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America’s favorite Fourth of July tradition, the hot dog eating contest, in 3 charts

<i>CNN via CNN Newsource</i><br/>Americans consume more than 20 billion hot dogs each year
CNN via CNN Newsource
Americans consume more than 20 billion hot dogs each year

By Alex Leeds Matthews and Annette Choi, CNN

(CNN) — Ready, set, let’s eat hot dogs!

Americans consume more than 20 billion hot dogs each year, most of them during the summer months. Between Memorial Day and Labor Day, Americans eat an estimated 818 hot dogs every second, according to the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council.

But nothing tops July Fourth on Coney Island in Brooklyn, New York, where people compete to eat as many hot dogs and buns as humanly possible in 10 minutes at the Nathan’s Famous International Hot Dog Eating Contest.

Tens of thousands of spectators every year brave the unpredictable summer weather to watch the contest at the Nathan’s Famous flagship restaurant. Over time, the competition has become synonymous with the holiday and established itself as an iconic American tradition.

The current record for most hot dogs eaten at a competition is 76 hot dogs, held by 16-time champion Joey “Jaws” Chestnut. That’s more than the 70 franks and buns that the average American eats over the course of a year. After dethroning Takeru Kobayashi in 2007, Chestnut went on to beat his own record eight times, in less than 20 years.

Women competed alongside the men until 2011, when they started competing separately.

Chestnut won in 2023 with a healthy lead of 13 hot dogs. At this year’s contest, however, competitive eating’s biggest star will not be participating. After agreeing to a sponsorship deal with Impossible Foods, a company that develops plant-based meats and is a competitor to Nathan’s Famous Hot Dogs, Chestnut was barred.

Miki Sudo, reigning champion of the women’s contest and nine-time winner of the Mustard Belt, defended her title with 39.5 hot dogs.

The estimated 40,000 people who attend the event, according to Nathan’s, would exceed capacity at the seven other popular hot-dog-eating venues: MLB stadiums. The Padres’ Petco Park, the Pirates’ PNC Park, the Twins’ Target Field, the Royals’ Kauffman Stadium, the Red Sox’s Fenway Park, the Marlins’ loanDepot Park and the Guardians’ Progressive Field all have capacity below 40,000. MLB games are a major venue for hot dog consumption: In 2020, ballparks sold 19.4 million hot dogs.

Viewership on TV often exceeds 1 million viewers. The all-time viewership record was 2.8 million for an encore presentation following World Cup coverage in 2014, according to Sports Media Watch.

Whoever lifts the Mustard Belt this Independence Day will be the reigning champion of a uniquely American sport. For their part, amateur hot dog eaters at barbecues across the nation will consume 150 million hot dogs during the holiday, according to the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council.

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