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Is Meat Glue Any More Gross Than Plain Old Meat?

Is Meat Glue Any More Gross Than Plain Old Meat?

“Pink slime!”

What does that topical phrase make you think of? No, it is not the villain for the new superhero blockbuster, nor is it a distant relative to red tide. Pink slime has become somewhat of a rallying cry, not so much for food safety, or against food processing, but a sort of general cry against things that are, for lack of a better word, really gross. The outcry against pink slime has been heard loud and clear, as many school districts, fast food companies, and meat processors have scrambled to distance themselves from this lean meat additive that has given everyone a strong disinclination and disgust towards processed meat products. A handful of “pink slime” manufacturing plants have, because of this antipathy, closed down. We as consumers feel shaken, but momentarily a bit more at ease with our meat.

But around every corner there is another additive or industrial processing of animal products that threaten to destroy our appetite. A few weeks ago it was “tuna scrape,” and now it is something called “meat glue.” The given name alone is enough to inspire repulsion. This meat glue is essentially a powdered enzyme, formally known as transglutaminase (TG) and beef fibrin, used to bind smaller cuts of beef and pork and form consistently sized, uniformly shaped larger steaks. The process is really quite amazing, as are the results, but not as appetizing as one would hope (see video here).

The big concern is that this binding additive is being used surreptitiously to deceive consumers by turning smaller, inexpensive cuts of meat into what appear to be premium cuts, therefore a few chunks of chuck steak suddenly, through the magic of TG, becomes a thick serving of filet mignon. Ajinomoto North America and Fibrimex, the two companies that manufacture the enzyme product say the enzymes find their way into only a fraction of the meat sold in the country. A typical use, they said, was to help bind two, triangular-shaped beef tenderloins together to create a uniform filet that might wind up being served in a restaurant, casino or banquet hall or on a cruise ship. There also remains a concern about food safety and food-illness, as some critics say that the process of gluing meat together necessitates thorough cooking (not always what the customer orders). However, most health officials say the enzyme and the process of binding meat are totally safe.

Even so, binding cuts of meat together just doesn’t sit well with most – obviously not the vegetarian population, nor the meat lovers among us. But when you stop to consider all that goes into butchering/harvesting an animal and breaking down the cow, or pig, into its component parts, is it really any more objectionable, or repellent, than mixing some enzymes with raw flesh to get the desired shape and size of dinner? Are we choosing to get lost in the details and not see that the entire operation of getting animal to plate is just something we’d rather not know anything about?

Maybe it is gut check time?

Read more: Basics, Blogs, Conscious Consumer, Diet & Nutrition, Eating for Health, Following Food, Food, , , , , , , ,

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Eric Steinman

Eric Steinman is a freelance writer based in Rhinebeck, NY. He regularly writes about food, music, art, architecture, and culture and is a regular contributor to Bon Appétit among other publications.

79 comments

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6:37AM PDT on Mar 28, 2013

Both are gross.

8:24AM PDT on Jul 31, 2012

Yes, it is true that veggies back in the 50s and early 60s tasted far better than much of the GMO produced stuff today, and that factory farms be it for meats or veggies are full of toxins
- hormones and antibiotics for meats and toxic pesticides for veggies. GMO seeds are taking the taste out of the veggies and fruit.

It is a good idea to find as much organic meats and veggies as one can, growing one's own veggies does help even if you have a small balcony container garden.

Too much emphasis in food these days goes into pure profit, not taste or healthy alternatives.
Pure deception on the part of any business practice must not be tolerated!

8:22AM PDT on Jul 31, 2012

Continuing my comment from below:


Until then, I will continue to eat non-GMO veggies (the world's soy is 60 % GMO!), find meat that is organic, not factory farmed which is filled with hormones/toxins, grow my own veggie patch not doused in pesticides and avoid all the sugar laced processed goods out there. Reading labels on much of the foods available in grocery stores these days - much of it scarey stuff here.

Is Care2 having the hiccups tonight? Every time I comment on an article tonight/wee small hours I have to sign in again. The joys of technology!

8:22AM PDT on Jul 31, 2012

In some cases deceitful business practices are nothing new, for some the bottom line is key. Selling a product that is not what it appears to be is fraudulent. Labelling/reporting are the keys to public awareness. Many times the ingredient list in foods do not list all components.

There are those who throw out opinions based on their views of morality, judgement and virtue. No one side of the vegan/vegetarian/meat/poultry eater "debate" has a monopoly on Truth. People follow their own paths. Comments such as these for instance:

"If people persist in eating dead animal flesh then they deserve to get whatever poisons the corporations put in it."

"I didn't notice it until I quit smoking, but once I quit, boy animal eaters really smell bad whenever you have to get too close to one."

So judgemental. Of course those buying liquid dish soap or other cleaners laced with toxins likely deserve their fate as well perhaps? Not doing all they can to avoid polluting the planet? Hmmm, a slippery slope of Virtue/Condemnation.

Adopting a holier than thou attitude is pointless. We all live off organic matter, what was once living and perhaps Mother Nature will change her mind by redesigning our bodies to survive eating rock pate.

Until then, I will continue to eat non-GMO veggies (the world's soy is 60 % GMO!), find meat that is organic, not factory farmed which is filled with hormones/toxins, grow my own veggie patch not doused in pesticides and avoid all the sugar

10:30AM PDT on Jun 22, 2012

aw. This sucks meat taste good to meat. I refuse to eat deli meats but I still eat some meat.

10:17AM PDT on Jun 22, 2012

Is the glue meant to be eaten?

11:43PM PDT on Jun 9, 2012

What is wrong with chunks of steak? What's gross is factory farms where hormones and antibiotics being pumped into the animals set out to slaughter, so a cow that would normally weigh 2000# now weighs 3000#...

1:24PM PDT on May 29, 2012

I'm so glad I hardly don't eat meat anymore

7:53PM PDT on May 26, 2012

I wonder what else is out there.

12:58PM PDT on May 26, 2012

ty

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