MUNDANE MYSTERIES: Why Are There Eight Buns For Ten Hot Dogs?

Shopping for hot dogs can be frustrating, because the dogs, themselves, are usually sold in packs of 10…but the buns are sold in packs of 8! Why in the world do we have to endure this unequal dog-to-bun ratio?

The National Hot Dog & Sausage Council (which is a real thing) asserts that the disparity exists because of…reasons. To begin with, pretty much no hot dog distributor makes buns & virtually no hot dog bun manufacturer makes hot dogs.

So, let’s look at the industries individually. Why are hot dogs sold in packs of 10? Because that’s the amount that meat producers chose back in the 1940s, around the time hot dogs became available for purchase at retail grocery stores. Because of how meat was usually priced then, the longtime leader of direct-to-consumer hot dogs, Oscar Mayer, would sell hot dogs by the pound. So, ten dogs, weighing 1.6 ounces each, became the ideal product weight distribution.

Bakeries, on the other hand, have had their own different standards. Why are hot dog buns usually sold 8 to a pack? Because the companies’ baking trays are & have typically been sized for that amount, with 2 sets of 4 buns coming off the tray at a time (which is why, as you’ve probably noticed before when you’ve opened a fresh bag, many buns are still stuck together).

The two groups’ standards were instituted independently of one another. There’s not consortium of bakers & dog makers. Bakeries didn’t care about what the hot dog makers were doing when the bakers settled on their 4-roll tray standards. And hot dog producers didn’t consider the difficulty bakeries might have in disrupting their conveyor systems’ flows to offer ten buns per package.

Yes, I know it can be irritating for the numbers to not match up when you only need to buy one or two packages of each. But for the record, if you buy four packs of hot dogs & five packs of buns, you’ll end up with forty matching pairs. That is, if you’re able to stomach that level of hot dog hell. Paging Joey Chesnut!

Got a Mundane Mystery you’d like solved? Send me a message via Twitter (@AndyWebbRadio), or shoot me an email at [email protected].

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