Chatter Box | Chewing The Fat About How Your Hot Dog is Made

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When we sent you into the Labor Day weekend with a compendium of hot dog horror stories, we expected a reaction. And what a reaction! Of course, there were the jaded eaters who found this to be a dog-bites-man story: a Huffington Post commenter thought that 64 reported instances of allegedly adulterated hot dogs over the course of two years “isn’t really enough to warrant such a panic-inducing headline” about stray Band-Aids. But the comments we’re throwing into the Chatter Box today come from people who’ve had some truly hairy experiences with food production, starting with BaobabDobbs, a Boing Boing commenter.

Illustrative story: My grandpa was a farmer. He grew soy beans and winter wheat which, after harvesting, spent time in big trailers, and great big bins. I spent part of the summer on the farm, and part of that time was spent playing in the wheat and soy beans trailers and bins. Kinda like swimming and playing in the sand at the same time, plus it smelled great. One day, I asked my grandfather how they got all the bugs out of the grain before they ground it up for flour, and he said “Get the bugs out? That’s just extra protein!” I didn’t bother to ask how they got all the dessicated mouse corpses out (they look like big chunky potato chips), but they probably can screen out the big pieces.

Being a party to the process also left an impression on Joris, a commenter at The Local.

I too have worked in the food industry, conserved beans etc. That experience made me buy my beans, lentils etc dry and soak ‘em a day before cooking. Hardly any extra work, and also cheaper. I’m not even going to start about processed meat (or eating at McDonald, worked a few weeks there too, yuk)

Another commenter at the Local, Rick, agreed.

I had a friend who worked at the FDA back in the 80s. The stories I heard from case files he read. Nobody would eat anything processed if they knew about them.

But a Boing Boing commenter, Johnny Rojo, took a more reassuring tone.

I think the more outrageous things found in hot dogs must be deliberate sabotage at the plant by disgruntled workers, or fabrications by people wanting to extort a little spare change (or meat) from the packing plant. In my youth, I worked as a quality controller at a slaughterhouse/packing plant and can tell you that 1. Although hot dogs contain a variety of meat trimmings, the volume produced outstrips the trimmings available, which means some very good cuts of pork and beef go into the dogs. 2. When they opened up the smoke ovens where the hot dogs were cooked, I would often go in (after it cooled a bit, of course) and grab a few samples. At least one sample went directly into my mouth and let me say that no hot dog will ever taste as juicy and delicious as those ones, no matter how you cook them later. 3. I’ve never found anything untoward in a hot dog, although my wife once found a swatch of hide and hair in a corned beef sandwich.

Another one of our commenters, Matt, wasn’t so convinced.

Talk to anyone who has worked in the beyond-boring world of repetitive food packaging, and listen to their stories. Imagine a world of batch deadlines, annoyance at partners, disconsolate beginnings to the day … then think what that person would do when an errant fly enters the mixture. Stop the machine and halt the line? Nahhh!

Have more to add? Click through to our original story, complete with handy chart, to “ketchup” (sorry) on the conversation.