If you're a
and nutrition nerd, you're long past the grade school days of willingly
eating glue, paste, and other pseudo-edible adhesives, but there's
a decent chance you're still eating an entirely different kind of
glue unknowingly. Maybe even on a regular basis. I'm talking about
meat glue, also known as transglutaminase, which restaurants and
food producers use to create "steaks" out of "glued-together" stew
meat, add body to dairy products, make imitation crab, improve processed
meat mouth feel, to name a few. A video exposing the "secret"
of meat glue has been making the rounds of the various health circles,
and more than a few readers have asked me about it. Here's the video
in question, taken from a recent Australian expose:
With that out
of the way, what exactly is transglutaminase, and should you be
worried about it?
is an enzyme, produced either by bacterial cultivation (via fermentation
of plant extracts) or from the coagulation factor in porcine and
bovine blood, that bonds proteins together. Once it's been cultivated
or extracted, transglutaminase is dried into a powder that can be
easily applied to a number of products, including
steaks, fillets, roasts, or cutlets Meat glue is
added to disparate chunks of meat (like cheap stew meat, chunks
of chicken – any meat, really) and rubbed in. The chunks are compressed
together and left to cool; after several hours, the meat pieces
have formed insoluble bonds made of protein polymers. You can usually
pull apart the "steak" to reveal the composite pieces, but take
a quick glance and you'd never know it was cheap stew meat glued
together. To most consumers, the resultant reconstituted "steak"
is indistinguishable from a real slab of meat once it's cooked,
but a skilled meat glue artist can create "steaks" that fool experts
– even when they're raw.
hot dogs, and other processed meats – Transglutaminase
is added to provide uniform texture to processed meats. The "bits"
become smooth and seamless. Imagine Oscar Mayer balogna and you'll
get the picture.
crab Similar to hot dogs and sausages, only made
balls, chicken nuggets, and other examples of deliciousness
Makes all that chicken viscera go down smooth.
culinary creations Some chefs are getting pretty
creative with meat glue. One guy in NYC, for example, uses meat
glue to make flourless
noodles out of shrimp! I'd eat that.
On its face,
meat glue sounds awful. I don't think I have to explain why. It's
just repulsive on a visceral level. Furthermore, it's generally
used to make some pretty awful foods. We can't really blame the
transglutaminase for that, though. It's not the meat glue that makes
chicken nuggets a bad idea; it's the hydrogenated
vegetable oil in which they're fried and the refined wheat breading
in which the "chicken" is encased. I suppose you could call meat
glue an enabler, but it's not the offending party. But is it itself
bad for you?