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What Says "Freedom" Like Processed Meat?


According to the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council, Americans will consume 150 mln hot dogs on July 4.


According to the National Hot Dog & Sausage Council, Americans will consume 150 million hot dogs on July 4th.

In 2006, consumers spent more than $3.9 bln on hot dogs and sausages in U.S. supermarkets– that equals more than 1.5 bln pounds of hot dogs and sausages bought at retail stores alone.

Sales data shows that New York City spent more money last year on hot dogs in retail stores ($101 mln) than any other market in the country.

Figure-conscious Los Angeles ranked a more-than-respectable second with $78 mln spent on hot dogs, and the Baltimore/Washington area pulled off a third-place finish with over $46 mln on hot dogs, despite a substantially smaller population than New York and LA.

The months between Memorial Day and Labor Day are hot dog season, when 38% of the yearly dog total is sold. 10% of sales occur during July, which is National Hot Dog Month.

2007 marks the golden anniversary of National Hot Dog Month, which was made official by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in 1957.

And the countdown to National Hot Dog Day, which falls on July 18, starts now.

Industry experts believe growth in the entire refrigerated processed meat category will continue. Estimates place total dollar sales at $22.49 bln by 2009.

Perhaps the most famous hot dogs in the world are manufactured by Oscar Mayer, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Kraft, with sales last year of $2.3 bln.

Perhaps the single most recognizable symbol of the Oscar Mayer hot dog is the Weinermobile, which was invented in 1936 by Oscar's nephew, Carl.

Last Wednesday, one of the company's six Wienermobiles was traveling through downtown Tucson when Officer Korey Lankow of the Arizona Department of Public Safety ran its "Y-U-M-M-Y" license plate to make sure it was street legal.

The plate came back as stolen. Lankow called for backup.

The plate had in fact been stolen in Columbia, MO this past February, but Oscar Mayer officials were issued a replacement. However, a computer error still showed it as stolen, said Officer Carmen Figueroa, a Department of Public Safety spokeswoman.

Driver Jeff Kendell, of Salt Lake City, was released.

No charges were filed.

The Japanese Connection

On August 4 of last year, a hot dog measuring 196.8 feet was made by the Shizuoka Meat Producers of Shizuoka, Japan and displayed at Tokyo's Akasaka Prince Hotel, owned by the Seibu Railway Corporation.

It currently holds the world record as the planet's largest frank.

The world's longest hot dog, on display at the Akasaka Prince.

The Japanese also dominate the world of competitive hot dog eating.

Takeru Kobayashi

For the past six years, Takeru Kobayashi (who once gained 26 1/2 lbs. in 45 minutes at a competitive eating event in Japan) has walked away with the coveted Mustard Yellow International Belt at the Nathan's Famous Fourth of July International Hot Dog Eating Contest in Coney Island.

However, 2005 International Federation of Competitive Eating Rookie of the Year Joey Chestnut, a student at San Jose State, could bring glory back to American shores this year. On June 2, he set the hot dog eating world record during the Southwest regional qualifier for the Nathan's eat-off by downing 59.5 hot dogs and buns, shattering Kobayashi's record of 53.75.

Joey Chestnut

Chestnut is certainly no slouch. Take a look at some of his other records:

  • 8.6 pounds of deep-fried asparagus spears in ten minutes
  • 212 chicken and vegetable gyoza dumplings in ten minutes
  • 7.5 lbs buffalo chicken wings in 12 minutes
  • 47 grilled cheese sandwiches in ten minutes

Chestnut will be stiff competition for Kobayashi, whose only loss in an official competition was back in 2003, when he competed against a 1089-pound Kodiak bear on the Fox television show Man vs. Beast.

Kobayashi ate 31 dogs in 2 minutes, 36 seconds to the bear's 50.

But, this year's competition comes with a twist.

The Associated Press reports that Kobayashi is apparently suffering from temporomandibular joint disorder, or TMJ.

On his blog, Kobayashi wrote that "I can't open my jaw more than just a little bit."

Don (Moses) Lerman, who holds International Federation of Competitive Eating records for baked beans, bologna and butter (7 quarter-pound sticks of salted butter in 5 minutes), says he has suffered from TMJ "for ten years now and it didn't stop me from competing."

Now, it looks like Kobayashi will step up to the plate (literally) and defend his title to honor his mother, who passed away in March.

"I want to be the pride of my mother," he said.

The Health Factor

In the book Fat Land, by Greg Critser, (recommended to me by Houston fund manager and recreational competitive eater Ryan Krueger), some startling figures jump out.

  • Nearly 60% of Americans are considered overweight.
  • The American Medical Association says there are 280,000 obesity-related premature deaths every year.
  • The care and treatment of diabetics-the majority of new cases being a direct result of excess weight-costs $100 billion annually, which boils down to one in every ten dollars dedicated to health care
  • One in four Medicare dollars goes toward diabetes treatment
  • 39 million work days are lost annually due to obesity, worth $3.9 billion
  • More Americans are obese than smoke, use illegal drugs, or suffer from ailments unrelated to obesity

Frightening numbers, for sure.

Although, I've got other numbers on my mind going into tomorrow:

The number of hot dogs sliding down Joey Chestnut's gullet during his Independence Day quest to bring the Mustard Yellow International Belt back to the U.S.

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