Meat Glue — industry secret exposed

Miriam Kresh, from Green Prophet.com:

Care for a slab of Frankenstein steak? Just glue meat scraps together and serve ‘em up, hot. Side of blood clots, optional. Photo via Green Prophet.com

“The white powder sold by the kilo, above, is the meat industry’s dirty little secret. It’s “meat glue.” It makes pieces of beef, lamb, chicken or fish that would normally be thrown out stick together so closely that it looks like a solid piece of meat. See also our posts on Israel’s frozen fish scandal and how garlic from China is scary stuff.

Restaurants and butchers  can now sell their scraps as premium meat. Good way to use them up – and charge premium prices for them too. Best of all, you don’t have to tell the customer. Once the glued meat is cooked, even professional butchers can’t tell the difference.

“Meat glue” is transglutaminase, an enzyme in powder form, derived from beef and pork blood plasma.See the Wikipedia description of it here. Chefs most commonly use the Activa RM brand, which is transglutaminase mixed with maltodextrine and sodium caseinate, a milk protein.  Using enzymes in food isn’t a new technique. Papaya seed is the main ingredient in meat tenderizers, for example. Rennet and yeasts produce enzymes that make cheese and alcohol, too. Natural enzymes. Meat glue is a darker product altogether.

Yet according to Cooking Issues, the French Culinary Institute’s blog (USA), meat glue is safe. That is, the major study carried out to gain acceptance by the FDA says so. And why shouldn’t we believe? It was funded by Ajinomoto, the product’s manufacturer, after all.

This video from Australia’s TodayTonight TV show demonstrates how easily you can create Frankenstein meat. Just sprinkle a teaspoon of  powdered transglutaminase on various meat scraps, knead them together and roll them up  in plastic wrap. Put in the fridge and 6 hours later, you have an easily-sliced piece of meat that looks like real fillet.

Only make sure to wear your face mask while performing the simple operation: you don’t want to be inhaling powder that makes your blood clot abnormally.

Do you want to be eating it either?

Banned by the European Parliament in May 2010, meat glue is freely available through sources likeAmazon.com. The information from the French Culinary Institute states that 1 kg. will hold over 100 kg. of meat parts together. This is the product description exactly as it appears on Amazon.com:

  • Food Enzyme used to provide ways to improve texture, yield, sliceability.
  • Used to “glue” protiens (sic) together; mix Swordfish with Salmon to create a Seafood Filet
  • Used to “glue” protiens together; mix Elk, Llama and Yak to create a Exotic Mixed Grill Filet
  • Product of France
  • 18 month Shelf Life, Keep in Freezer to ensure product strength

In the TodayTonight video, microbiologist Glenn Pener voices concern over meat glue and food poisoning.

“The amount of bacteria on a steak that’s been put together with meat glue is hundreds of time higher,” he says….”

Read it all on Green Prophet.com

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22 Comments

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22 responses to “Meat Glue — industry secret exposed

  1. thebovine

    Another POV from Maggie on Boing Boing:

    I know this story on Planet Green—all about the edible “meat glue” that holds together everything from imitation crab sticks and chicken nuggets to modernist chef cuisine—is supposed to make me freak out and only want to eat organic, whole foods from the farmer’s market.

    Trouble is: I kind of think meat glue sounds pretty cool. I like the fact that we’ve found new ways to use scraps and parts of meat that aren’t sell-able on their own. That alone is nothing new. Humans have been doing that for centuries (See: sausage, soup stock). Transglutaminase—meat glue’s real name—is just a newer tool. And it doesn’t even sound particularly scary or gross. At least, not to this honest-with-herself omnivore.

    Technically called thrombian, or transglutaminase (TG), it is an enzyme that food processors use to hold different kinds of meat together. TG is an enzyme that catalyzes covalent bonds between free amine groups in a protein, like lysine, and gamma-caroxminid groups, like glutamine. These bonds are pretty durable and resist degradation once the food has been formed.

    Thrombian is made from pig or cow blood, though you’ll see it on labels, if at all, as “composite meat product.”

    It’s a naturally occurring enzyme, derived from animal blood. When you put it that way, it’s easy to understand why the EU—which tends to be more stringent on rules about food additives than the United States—voted nearly unanimously in favor of allowing transglutaminase to be used in products sold in EU countries.

    Personally, I’m with wrecksdart, who Submitterated this, in wondering where I can get transglutaminase, and what ridiculous foods I can make at home with it. Animal-shaped meatloaf pops, here I come.

    http://www.boingboing.net/2011/03/30/meat-glue-sounds-kin.html

    • Connie

      The problem with it isn’t so much the “glue” itself, it’s the bacteria load of the meat. Bacteria tend to exist on the “outside” of meat…the side that gets the heat. When you glue it all together, you get a lot of “outside” pieces that are now “inside” the cut, where they never get up to proper temperature. Thus, unless you like your steaks seriously well done, they are dangerous to your health.

