka hot dog filler).  

Despite the pink slime incident, each year between Memorial Day and Labor Day, an estimated 818 hot dogs are consumed every second, which equates to a total of 7 billion hot dogs! So how did the American hot dog transition from questionable meat ingredients to pink slime hot dog filler? Some historians believe the first sausage was not actually created until the 1st century with the legend of Gaius, the cook for Emperor Nero, sticking a knife into a roasted pig that was not thoroughly cleaned and the puffed, empty intestines fell out, giving him the idea to stuff the casing with ground meat and spices. Over the centuries the sausage made its way across all of Europe and eventually to Germany, which claims to have created the hot dog wiener. As German immigrants came to the New World in the 1800s, so did their culinary traditions and one of those menu items were believed to be the first hot dogs that were actually originally called ‘dachshund sausages’. 

Jumping ahead to the year 1870, a German immigrant named Charles Feltman is listed in the history books as being the first hot dog stand-owner on Coney Island, selling a whopping 3,600 hot dogs his very first year. By 1893 the hot dog had become an American staple and a fan favorite at baseball games when Harry Steven, a concessionaire at the New York Giants baseball stadium began selling them during sporting events.

As the hot dog made its way across the U.S, it quickly became a widespread part of American culture. Weiners started appearing at backyard barbecues and 4th of July celebrations. It even made its way onto the White House menu in the year 1939. That same year, the King and Queen of England made the first royal trip to the U.S., and Franklin D Roosevelt and the first lady, Eleanor decided to serve the hot dog to the royal family. Having never tried one before, the queen asked “how do you eat this?”

Circling back around to the current date begs a question. Does knowing your American favorite summer dish, the hot dog, may or may not be filled with pink slime filler cause you to wonder whether or not you want to continue eating them? Most have commented on the semi-truck story stating the reality of pink slime hot dog filler has no impact on their love of the American staple, the hot dog.