“Here’s one of life’s deeper mysteries,” writes John Olson in Ottawa. “Why do hot dog buns come in packs of eight while the wieners are sold by the dozen? Are the extra four dogs for wieners and beans?”
A question all-too-often asked by Globe readers on Canada Q&A, we tasked The Globe’s resident hot dog expert Gabe Pulver with an investigation:
At the centre of the case: packaging.
Factory machines are calibrated to make hot dog wieners of varying sizes (jumbo, foot-long, etc) that can be packaged into three standard sizes. Wieners are packaged by weight – no matter the number of hot dogs in the package, be it six, eight or ten. The package will always one of three weights – 375 grams, 450 grams, and 900 grams. It’s just easier to price, ship, and store.
The most common weight is 450 grams, or one pound. Check out this very scientific video we made, showing how six hot dogs and 12 hot dogs are equal weight:
On the other hand, The Globe’s Toronto grocery store investigation revealed that despite the number of buns in the package and the different brands, all of the packages are exactly the same physical size and shape. The reason for this has to do with production and shipping efficiencies. Ever notice how your buns seem torn apart on one or both sides? That’s because they are baked in pans that hold 3 or 4 buns in order to bake them to exact size. This size, seemingly universal across all brands, fits in uniform square shapes inside their plastic bags. Once again, this would make it easier for shipping and storage.
The question remains: why not make hot dogs that fit, say, 8 to a pound? Or bun pans that fit, say, 6 to a square? In industrial sized operations like these, any change to the production system will cost significant time, money, and effort. As you can see in this disgusting video, some hot dog factories make millions of wieners a day. These are not small changes to make.
Simply put, they’re selling enough hot dogs and buns to not have to spend the money. The idea that Big Meat and Big Bread are conspiring to force you to buy multiple packages of each to get your money’s worth just doesn’t cut the mustard. Sorry, Steve Martin:
That said, representatives from both declined to comment for this story.
– With files from Josh O’Kane