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March 29th would have been the birthday of Oscar G. Mayer, the man behind America’s favorite hotdogs. Mayer wasn’t the inventor of the snack food though, some crazy and enterprising German in the 13th Century Europe was. Mayer, the grandson of the original,  died in 2009 at the age of 95. Yesterday, he would have been 97 had he not died from old age.

The original Oscar began the company in 1883 selling sausages, brats and cold cuts out of a butcher shop on Sedgwick Street in Chicago. With the help of his two brothers, Gottfried and Max, Oscar started to turn the shop, which made deliveries on horse-drawn wagons, into the hot dog and cold cut company we know today. The colonization of Mayer’s weiners in the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s was thanks to media campaigns and the associations of our nation’s love affair with baseball.

The hot dog has had its share of critics who argue that it’s one of the most carcinogenic foods on American tables today. Many hot dogs are filled with preservatives and additives like nitrates, sodium and other meat fillers from multiple animal sources including beef, chicken and pork. Contemporary meat filled hot dogs, made by some well known corporations, are way different from the ones made in Germany centuries ago.

Also known as brats or sausages, these were made from a singular animal that roamed outside and fed on natural products like plants and grasses. In short, the animals ate organically and enjoyed nature, before they ended up in the guts of hungry Germans. They were not confined to a predetermined space like today, where animal food stocks live, eat and die within 50 square feet or less.

Additionally, today’s animals are fed to one another, pumped with hormones and are “mechanically separated” (as some hot dog packages read) and in turn we consume all the trauma and chemicals.

After the break, read more about hot dogs.

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Oscar Mayer. He pushed his family’s company to be the best and most trusted hot dog brand in America.

On the next page read what’s really in a hot dog! 

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What’s really in a hot dog: Hot dogs may contain “variety meats” and meat by-products including the heart, liver and kidneys of various animals along with regular meat cut from the bone, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

To be considered hot dogs, frankfurters, wieners or bologna by the USDA, the processed meat product must also “consist of not less than 15% of one or more kinds of raw skeletal muscle meat with raw meat byproducts.”

Every species of meat must be named individually in a hot dog package’s list of ingredients, the USDA says. Hot dog producers often make their products from mechanically separated meat, “a paste-like and batter-like meat product,” the USDA explains.

Above: Beef hot dogs. 

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A hotdog with ketchup and mustard. 

A “cereal filler” (bread crumbs, oatmeal or flour, a little egg white and spices: onion, garlic, salt, pepper, etc.) are in some other recipes. Preservatives like sodium nitrite prevent hot dogs from going rancid, but they also give them that hot dog flavor and color, according to Consumer Reports.

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“Hot Dog: The Movie” was released in 1984. Only people who watched it were harmed. 

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