It's that time of year again—summertime, eating outside, and lots of grilling! So pass the processed meat, please. You've probably heard all the urban legends about hotdogs: They contain pig ears, snouts, tails, and every other animal entrail you'd never touch with a 10-foot pole. But they're not all bad! We searched high and low for the best hotdogs out there, made with 100 percent real beef, not "variety meats," as the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) likes to call them. And ours are organic or grass-fed, higher in omega-3s and vitamins, and untainted by the genetically modified animal feed, hormones, or antibiotics in unhealthy factory-farmed fare. Grab your tongs and hit the grill with these healthy dogs.
*prices and nutritional content may change
Fat: 8 g (3 g saturated)
Sodium: 330 mg
$5.99/8 hotdogs; applegatefarms.com
Good to know: Not only are these hotdogs the lowest calorie 100 percent grass-fed dogs out there, but they're also the most widely available.
Fat: 11 g (4 g saturated)
Sodium: 360 mg
$39.50/35 hotdogs; organicprairie.com
Good to know: All the meat products sold under the Organic Prairie brand are raised on certified-organic U.S. family farms. Order online in bulk, or look for smaller packages at grocery stores nationwide.
Fat: 13 g (6 g saturated)
Sodium: 430 mg
$7.50/4 franks or $47.50/30; letsbefrankdogs.com
Good to know: These all-beef, grass-fed hotdogs come from a ranch certified by the Food Alliance, a program that certifies farms that treat animals and people humanely, and have eliminated antibiotics, hormones, and genetically modified organisms from animal feed, in addition to working to protect the environment around their ranches.
Nutrition info isn't available because the cost of getting that information was too high for this small, Wyoming-based ranch, says the company's president and founder Rod Morrison. "All of our hotdogs are completely grass-fed, and everything comes from Wyoming," he says. "We’re the cowboy state. We know how to do this."
$7.95/4 hotdogs; rockymtncuts.com
Good to know: Per USDA guidelines, hotdogs that list "by-products" or "variety meats" on their ingredients labels need only contain 15 percent muscle meat to be called hotdogs. Don't worry—none of our picks contain "variety meats."
Fat: 9 g (4.5 g saturated)
Sodium: 430 mg
$8.19/6 hotdogs; grasslandbeef.com
Good to know: Canadian researchers have found that daily intake of omega-3s in the amounts that exist in the average serving of grass-fed beef (about 35 mg per 3 oz serving) lowered triglycerides, blood fats that contribute to heart disease, without affecting cholesterol levels.
Like Rocky Mountain Organic Meats, this small California-based hot dog company didn't pay for nutritional info. "None of our customers really ask," says Steve McCarthy, one of the ownders. "They just like how our hot dogs taste and they trust our brand." Look for them at farmer's markets in the San Francisco Bay area, or at their new restaurant in the San Francisco Ferry building. Or, just order them online.
$48.50/25 hot dogs (5 lb. package); atmytable.com
Good to Know: The California ranch where Prather Ranch meats are raised meet the standards for the Certified Humane Raised & Handled label, which requires yearly audits to ensure animals are allowed to roam in their natural environment throughout their entire lives. The farm is also certified by the Food Alliance.
Fat: 11 g (4.5 g saturated)
Sodium: 590 mg
$7.99/4 hotdogs; homegrownmeats.com
Good to Know: Not only are these hotdogs certified by the American Grassfed Association (a program that verifies animals eat only grass their entire lives), but they're also Animal Welfare Approved, the strictest certification program for humane animal treatment.
Fat: 16 g (7 g saturated)
Sodium: 566 mg
$39.95/12 franks; store.nimanranch.com
Good to know: Like Prather Ranch, all the farms that raise animals for Niman Ranch products are Certified Humane by the nonprofit Humane Farm Animal Care. Look for them at Whole Foods and other natural-food stores nationwide.
Fat: 13 (6 g saturated)
Sodium: 450 mg
$5.29/6 hotdogs; tallgrassbeef.com
Good to know: Though Tallgrass Beef sells its products in grocery stores across the country, they're a mainstay in the Chicago area, where Tallgrass hotdogs are sold at Wrigley Field.
Read More: Green Cleaning Tips for Your Grill
Fat: 14 g (5 g saturated)
Sodium: 450 mg
$7.50/6 hotdogs; prescottfrost.com
Good to know: This ranch, owned by the great-grandson of poet Robert Frost, is located in the Sandhills of Nebraska, a region often called the Napa Valley of grass-fed beef.
Fat: 7 g (2.5 g saturated)
Sodium: 360 mg
$41.99/24 sausages; npofoods.com
Good to know: Even though these and all the other organic hot dogs on our list are labeled "uncured" or "no added nitrites or nitrates," they aren't completely free of those chemicals, which have been linked to colon cancer. Arcane USDA rules require products without synthetic nitrites and nitrates to be labeled this way, but organic hotdogs contain both chemicals, which occur naturally in celery powder, celery juice, sea salt and other spices used to preserve the dogs, at varying levels. Bottom line: Even organic hotdogs should be eaten only occasionally.