Joey Chestnut and Dogs - © 2017 Nathan's Famous

Why Hot Dog And Bun Counts Don’t Match

Yes, I’m talking about why Hot Dogs come in packs of 10 (usually), and the Buns made specifically for them come in 8’s. I’ve had my own explanation for that annoying reality for years. The NHDSC says I’ve been wrong all along. And, presumably, I’ve been doing their product a grave injustice…

Hot Dog Package - © thehotdog.orgHot Dogs are traditionally sold in packs of 10…

Before we get into the ‘meat’ of this post, I want to let you know that NHDSC is simply the acronym for the U.S. National Hot Dog and Sausage Council. On its official website, the Council states its mission thus: “Established in 1994 by the American Meat Institute, the Council serves as an information resource to consumers and media on questions related to quality, safety, nutrition and preparation of hot dogs and sausages. The Council also celebrates hot dogs and sausages as iconic American foods.” (We might look into the Meat Institute another day…)

The vexing question

I’m sure we’ve all asked ourselves – or, in  my case, asked a lot of people – why Frankfurters (Hot Dogs) always come in packs of 10 while the buns made specitifically for them always come in packs of 8. Bakery Department shelf stockers don’t know. Meat Department officials – in spite of their authoritative-looking white coats – don’t know. Supermarket Managers don’t know, either. Even Joey Chestnut (see photo, top of page), winner of a record number of annual Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Contests, doesn’t know. Of course, he doesn’t care.

Ballpark Hot Dog Buns - © ballparkbuns.comHot Dog Buns are traditionally sold in 8-packs…

I think we can all agree that the traditional mismatch in the package count of Hot Dogs and Buns is more than a trivial annoyance. We always have Hot Dogs left over when the Buns run out. Or we have buns left over after we’ve been forced to run out in the middle of a barbecue to get more, so we can use up the leftover Hot Dogs. And, then, we have Buns left over.

Okay. I’ll admit that leftover Hot Dog buns are easier to repurpose than leftover Hot Dogs. You can throw cut-up Hot Dogs into a pot of Baked Beans as an additional treat. And the kids don’t bother to fight over the one measly little nub of Bacon from the can. But that’s about it. Unless you make Pigs in Blankets a lot. But Buns can be recycled into Bread Crumbs, used to house other fillings, or cubed as a base for Turkey Stuffing. And that’s just the beginning.

Nevertheless, when you’re faced at the end of a cook-out with either leftover Hot Dogs or Buns, you’re subjected to a stressful situation which no home cook should be forced to endure.

The ‘official’ answer

However… the NHDSC website offers this explanation on its ‘Fast Facts’page:

“When hot dog buns were introduced, hot dogs were sold in varying quantities at the butcher shop. Not until 1940 were hot dogs packaged the way we currently see them in the grocery store. When manufacturers began packaging hot dogs, they chose the 10 to the pack formula. Today hot dogs are sold most often in eight or ten to the pound packs, but some are sold [in] other quantities as well.

“Sandwich rolls, or hot dog buns, most often come eight to the pack because the buns are baked in clusters of four in pans designed to hold eight rolls. While baking pans now come in configurations that allow baking 10 and even 12 at a time, the eight roll pan remains the most popular.

“However, to save you from the bread aisle arithmetic anxiety, you need to purchase five bags of eight-to-the-pack buns and four 10-to-the-pack hot dogs to break even.”

Hope you have a really big freezer!

The unofficial answers

An unsigned editorial at shares some other thoughts. I do not, necessarily, share those thoughts, but they make amusing reading. I maintain that the real reason for the difference in package counts between Dogs and Buns goes much deeper than that…

My take

I won’t argue with the logic of the NHDSC’s answer to the eternal question of Dog-and-Bun-count mismatches. But I have had my own dark, deeply disturbing theory for years.

It occurred to me that the Hot Dog Makers and the Bun Bakers got together way back when, and agreed never to sell their respective products in packages that matched each other’s counts. That way, consumers would always have to be going out to buy more Buns. Then, more Dogs. Then, more Buns, again. Yes, it’s a conspiracy theory of the grandest proportions. But, as a natural born Scottish skeptic, I’ve always believed it.

Now, I must weigh my faith in my own perceptions (and suspicions) against the ‘official’ word of the NHDSC, which insists that the Meat Packers and Bun Bakers did NOT get together and agree that their package counts would eternally disagree.

On the other hand… The NDHSC does have it’s own particular axe to grind – and it’s own vested interest  in spreading the notion that the Dog-Bun mismatch has always simply been a serendipitous happenstance, not a carefully calculated concept designed to ensure the continued prosperity of two closely related industries.

Alas! Mine is merely a lone voice crying in the media wilderness. But I think I can confidently predict that no top-level anti-trust investigation of this issue will ever take place.

~ Maggie J.