Jamie Loftus and ‘the naked truth about hot dogs’

by FoodPrint

Published: 4/16/24, Last updated: 4/16/24

Jamie Loftus is that rare person who loves a food — in this case, the hot dog — but also dares to look it squarely in the face and ask the hard questions. How was it made? Who was harmed in the process? Why is it so cheap? And why do I love it so much?

As part of her quest to understand the meal she cannot quit, Loftus headed out in the summer of 2021 to travel the U.S. by car, trying as many hot dogs as she could. She ate them all, hitting up the country’s most historically significant hot dog joints as well as baseball stadiums, new hip spots and, yes, Nathan’s Famous International Hot Dog Eating Contest in Coney Island. Loftus chronicled the journey and the dogs across every region in her 2023 book “Raw Dog: The Naked Truth About Hot Dogs.” On the latest episode of our podcast, “What You’re Eating,” we sat down with Loftus to hear more about the book and her journey.

Interspersed with reports of hot dogs wrapped in bologna, slathered in slaw and dripping with chili are explorations of the thornier issues of hot dog production, from animal abuse  to worker exploitation. Loftus made this cross-country journey in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, which laid bare the existing flaws in our food system. The problems with the all-American hot dog, she tells us, bubbled up at every stop. “The hot dog, my hot dog,” Loftus writes in the introduction to her book, “is the delicious and inevitable product of centuries of violence, poverty, ambition, whispers in human ears and knives in the throats, shoulders, and legs of cows, pigs, chickens, and, if you’re superstitious, maybe even the species they’re named for.”

Those who choose to engage with this painful history and questionable industry through Loftus’ book and our latest podcast episode, will eventually confront an existential question: Can a person who cares about what they’re eating, and the impact their food has on the environment, animals and workers, eat a hot dog in good conscience?

“Think about how you feel about hot dogs right now, and let me know how you feel at the end,” Loftus advises “Raw Dog” readers. “If it’s exactly the same, I promise I won’t write another one of these things.” Listen to learn more.


Top photo by Wei/Adobe Stock.

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