During a typical baseball season, more than 20 million hot dogs are consumed at ballparks alone, according to Eric Mittenthal, vice president of sustainability at the North American Meat Institute and president of the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council, who spoke recently with AgriTalk’s Chip Flory.
Even more staggering? More than 20 billion—yes, billion—hot dogs and similar items like brats, are consumed per year. That works out to about 70 hot dogs per person annually.
And while the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the supply chain – and largely shuttered baseball season – sales of the product are up in retail outlets with consumers choosing to grill them at home, Mittenthal says.
“In the early stages of the pandemic, hot dog sales were more than double what they were a year ago. It's an easy and delicious food. You're under pressure to feed your family, and it's a food that makes your family happy that you know is going to be a winner,” he says. “Hot dogs were very, very popular and relied upon and we've been highlighting the different ways you can enjoy hot dogs. It can be on the grill, but there's a lot of different ways to enjoy hot dogs and sausages. They're very versatile foods, and we've been celebrating that throughout the last several months.”
The National Hot Dog and Sausage Council, which is funded by hot dog and sausage manufacturers that are members of the North American Meat Institute, and acts as a checkoff and promotion vehicle for the products.
One thing they’re highlighting for consumers at their www.hot-dog.org site is how hot dogs are made, to dispel some of the misinformation that surrounds the ingredients used to create the product.
“Our goal is to be as transparent as possible, and here's exactly how it's done. We have an ingredient guide that shows all the ingredients that you might find in a hot dog, what they are and why they're used. We want people to have that information, so that they feel confident about the hot dogs they are eating,” Mittenthal says.
Explaining what goes into a hot dog or sausage also helps bring sustainability messaging to consumers, because it shares how trimmings are used and that the whole carcass is utilized in the production process—not just left after chops, steaks or other items have been butchered.
“So many consumers don't realize the steaks and roasts are coming from the animals, but there’s a lot of other meat that also comes as well. And so that meat goes into ground beef or other ground products and hot dogs and sausages are another one of those ground products. It adds a lot of value to the animal, and we're really proud of that. It's a very sustainable food,” he says.
Other promotions for the month include partnerships with chefs and TikTok influencers, and Weiner Wednesday celebrations. For more information, visit www.hot-dog.org.