Hot Dog Faceoff: Ball Park And Oscar Mayer In Court

Aug 15, 2011
Originally published on August 15, 2011 7:18 pm

America's two largest hot dog makers face off in a district courthouse in Chicago today, in a case that may determine the limits companies must observe when putting down their competition in advertisements.

The quibble started in 2009, when an Oscar Mayer ad campaign directly targeted Ball Park Franks, with the claim "We are tastier." As proof, it cited a "national taste test" — organized by Oscar Mayer. The folks at Ball Park weren't satisfied.

As NPR member station WBEZ of Chicago reports:

The legal dispute is as Chicago as it gets: two major companies fighting over frankfurters. The lawsuit dates back to 2009, when Sara Lee sued Kraft over an ad campaign. Kraft countered with its own claim that Sara Lee embellished in its advertising. Both companies are based in Chicago's suburbs. Sara Lee runs Ball Park. Kraft operates Oscar Mayer.

A counter-suit followed, and thousands of pages of legal documents were filed — including the contention that Kraft was illegally touting its product as "100 percent pure beef." As the AP reports, Kraft then argued "that the 'pure beef'label is justified because surveys show a perception among some consumers that hot dogs contain 'mystery meats.'"

When the lawsuit was first filed, back in may 2009, the Fooducate blog scrutinized both brands of hot dog, ticking off the very similar ingredient list of the franks. Fooducate recommended staying away from both brands of hot dogs — perhaps choosing an organic variety, to cut down on sulfites and sulfates.

"But as a rule," the site concluded, "buying an identifiable piece of meat and preparing it into a dinner is a preferred choice."

As another rule, here in the blogosphere, it was determined to be too early in the week to throw around a bunch of hot-dog-related puns and wordplay in this post — a particular challenge in a case the judge opened Monday by declaring, "Let the wiener wars begin."

Reader: if you were looking for more of that, I'm sorry. Other Reader: If you were gritting your teeth waiting to be disappointed by clumsy attempts at wit, you're welcome.

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