TIME food and drink

Here’s Exactly What’s in Those Hot Dogs You Ate This Weekend

You celebrated America's independence by eating a fleshy tube filled with "lower-grade muscle trimmings," and worse

Happy Independence Day weekend! Did you happen to catch the most important event? No, not fireworks. Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest. Begun in 1972 and held in the same Coney Island, N.Y. location since then, the contest pits approximately 20 competitive eaters against each other, for glory (and processed meats).

The contest itself has garnered around 1 – 1.5 million viewers on ESPN since 2004, and the media furor around the event itself is nothing short of magnificent.

But in all the excitement, it’s easy to forget that the contest itself revolves around the hot dog, that humble, All-American treat. Have you ever wondered how the sausage gets made? (Pun entirely intended.)

If you have, don’t fret! Gizmodo has an impressively comprehensive article on the process behind the processed meat.

The National Hot Dog & Sausage Council (NHDSC) notes that hot dogs, whether regular, turkey, pork or beef, begin with “trimmings.” A purposely-vague word, trimmings come in lots of shapes and sizes.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO): “The raw meat materials used for precooked-cooked products are lower-grade muscle trimmings, fatty tissues, head meat, animal feet, animal skin, blood, liver and other edible slaughter by-products.”

Yum!

Yum indeed! The rest of the steps—pre-cooking, meat emulsifying, batter extrusion, and casing—are similarly…gory. Bon appétit!

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