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Meatless Makeover: Joey Chestnut Is Out of Nathan’s Hot Dog Contest

  • The champion eater won’t go for his 17th Nathan’s hot dog victory this July.
  • He’s banned from the event over his partnership deal with Impossible Foods.
Nick King/Lansing State Journal / USA TODAY NETWORK

America’s classic Fourth of July tradition, the Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest, will look unrecognizable this year without its superstar Joey Chestnut. And a business decision is to blame.

Chestnut’s partnership with Impossible Foods, which makes plant-based meat alternatives to burgers and hot dogs, is what’s blocking him out of the event, according to the New York Post. Major League Eating said a Labor Day competition on Netflix with no brand promotion was offered, but the Nathan’s competition has had the same “basic hot dog exclusivity provisions” for nearly 20 years.

“We are devastated to learn that Joey Chestnut has chosen to represent a rival brand that sells plant-based hot dogs rather than competing in the 2024 Nathan’s Famous Fourth of July Hot Dog Eating Contest,” MLE said in a statement. “MLE and Nathan’s went to great lengths to accommodate Joey and his management team, agreeing to the appearance fee and allowing Joey to compete in a rival, unbranded hot dog eating contest on Labor Day.”

The Post reports that Chestnut made $200,000 competing in last year’s contest, and was offered a $1.2 million contract to stick around for the next four years. Whatever Impossible offered ultimately was more enticing.

An Accomplished Eater

Chestnut, 40, is the star of the competitive eating world, and has won 16 Nathan’s competitions while gaining national acclaim. He holds the world record for eating 76 dogs and buns in 10 minutes in 2021, and has won the Fourth of July competition every year since ’16. In ’23, he sailed to victory with 62 dogs.

MLE’s own website calls him the “greatest eater in history.” 

“Joey Chestnut is an American hero. We would love nothing more than to have him at the Nathan’s Famous International Hot Dog Eating Contest. We hope he returns when he is not representing a rival brand,” MLE said.

MLE and Chestnut did not immediately respond to Front Office Sports’ requests for comment.

Chestnut’s biggest rival, Takeru Kobayashi, won six straight Nathan’s contests before also dropping out due to business quarrels with MLE. He hasn’t entered the competition since 2009 because he refused to sign an exclusive deal with the organization. Kobayashi retired in May, saying: “I no longer feel hunger.”

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