Why vegetarians should think twice about eating a veggie hot dog

In 2015, Guardian contributor Madeleine Somerville wrote her heartfelt "vegetarian's ode to the hot dog." It often reads like a eulogy, not because hot dogs are dead meat but because Somerville mourned the joy they brought to her life. She had quit meat 15 years prior, deeming it the environmentally sustainable thing to do. But absence had made her heart grow fonder... and sadder.

"I miss those delicious little meat tubes so much that it hurts," wrote Somerville. The words she penned cut like a sword, bleeding all the anguished yearning of Jake Gyllenhaal exclaiming, "I wish I knew how to quit you!" in Brokeback Mountain — except with hot dogs. She rails against veggie dogs, practically cursing their existence as she insists, "veggie dogs are some real [BS] and everyone knows it." She has a point, possibly in more ways than she realized at the time. Vegetarian hot dogs might very well be some real bull in the sense that they just might contain real beef.

A frank look at veggie dogs

Proving once again that learning how the hot dog is made always makes you regret eating it, USA Today reported in 2015 that veggie dogs might not be so vegetarian after all. This was based on the findings of the group Clear Food, which looked at 345 hot dogs and sausages across 75 brands and highlighted a lot of red flags. Among them was red meat. Clear Food claimed to have found beef, lamb, chicken, and turkey in supposedly meatless hot dogs. About 10 percent of the vegetarian products they sampled reportedly contained meat.

That revelation would no doubt be especially maddening for anyone who loved delicious, meat-based hot dogs as much as Somerville but still force-fed themselves an inferior-tasting veggie version to avoid eating meat. But even if veggie hot dogs aren't an oral chore for you, that's an issue if you really wanted to avoid meat. Another issue was that 67 percent of non-harmful contaminants detected in the study were found in veggie products. 

It's important to note that the The National Hot Dog and Sausage Council argued Clear Foods' wasn't very clear about how it sampled the food. Plus, that one study doesn't prove that one-tenth of veggie dogs are actually fake fake-meat. So maybe it's best to take the study as food for thought — or second thoughts, as the case may be.