National Hot Dog Day: So what’s actually in a hot dog?

Admit it, hot dogs are good.

They’re not necessarily good for you, and they’re not necessarily good in large quantities, but if there were a perfect world in which no one had heart issues and sodium wasn’t so dangerous and the whole moral and ethical dilemma of eating meat wasn’t a thing, we would all be slamming back those delicious salty part logs on the daily.

From the gas station roller grill? Check. Cookouts? Check. Straight out of the cold package? Unsafe, but also your American right.

And if there were ever a day to indulge in some (fully-cooked) hot doggery, it would be today: National Hot Dog Day.

Yes, it’s a made-up day akin to Chick-fil-A’s annual Cow Appreciation Day, but you can still take full advantage of the festive atmosphere by snagging some hot (dog) deals:

Nathan’s Famous Hot Dogs: Buy one dog at full price, get a second one for five cents!

Sonic: Text “DOG” to 876642 to get unlimited $1 hot dogs all day (are they trying to KILL us?)

Wienerschnitzel: Get five chili dogs for $5 all day (seriously, they’re all trying to kill us) app: Score free hot dog buns from Target, Walmart and various other retailers through July 19th

Pilot Flying J: Get a free hot dog when you use the app

7-Eleven: Get a quarter pound hot dog (!!!) for $1 all day.

So, you’ve put aside whatever personal quandaries you have and scored yourself a low-cost or pro bono dog. Obviously now is the best time to think about what, exactly, is in that meat cylinder you’re about to put in your face.

According to the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council, hot dogs are made with “specially selected meat trimmings of beef and/or pork” that are “cut or ground into small pieces and placed in a mixer.” Obviously there can be other kinds of hot dogs, too, like chicken.

“The mixture is continuously weighed to assure a proper balance of all ingredients. The mixture is then pumped into an automatic stuffer/linker machine, where it flows into casings,” they say on their website.

Here’s a fun fact: Most hot dog casings are actually cellulose, which is removed before packaging, sort of like a mold.

Judging from this process, a hot dog could also be described as cured meat pâté. Oh, what are we eating? Definitely not a hot dog, it’s something much fancier.

Now, obviously the subject of hot dog production makes some people uncomfortable because of the whole meat-parts-to-paste thing, but from the NHDSC’s explanation of it, the most upsetting term is actually “variety meats.”

It doesn’t take a degree in rhetoric to guess that “variety meats” means, uh, all that other meat stuff that’s left over when the recognizable parts are gone. We’re talking the heart, intestines — it’s basically a nice word for offal.

However, for those with hot dog anxiety, rest assured: The NHDSC says hot dog manufacturers don’t typically use “variety meats” in their recipes anymore, and if they do, they are clearly marked.

But now you know it will say something like “variety meat” and not “WARNING: YOU ARE ABOUT TO EAT A PIG HEART.”

Anyway, enjoy your hot dog!