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Phooey on fat: Americans love a good hot dog


June 19, 1999
Web posted at: 6:37 a.m. EDT (1037 GMT)

From Financial News Correspondent Susan Lisovicz

CHICAGO (CNN) -- If you're looking to minimize your grams-from-fat intake, you probably won't be biting into a well-dressed hot dog anytime soon. But a lot of people will. Between Memorial Day and Labor Day , Americans will consume 7 billion weiners, frankfurters and cased sausage products.

Chicago is a city that loves a good dog. With a rich history as a commercial crossroads for agriculture and livestock, the city developed an enduring appetite for beef, especially hot dogs.

The hometown favorite is the Vienna Beef hot dog, topped with onions, relish, tomatoes, a pickle slice, hot peppers and celery salt.

"Banquet on a bun. This is a complete and utter meal," says Gold Coast Dogs shop owner Jim Rittenberg.

The Vienna Sausage Manufacturing Co., maker of Vienna Beef products, is co-owned by Jim Eisenberg and Jim Bodman. They don't spare the praise for their product.

"It's an amalgamation of sweet and sour, hot and cold, and it's the whole thing put together that makes you so hungry. My mouth starts to water when I talk about it. It's very special," says Eisenberg. "We make the most wonderful hot dogs in the world, and lots of other really good-tasting products."

Vienna Sausage Manufacturing Co. does $100 million a year in sales: 40 percent from hot dogs, 40 percent from cold cuts like pastrami and corned beef, and about 20 percent from pickles, soups and buns.

With very little presence in the grocery stores, the company's bread and butter is small hot dog stands like Gold Coast Dogs on State Street in Chicago.

"Vienna pops when you bite it. It's great. You only need to put everything on it. Steam the bun, that's the secret," says Rittenberg.

Eisenberg says two primary raw ingredients are used to make the Vienna dog. "Bull meat, which is the binder that holds together the hot dog -- it's the thing that makes it snap when you bite into it.... And the flavor comes from the trimmings."

Those trimmings are the fat that's sliced off corned beef and pastrami. They're ground up and mixed with the bull meat.

Hot dogs have about a 22 percent fat content, and Polish sausages have even more.

According to the American Meat Institute, that won't stop Americans from buying 20 billion hot dogs this year.

"People don't consume as much sausage today as they did 35 years ago, there is no question about that," Bodman says. "But they still eat it with great regularity, because it does taste good, and it is healthy. But when they eat it, they want something that's really good; they want to know the quality is absolutely the top."

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Vienna Beef
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