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Today’s Lesson: Always Read Nutrition Facts

Sometimes, even a healthy food isn’t so healthy.

Take, for example, the package of bison hot dogs I received recently for review. Bison, I know, is an incredibly healthy meat, especially when compared to beef: it’s lower in calories, fat, and cholesterol. So surely hot dogs made from bison would be similarly impressive, right?*

Eh, not so much.

As a Lifetime Member of Weight Watchers, I read Nutrition Facts Statements habitually—I don’t remember the last time I ate something without checking to see what was in it. So of course, before I cooked a bison dog for Harry, I read the label. What I saw, frankly, shocked the pants off me:

Bison Hot Dogs

100% all natural bison dogs/uncured
Serving size 1 link, 4 oz (113g)
280 calories
23g fat
8g sat fat
1250mg sodium
16g protein

These numbers are troublingly high. They’re on par with Hebrew National, and more than double Applegate Farms beef hot dogs.

Applegate Farms Organic Uncured Beef Hot Dogs: Two of these equals one bison dog, and bison’s numbers are still double.

How can something whose primary ingredient has 109 calories and less than 1 gram of saturated fat per 100 grams get all the way up to 280 calories and 8 grams of saturated fat in 113 grams? And 1250 mg of sodium? I believe that’s an entire day’s worth for my 4-year-old.

I wrote exactly that to my contact at the company that had sent me the meat. Here is her response:

Hi Debbie,

I had a long conversation with the person who is responsible for producing the non-muscular products and he said that the numbers are accurate. Our goal was to make an all-bison dog, that did not include fillers including beef fillers that many of our competitors use to both lower the cost of production and help with binding the meat. Because we were committed also to not including artificial binding agents for a product as lean as bison, we use sodium to help us on the binding front.

I hope that helps, and if you have any more questions, please feel free to contact me.

[name redacted]

Now, I commend them for avoiding fillers and artificial binding agents, but it seems like they’ve substituted ingredients that are equally ill-advised—even though they’re all-natural. Such a great idea, but ultimately so unhealthy I won’t serve it to my kid. While it may be all-bison, it sounds like it must be mostly bison fat, not meat.

I wrote that to my contact, too. She didn’t correct me.

Today’s lesson: Always read the Nutrition Facts Statement—don’t assume that when something is made from healthy ingredients, it’s automatically healthy. Because as Felix Unger Oscar Wilde said, “When you assume, you make an ass of u and me.”

* Before you point out that hot dogs are inherently unhealthy: I know. Even feeding Harry Applegate Farms is probably doing some kind of irreparable damage. But what can I say? We’re a hot dog family.

This Post Has 6 Comments

  1. Theta

    I always read labels too and with the time became an expert in reading/decoding them.
    Thank you for great article!

  2. Casey@Good. Food. Stories.

    The Chicago Cubs now sell bison dogs, can you believe it? I was at the game at Wrigley Field on Sunday and almost fell out of my seat when the vendor walked by.

    There is a package of Applegate Farms dogs in the fridge, just waiting for me to break down and eat one. The damage has already been done on my end, I fear.

  3. lindsay

    whoa! I just bought Hebrew National 97% fat free dogs, and while they were expensive and bad in all sorts of ways, they only have 40 cal per 1.5 ounce but a whopping 520mg sodium. We'll just drink lots of water?

  4. debbie koenig

    @Casey, I do believe those bison dogs are the same ones I wrote about. Beware!

    @Lindsay, sometimes I wonder if the 97% fat free dogs aren't actually worse in some way. I mean, what's in them? The ingredients label is suspiciously brief–not that I think they're leaving out info, since legally they can't, but how much Modified Food Starch do they need to use to make a dog that's so low in fat? It's a challenge, finding a hot dog that doesn't make me nervous in one way or another. So of course they're Harry's favorite food!

  5. Liz

    Hi, Deb. VERY interesting post. You're absolutely right, of course, it's essential to check the label (and also the stated portion size, right? It irks me sometimes when something so obviously a 'single' serving – like a single packaged cookie – turns out on (much) closer examination to be "two servings"). On a not altogether unrelated note, there has just been a very interesting series of three programmes on the BBC presented by a chap called Stefan Gates all about food additives (which in the EU are represented on labels as numbers with an 'E' prefix). I don't know whether you would be able to access them online, but if you can they're well worth checking out. I think you should certainly be able to read this article, which is linked to the series, if you're interested.

    Have a great weekend,

  6. sherry frewerd

    wow, i never thought a bison dog would be so un-nutrious thanks for the info and i will be reading lables closer.

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