I can’t seem to find when “meat glue” first came onto the radar, but it is definitely something to be aware of. Unfortunately it isn’t making the same splash as “pink slime”, possibly because Jamie Oliver hasn’t brought it to the masses yet. You may be eating it without knowing it. If “pink slime” or technically, lean finely textured beef concerned you, then meat glue should do the same.
Meat Glue – What Is It?
Meat glue is officially called thrombian, or transglutaminase (TG). It is an enzyme that holds different kinds of meat together. In a powder form it can be mixed with protein products to make them bond together. Imitation crab is a very common example. It’s made from surimi which is a white fish hammered into a paste and mixed with meat glue. Processed, pieced chicken shapes often contain meat glue as well as molded meat mixtures like sausage without the casing. It can also be found in breads, pastries, dairy products, and tofu products.
Meat Glue – Why Now?
Meat glue is of some interest now thanks to the recent events around the use of “pink slime”. Investigative reporters are finding meat glue being used in grocery stores and restaurants to form steaks. See one of the investigations here:
Meat Glue – Is It Safe?
Meat glue is igniting another fire regarding the meat industry. Not surprisingly, the American Meat Institute calls meat glue safe and natural. They note that usually the same types of cuts are used to form steaks (I guess that’s supposed to make me feel better?) The FDA considers meat glue “generally recognized as safe” (just like “pink slime”). The USDA has determined that meat glue is safe and suitable for use. Many health experts disagree, especially regarding using it to “form” steaks. The reason a steak can be eaten rare is that the inside is uncontaminated. Form pieces together and the center may be contaminated. Not to mention that you’re eating the added meat glue.
Meat Glue – How Do I Know If I’m Eating It?
If you purchase from a grocery store, products must be labeled, look for the word “transglutamiase”. Meat products may be called “formed” or “reformed”. The unfortunate places you won’t be able to tell if the food contains meat glue is in restaurants, catered foods, hotels, and tourist attractions. So, if the price of that steak seems too good to be true, it most likely is “formed” meat made with meat glue.
Meat Glue – Why Is It Used?
It’s all about yield and money (again!). Manufacturers want to use all the parts possible to eliminate waste because waste equals less profits. Restaurants want to use all the parts and guarantee portion controlled sizing, helping to make the best profit. Consumers want creative “novel” products and they want foods cheap, cheap, cheap. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – you can’t have it both ways. If you want cheap foods, you may be eating meat glue. In businesses where efficiency is measured in pennies they are going to use every piece they can.
Meat Glue – How To Avoid It
The best way to avoid meat glue is to know where your food comes from and how it is produced – close the gap between you and your food. Shop your farmer’s markets so you know how your meat was raised and butchered. Know your sources. Skip processed foods and you don’t have to worry about ingredients lists. Make your meals at home and you don’t have to worry about the possibility of formed meats with meat glue (unless you watch the You Tube videos and decide to make it yourself).