What You Need To Know About Hot Dogs

November 16, 2010   29 Comments

The post Guess What's in The Picture got a lot of attention. And, it forced me to take a good long look at hot dogs.

Applegate Hot Dogs

True confession - I love hot dogs. I'm not gonna lie to you guys. And the thought that they were made with this gunk upset me.

So, what is a Snack Girl to do?

Well, I spent some serious time in the hot dog section of the supermarket reviewing the labels. The good news was that very few hot dog labels including the ingredient "mechanically separated chicken".


Secondly, there were some brands that I hadn't seen before. My favorite brand of hot dogs is Nathan's. For college, I lived in Brooklyn, NY and I have visited the original Nathan's. Let's just say it is a sentimental favorite.

Applegate Farms sent me some coupons to try their hot dogs, so I gave them a chance. They are organic, have no nitrates, are antibiotic free and about twice the cost of the Nathan's franks. (I bought my Nathan's franks for $2.50 and the Applegate Farms cost $5).

What should you look for in a "healthy" hot dog?

Here is the Nathan's label:


Here is the Applegate Farms label:


What made me think that I should consider spending more on hot dogs is the fat content. Check that out 15 grams of fat in Nathan's versus 6 grams in Applegate Farms hot dogs.

The Applegate Farms hot dog has 90 calories versus Nathan's 170 calories!!


The Nathan's frank is BIGGER (57 grams versus 48 grams). If the Applegate Farms frank was 57 grams it would still be 106 calories - still 64 calories less than Nathan's.

Why? Both companies are using beef to make their hot dogs - but Applegate Farms (and other organic meat producers) are using grass fed beef. Grass fed beef has less fat per pound than grain fed beef.

Of course, Nathan's is using grain fed beef because that it the majority of beef that is on the market. "Grass fed" is more expensive and harder to find.

Applegate Farms uses only muscle meat in their hot dogs - which would be naturally less in fat versus other parts of the cow than Nathan's uses.

But what about the taste?

Honestly, I couldn't tell the difference. They are both salty and meaty and go great with mustard.

I still wouldn't advise eating a lot of hot dogs (because of the sodium content), but it is nice to know there is a delicious snack-sized option. Ninety calories is a great size for a snack.

This product was received for review consideration. No other compensation was provided.

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Thanks for the note about Applegate farms. If I see them i will have to give them a try. Have you seen the Little Hillshire Farms ones though? Whate are the stat on a cocktail weinie sized hot dog versus a grass fed-beef dog? thanks for all the helpful info!

Mrs Leslie Haon

@Leslie I haven't seen the Little Hillshire Farms ones - I will check them out next time I am in the supermarket. Thanks!

Also definitely worth mentioning that non-grass-fed beef comes from cows that have spent their lives in filthy, miserable conditions. If the animal abuse isn't enough to stop you, consider the ecoli levels in factory farms and your health!!

Interesting as usual! Any info on what affect the casing material has on fat content?

I love hot dogs. I usually buy Oscar Meyer light which are only 90 calories or Ball Park Lite. I guess I should take the time to read the nutrional label. I do not have them very often but just once in a while you gotta have a grilled dog.

i love hotdogs! it reminds me of football season and fave!


I will def try applegate. My husband loves hotdog and I get so worried with the nitrate content and the high sodium content. I often buy them at local butcher that has nitrate free hotdogs but it is good to know there is a healthier option at the grocery store. I cannot eat red meat(not b/c of choice) but love the smell mostly at a baseball game!

Wow $5 for a pack of hot dogs I think the price would be a good incentive for portion control for me. We usually buy the turkey or chicken franks... I guess those are horrible and made from that goop you had a picture of a while back:-( I guess really we have been eating more sausages lately, well over the summer like polska kielbasa and hot links... I'm sure the same rules apply.

Thanks for this post! Will be checking for the dogs next time I go to the store! You may want to look into Hebrew National as well. I LOVE hot dogs, but only the beef ones. Finding a low cal version was very frustrating but then I ran into 97% Fat Free from Hebrew National. They are only 1 point for WW!!! And they actually taste good! I will have to read the label again, but I know it doesn't have mechanically separated chicken.

Thanks again, Snack Girl!


Hey Deb - Please know that all of our hot dogs aren’t in a casing (expect for our Big Apple Hot Dog which is in a lamb casing). We cook them in a cellulose casing to keep shape, but then remove it before it is packaged. The outside of our Applegate hot dogs that people say “feel like they are biting into a casing” is actually just the proteins that were raised to surface during the cooking process. So in short (or long!), the hot dog Lisa is talking about doesn’t have one, so it won’t affect the nutritional content at all! Hope this helps!

I just made pigs in a blanket with some Applegate dogs the other night! I love hot dogs, but gave them up for years because of all the really gross stuff that goes into them and because of the way the animals were raised. As far as the cost goes, you get what you pay for.