      • Roger

        You are exactly right! That’s why hamburgers or any other ground meat product should be thoroughly cooked.

    • It may seem to some that meat glue is a technological advancement, but then perhaps you are not considering that YOU ARE WHAT YOU EAT. If you consume meat that has been glued together, you are not just consuming scraps of meat, you are consuming an considerably higher concentration of microbes and bacteria AND you have just consumed and are digesting a material that is made to bind flesh. I wonder how that looks in your colon? What about your liver and stomach? Perhaps we’ll have a new disease like Crohn’s but instead of indigestible food causing bacteria to build and eating the intestinal wall you’ll have intestinal walls and other organs adhering together – just like that delicious glue- steak you ate for dinner.

  2. Gordon S Watson

    Thou shalt not blood … says the God of Israel

  3. brandon

    thebovine,

    The real issue here is not necessarily the safety of the meat glue itself. Instead what should really worry us is the fact that these scraps of meat, glued together, are being sold to restaurants and consumers as solid pieces of meat. If you’re at a restaurant and order a steak medium-rare or rare, and it happens to be a glued together steak, you’re now potentially exposing yourself to all of the microbial contamination that might not be thoroughly cooked. The advantage of a real steak, and the reason you can order it medium-rare, is that the potential contamination is all seared off while cooking. The inside, even though it may not be fully cooked, has never been touched by a potentially contaminated butcher’s knife. The same is not true of a meat glue steak.

    Don’t kid yourself, the scraps would still get used. The trick here is that the meat wholesaler can fetch a higher price by gluing them together, but risks the consumer’s health in the process.

    • Emilee

      I agree Brandon…also it’s dubious in that you think you are getting say a Tbone, which is part NY strip part Filet…but instead, maybe you are getting part sirloin or bottom round, who the heck knows…but they are still CHARGING you for that t-bone with a piece of “filet” attached! Dubious!

  4. NoTail

    Taking one product and selling it as another is called fraud.

    Low end beef scraps glued together and labeled fillet…sounds like fraud to me.

    Fraud; it’s everywhere you want to be.

  5. Marilyn

    The widespread use of meat glue without calling it what it really is – BLOOD – is both fraudulent and offensive to anyone who wants to please God in all they do. In this country we have been told to “read the label” to figure out if we want to buy a particular product. This expose’ made me want to move where I can grow my own meat and/or “go vegetarian” but I suppose they will figure out how to contaminate market vegetables too. Thanks for revealing the truth about this product, as well as showing us the health risks involving in eating such products. I wonder how many “bellyaches” I’ve had because I didn’t know I was eating this disgusting stuff.

  6. How long has meat glue been sold to us in the USA? Why no comments from the Food and Drug Administration, the AMA, and other health organizations and/or publications? Is there a list of supermarket chains, abatoirs (butchers); fast food chains, restaurants, etc. who use meat/fish processed with meat glue? Why not. The public has the right to know what they are eating and make the choice for their families.

  7. Pingback: Not Inadequate » Blog Archive » Oh. My. GOSH.

  8. Pingback: Not much really goes to waste | JustMEinT's General Blog

  9. Ellie

    OMG!!! WTF!!! Heart Disease, Diabetes, Kidney Disease, just to name a few. UGH!!

  10. Pingback: (Not) Nice to Meat You « CollTales

  11. Judy Smittle

    Just when you think something may be safe to eat. We have to worry about the vegetables being contaminated and now we have to worry about what kind of meat we are really getting. Besides what the heck they are putting in or on our meat. I think I’ll just eat the rabbits I raise, I know what they are fed and I know their water is clean (it’s well water).

  12. margaret ordeunez

    i think i am gonna vomit.

  13. Pingback: Transglutaminase enzyme food additive « despre diabet

  14. Al237

    If the world that we live in today is based on this kind of corp greed and bias influence by the safeguard that our put in place
    (FDA) to protect the consumer (human kind) then we are truly headed down the road of self destruction. When a company can sell me something that is pretending to be something that is really not and their is no law to govern or
    supervise this I can only begin to imagine what the people in power are really aware of and allowing to continue to go on and on without having a conscience about the effects it has on the people who use these kind of product’s cell phone, meat glue, prescription med’s for kids, air and water quality ect. The list can go on and on very scary when you think about other problem we are currently experiencing and facing like global worming something that many scientist and government official till this day do not acknowledged what other important info are they keeping from us am sick to my stomach right now and am truly worried about my children future. We as a society are contributing to own demise if we don’t put are foot down and demand change. knowledge is power get educated NOW!

  15. cetude

    So it can cause blood clots. Maybe that’s another reason why USA has two million strokes and heart attacks a year in addition to the plethora of cholesterol.

  16. cetude

    I’m sure it’s made in China like anything else and probably made of skinned alive cats and dogs.

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