Move over Pink Slime, now there's Meat Glue. Restaurants and fancy chefs know it as transglutaminase, an enzyme that permanently bonds two pieces of flesh when pressed together. Examples are imitation crab meat, chicken nuggets, and filet mignon.
That pricey filet mignon dinner for sale at a posh restaurant could just be a patty of meat scraps or stew meat pieces pressed together and held in place with a powdery chemical known in the industry as "meat glue".
Gizmodo.com reports that restaurants know that the "glue" which was originally made from livestock blood is now cultivated from bacterial cultures. And it's an idea that catching fire. Just last week, almost every country in the European Union voted yes to the use of transglutaminase although some consumer groups in countries like Sweden are aghast at using it, calling it "meat make-up".
Meat glue is no secret to the dining industry. In fact, it is used liberally by big hotels, catered events, and restaurant chains, anywhere that bulk amounts of filet mignon are served. There are some restaurants now able to give away a Surf and Turf plate for just $8.99. That's because with the glue, $4-a-pound stew meat, which has to set in the refrigerator for 24 hours to meld, now looks like a $25-a-pound prime filet.
The Learning Channel reports that TG (transglutaminase) is really an enzyme that catalyzes covalent bonds between free amine groups in a protein, like lysine, and gamma-caroxminid groups, like glutamine. These bonds are permanent and cannot be degraded once the food item has been formed.
There are dangers associated with eating it. Technorati.com quotes Endocrinologist Dr. Bart Duell who says it is very important that fused meat be cooked to at least 165 degrees, or to well-done. However, the problem is that most people who eat a filet mignon want it cooked rare or medium. The doctor says if that's what is ordered, the insides of the fused meat could offer diners various food-borne infections.
Adding insult to injury, restaurants are not required to tell diners that they're eating glued meat. Supermarket products like sausages, crab meat, yogurt and cheese will probably have the words “transglutaminase,” “formed” or “reformed” in their ingredient list. But in a restaurant, there is really only one way to learn that the meat or the fish has been glued. If you look very carefully, you may be lucky enough to spot a slight seam where the pieces were joined together.