An Open Letter to my Congressman
Updated: Feb 5, 2020
Dear Representative Peters,
I am writing as one of your constituents to discuss a matter that affects me, my community, and the citizens of the United States of America as a whole. It is a matter that concerns the cornerstone of American culture. It is, many would consider, one of our greatest accomplishments, rivaling our victories in the World Wars, our pioneering of technology and science, and our promotion of democracy throughout the world. I am referring, of course, to the hot dog, a food as American as apple pie; in fact, many call it the savory apple pie. Americans consume 20 billion hot dogs each year and are all faced with the same problem: packages of hot dogs and hot dog buns in grocery stores are not always sold with the same amount of hot dogs as buns. This leads consumers needing to buy more buns and hot dogs or just throwing the excess away.
A large number of hot dog manufacturers, including industry leaders like Ball Park Franks and Hebrew National, include both eight hot dogs and eight buns in their packages and we should commend them. However, this is far from ubiquitous, as one of the most iconic brands in the hot dog space, Oscar Mayer, goes against the grain and includes ten hot dogs in their packages. This issue, despite what its opponents may claim, still endures.
It’s a prevalent problem that plagues our society from the wealthy tycoons of industry to the average hard-working American family, but it is rarely discussed seriously and, instead, laughed about and mentioned only jokingly. While a seemingly trivial problem and an isolated concern, this issue, as with everything in our increasingly interconnected world, begets many others.
Your stance on food waste is at present unclear to me but I assume that, as with most people, you’re against it at least on some level. Unambiguously, the discrepancy between the number of hot dogs and the number of hot dog buns commonly included in packages leads to some level of food waste. No concrete figures exist to quantify the spread of this problem but some conservative napkin math can reveal the immense scale of this food waste. According to Statista, a trusted platform for market data, Oscar Mayer, the largest perpetrator of this problem, sold 80 million packages of hot dogs in 2017. Most buns are sold in packages of eight, so that’s two extra hot dogs potentially thrown away in each package, totaling a mind-boggling 160 million hot dogs wasted; and that’s a conservative estimate considering only one company and using data from 2017 only, a year notorious for low hot dog consumption.
Along with food waste, this problem also compounds another global health issue: obesity. It may not be clear at first how a problem as simple as a lack of regulation in the grocery store hot dog space could contribute to such a global epidemic but by considering the mechanisms by which this problem leads to food waste, it’s clear how this could also contribute to obesity. Our estimated wasted 160 million hot dogs, if they were instead consumed, would account for an excess of 24 billion calories consumed. That’s a mind-boggling average of 74 excess calories each year for each American resident! It’s no wonder that many abroad see view us as stereotypically fat and wasteful.
It is clear that while this problem may seem trivial and even foolish to consider at first, it poses many threats to our nation and its people, both domestically and abroad. This is why I urge you and your colleagues in Congress to consider legislative measures that will force manufactures hot dogs produced for retail to conform to standards and regulations, ensuring that the number of buns and hot dogs sold in packages are consistent. It will only improve the environment of our great nation, the health of its people, and our standing on the world stage.