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Get 'em while they're hot: Ballpark franks go organic

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Ballparks may soon sell an unlikely offering to chomp along with peanuts and beer: organic hot dogs.

San Diego's Petco Park and St. Louis' Busch Stadium plan to test sales of certified organic hot dogs and bratwurst next season, pending availability of enough high-quality product.

''There are some people who will taste organic food -- for the first time -- at the ballpark,'' says Rick Abramson, president of Delaware North Companies Sportservice, which handles concessions at 21 major sports facilities nationally.

Consumers are demanding healthier food everywhere -- even at the ballpark. Some fans want food they feel is not only more nutritious, but also safer. Certified organic foods are untouched by preservatives and pesticides, and the meat comes from animals not treated with hormones or antibiotics.

Organic isn't cheap. Abramson suggests that organic hot dogs at the two parks might fetch about $4 -- about a buck more than conventional dogs.

''Five years ago, we barely had bottled water at stadiums,'' says Rolf Baumann, a top chef for the company. ''Now, we're getting customers who want to see the documentation that certifies something is organic.''

Some stadiums have tested organic entrees in upscale stadium clubs -- including $24.95 organic pork chops at Busch Stadium last season.

Other organic items on tap at the two parks next season:

* Chicken. An organic chicken breast will likely be sold at the Stadium Club at Busch Stadium, says Jeramie Mitchell, executive chef.

* Salad. Petco Park's Founders Club salad bar will offer organic greens and veggies, says Sam Viniegra, executive chef.

* Pretzels. Organic pretzels made by Snyder's of Hanover could expand to other ballparks, says Abramson.

One nutritionist sees all this as a plus -- but not a big one.

''Anything you can do to improve ballpark food is good,'' says Chris Rosenbloom, professor of nutrition at Georgia State University. ''But there's a misconception that organic food is healthier. I'd rather see them selling grilled chicken sandwiches than organic hot dogs.''

Even then, all of this could give another boost to the fast-growing, $10.4 billion organic-food industry.

''Parents want to carry through at the ballpark what they do at home,'' says Holly Givens, spokeswoman for the Organic Trade Association. ''But I'll really be surprised when the players start wearing organic cotton uniforms.''

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© Copyright 2004 USA TODAY, a division of Gannett Co. Inc.

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