Myth: The two things you never want to see made are laws and sausages.
In contrast to the popular saying, the process of making sausage is extremely clean and not particularly complicated. It starts with cuts of meat similar to what you find in your grocers case and with trimmings, small cuts of meat that result when the larger pieces are cut into steak. These are ground into small pieces and placed in a mixer. High speed, stainless steel choppers blend the meat, spices, ice chips and curing ingredients into an emulsion or batter. The mixture is continuously weighed to assure a proper balance of all ingredients. The mixture is then pumped into an automatic stuffer/linker machine, where it flows into casings.
While rumors suggest that hot dogs use “everything but the oink,” it is uncommon today for manufacturers to use variety meats – like hearts or livers -- hot dogs. When they are added, the package will clearly state “with byproducts” or "with variety meats." The particular variety meat used also will be listed in the ingredient statement.
The most basic type of mechanical tenderization machine uses many tiny blades to break apart the connective tissues. Also, it is common for meat processors to use solutions like marinades in conjunction with the mechanically tenderizing process to add seasonings or further increase the palatability of the product.
The entire process is carefully regulated and inspected for wholesomeness by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Inspectors make sure the meat is processed and handled safely and that everything in the package is labeled correctly.1