The Label To Check Before Assuming Hot Dogs Are Dairy-Free

The only dairy that usually comes to mind when you think of hot dogs is a generous coating or stuffing of ooey, gooey shredded cheddar cheese — or perhaps a squeeze or two of the processed liquid gold often relegated for nachos at the ball game (cue drooling). If you're avoiding dairy, it seems simple: Skip the cheese dog. However, it's not that actually that simple. There can be dairy in hot dogs, and you need to check the label to be sure. 

Dairy can sneak its way into many foods, including meat-based processed products like hot dogs. Even those labeled "100% Beef" or "All Beef" can be offenders, and often are. If you're not up for whipping out a magnifying glass and scrutinizing ingredient lists in your deli meat aisle, there is a quick, foolproof way to guarantee your favorite hot dog is devoid of dairy: Look for a certified kosher label. The pairing of meat with dairy is prohibited under kosher rules, so it is guaranteed there will not be dairy in any form in that beef hot dog and you can assume away. Unfortunately this won't work for pork hot dogs and frankfurters — for those, you'll have to check the ingredients list. 

Why is there dairy in hot dogs?

So why on earth do manufacturers add dairy to hot dogs? One word: Money. Milk products, often non-fat dried milk powder, are added as a filler ingredient. This allows the manufacturer to use less meat overall and get more bang for their buck. Meat manufacturers are not required to designate whether or not the product contains dairy. However, every non-meat ingredient in a hot dog must be approved by the FDA and accepted by the USDA. Furthermore, manufacturers are required to list every ingredient under the ingredient list by weight. So scanning the contents section for anything indicating dairy will tell you what you need to know.

Even turkey and chicken dogs, sausages, and other processed meats may contain milk products. Bottom line: If you seek a dairy-free dog and kosher is nowhere to be found, checking the actual ingredient list to look for the source is the next safest bet. You may just see a modified milk ingredient listed as one of the first few contents after beef.