I've been eating Applegate dogs for a while now. They're so yummy and not ladened with grease! Another bonus about Applegate is that if you have any questions about their products, you can leave a message for them, and they actually call back to fully answer ALL your questions! So far, I'm a believer in this product and I'm excited to see your post about them today. BTW, I believe I saw two different sized dogs at Whole Foods last week (a 57 and 48).

I'm so glad that there's a focus on using grass-fed beef! I've found a local farmer who I'm going to start buying meat from and they make nitrate-free hot dogs and bacon - I'm excited to try them out.

Quality is worth the price.

Hey Renee at - nice to hear from a fellow Renee! You're right BTW. Our Applegate Great Organic Hot Dog & Applegate OG Stadium Hot Dogs are 16oz packages, and all of our other dogs are 12oz. We actually hired another person on our customer service team, so hopefully we can just pick up the phone versus leaving us a message - either case, we're happy to speak to anyone that has questions or comments! 866-587-5858 or

I love applegate farms bacon! I have also had the hot dogs and they were pretty good. The previous poster is correct, you get what you pay for. My family goes without meat if we can't find hormone free, grass fed. The idea of eating anything else really, truly makes me want to hurl.

I LOVE Applegate chicken and apple sausages!

Hot dogs are such a great occasional treat - but the thought of what's inside makes me gag. So this post is right on time as my 2 year old is starting to show interests in hotdogs, I will certainly give these a try!

I've been eating Applegate Farms for years. They only use the best ingredients and everything tastes great. I rarely eat hot dogs but I keep AF in the freezer for whenever the urge strikes me.

i believe that trader joe's sells applegate hot dogs and probably other of their products, too. prices are probably better than at other places. do cut them up lengthwise and carefully for little people!

Interesting, I only eat hotdogs once in a blue moon because whenever I eat them I get what I call "hotdog poisoning" where I get bad headaches and stomach pain. I think it has something to do with the nitrates in them. I will have to give these a try since they are nitrate free.

Someone mentioned Hebrew National 97% fat Free hotdogs earlier--I love these things. I'm a hot dog fanatic but at the usual high calorie count, I had to give them up. But at 40 calories per dog, I can still enjoy them occasionally. My favorite hotdogs of all time are Vienna Beef, but they don't have them where I live now. The Hebrew National are the closest thing.

I always buy Hebrew National 97% fat free because their 1gr fat and 40 calories. I also like them because their Kosher hot dogs so I trust the meat that is used in them.

As far as taste goes, some people think a hotdog is a hotdog - however - my wife and I simply wouldn't consider eating anything but Applegate brand dogs. We try to aim for organic / grass fed for everything....regardless of flavor, psychologically we are happier. We are season ticket holders for the chicago cubs and ever since finding applegate dogs, we find ourselves unable to enjoy a good old ballpark dog...we have to eat one before we leave or when we get home. If nothing else, Applegate is actually saving us money ( no more buying $4.75 hotdogs ). Thank you applegate for cranking out great dogs, lunch meat and bacon.

i live in phoenix where can i buy applegate hot dogs

I'd like to add that you should review their labels carefully because there are similar sounding products with different ingredients. The ones I bought were the Super Natural Beef (not grass-fed). They most definitely did not taste like or as good as Nathan's. These lack the garlic flavor that I appreciate in my favorite beef hot dogs, in fact I don't think I would have identified these as beef hot dogs in a blind taste test. I do like a more natural ingredient list in theory but I wouldn't recommend these.

I'm also concerned about the traditional advice of monitoring fat and saturated fat content in our food. While hot dogs are not the healthiest food choice, there is a growing body of evidence absconding saturated fat from being a significant contributor to heart disease and even obesity. It is not uncommon for those sticking to a low carbohydrate diet and having a very high saturated fat intake to lose weight, lower blood pressure, and have improved triglyceride and cholesterol profiles. I lost 75 pounds in 9 months and have kept it off for 9 years, while eating (full fat) hot dogs pretty regularly but usually abstaining from the bun.

Lastly, I fear that kids are those who will be most harmed by a high carbohydrate, lower fat diet. My advice is to be very stingy with their "sugar allowance" and don't fear butter, coconut oil, bacon, and other fatty meats.

Thanks for the info on hotdogs...I will try the Applegate farm hotdogs next...I always buy National Hebrew hotdogs, as they don't have all that added gunk that Ball Park franks and most all other hotdogs have in them !!No additives in their hot dogs....

The beef and pork Applegate Farms hot dogs are made with grain fed animals, not grass fed unfortunatly. Says so right on the package. We have been eating them for a few years and I just noticed this and am very dissapointed.

I buy HEBREW NATIONAL, the regular ones, my daughter buys the ones 97% FAT FREE and she like those.....they are a Jewish hot dog, they have no fillers in them, and to me they are a better hot dog.....haven't tried the ones you mentioned tho, if I should get a coupon, I would try them :)

went to shoprite and stop and shop today to buy apple gate hotdogs. Neither store had your brand hotdogs? I live in toms river nj.

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