Sometimes don’t you just crave a nice, thick, juicy steak? If you’re a meat eater and a meat lover like I am, most likely you have assumed that the meat you are eating is just that, meat. Pure and simple. Assumptions aside, do you really know what is in your meat?
You have probably never stopped to think about the fact that the juicy steak sitting on your plate is not what it seems. Whether you purchase a beautiful cut of meat at the meat market or order it at your favorite restaurant, are you sure that you know that there is no other unsuspecting ingredient in that meat?
In Australia it was discovered that meat markets and restaurants alike were using in their cuts of meat a product that actually glues scrap pieces together. They were selling these glued-together scrap rolls as prime cuts. The meat was far from prime, however, as it was actually being created and ‘glued’ together with something called transglutaminase (TG), or better known as ‘meat glue’.
Basically, TG is a blood enzyme substance that is used to bind proteins together. Once raw meats are ‘stuck’ together with TG, they have the appearance of being an original cut of meat and able to be handled just like any other uncut piece of protein in the kitchen.
The enzyme substance is also used in the United States in over 8 million pounds of meat products each year. It is all the rage in modern cuisine and molecular recipes as well as very common in its use by chefs in general. Although the American Meat Institute says that it is safe, it is known to have the potential for food safety problems as well as allergic implications. Those with celiac disease have been found to have problems with it as well.
The main reasons for using the ‘meat glue’ as it is known industry wide is to reduce waste and produce special effects. By combining scrap pieces, or cuttings not big enough to serve as a portion, you can glue the scraps or waste together can create a portion that can fool almost anyone. It will look good, cook evenly, and have great flavor … no one even needs to know! It is used regularly in sausage to bind the protein (meat) together without having to use casing. It is also used as a creative way to make meat combinations for a unique dish like, oh let’s say turkey and lamb kabobs, for example.
My favorite part in all of the talk about TG, or come on let’s call it what it is, glue, is the following information:
“In 1989, after testing over five thousands strains of microbes, researchers at the Japanese company Ajinomoto (best known for the production of msg) discovered a strain of soil bacteria, Streptoverticillium mobaraense, which produced large quantities of easily purified TG. This TG is called microbial TG, or mTG. Besides being easy to produce, mTG does not require calcium and is very easy to use.” (1)
Although there is wide praise among foodies and the like for meat glue’s diversity in usage for everything from a thickener in egg yokes and dairy to increasing yield among certain substances, I tend to shy away from additives in my food. Especially ones discovered by the makers of msg (monosodium glutamate). For me, when I order or purchase a piece of meat, I’d like to have just that, a piece of meat – nothing more, nothing less.
I know that we all love the texture and flavor of a big, juicy steak. The best thing for your health, however, is to purchase grass fed beef, free range chicken and wild caught fish. You can find creative ways to enhance the flavor and tenderize the cuts to your satisfaction. Here’s to your next additive free meal!