We’re just going to come right out and say it: when a hot dog is advertised as being made with a natural casing, that means animal intestines.
It shouldn’t be news to anyone that hot dogs are encased in animal intestines, but it’s rare that you’ll actually see the word “intestine” on a nutrition label. Sometimes they’re made with sheep’s intestines and sometimes it’s lamb, but it’s always intestines. (Unless, of course, those dogs are skinless, which is also a common choice on the market. More on these later.)
Don’t want to believe it? We reached out to Boyd Adelman, president of Sabrett, who told HuffPost, “Natural casings, depending on product, are cleaned intestines of sheep or lamb.” If you take a look at the ingredients you’ll also see confirmation of this statement.
Sure, it doesn’t read sheep intestine, but that’s because the term casing is the term used in food manufacturing. You should note, this is not just the case for hot dogs either ― other sausages also use intestines for casings.
Here’s the thing you need to know: it’s not dangerous or unsanitary.
Sure, we might not like the idea of eating intestines ― people these days, in the Western world, are generally turned off by offal ― but if you are a believer in fighting food waste and you support using the whole animal, this practice just makes sense. Plus, the intestines are thoroughly cleaned before being used as casings. There is no need to worry about any contamination with fecal matter.
But the best part about using the intestines is that it means the casing is edible, which means the hot dog gets a “skin.” And the skin (or casing) provides the snap that so many people love when biting into a hot dog. Plus, it holds in the juices.
So what’s the deal with skinless hot dogs?
Skinless hot dogs are generally less expensive than natural casing dogs and they’re a good option for people who are kosher.
“Skinless hot dogs are made with cellulose casings,” Adelman told HuffPost. Cellulose is an inedible plant fiber that imparts no flavor and is only used to create the shape.
“Skinless hotdogs use the same meat as natural casing, stuff it into cellulose casing and smoke it in those casings. After it comes out of the oven the casing is peeled off and the hot dog retains its shape,” Adelman explained.
So which do you prefer ― natural casings or skinless?