Collect meat and fish scraps, shape them, glue them together and sell the products as nuggets, prime steak, fish patties or some other edible for your nourishment, enjoyment and fitness.
The North American Meat Institute (NAMI) estimated five years ago that of the meat sold annually in the United States 8 million pounds are glued together with meat glue.
When I first read about meat glue I thought of this stuff as Franken-food. But the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) classified glued-together foods as GRAS (Generally Regarded As Safe). Be aware, though, the European Union banned the use of meat glue in 2010 for safety reasons.
Meat is comprised of proteins. Meat glue bonds protein fibers together. The bond between glued fibers is strong enough to survive handling, shipping, storage and cooking without falling apart. The presence of meat glue in a restructured meat is not visually detectable. So now you can enjoy preformed meats formed from scraps and from what the industry calls "underutilized portions of carcasses."
Meat glue is an enzyme called transglutaminase or TG. It occurs naturally in plants, animals and bacteria. TG contributes to animal and human functions like blood clotting. For use in the food industry TG is derived from natural blood-clotting factors from sources like Guinea pig livers and the blood of cows and pigs. TG is a natural biological protein adhesive.
If you have eaten processed meats like chicken nuggets, hot dogs, imitation seafood, sausages or other processed meat, chances are you have eaten scraps restructured with TG. Any meat that has been canned, cured, dried or smoked is classified as a processed meat. Processed meats contain chemicals that are not included in fresh meat. For example, processed meats contain nitrite preservatives that form harmful free radicals in your system. These free radicals may help cause emphysema or COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease). There is a suggestion in the literature that a recent surge in the occurrence of celiac disease may be linked to the consumption of TG.
TG is also used in producing some baked goods, cheeses, ice-cream and yogurt. (All of these foods contain protein.)
Going forward, there are issues such as the long-term effects of meat glue on the body. The process of collecting and then gluing meat fragments together introduces the strong possibility of bacterial contamination. For example, glued proteins from underutilized portions of carcasses may have been contaminated with microbes like E. coli and the consumer will never know of it. An additional concern is the possibility that TG may have a negative impact on anyone with celiac disease.
According to FDA, any direct food additive, like TG, must be identified on the product label. Glued protein foods like processed meats are identified as "may contain" "TG enzyme," "enzyme," "TGP enzyme" or the brand names Activa or MooGloo.
According to Healthline and FDA there is no direct health risk link to the consumption of TG. However, until we have more factual laboratory data, it makes sense that anyone with a weakened immune system, food allergies or Crohn's disease should consider avoiding foods containing TG.
That steak in the display case may be the real thing. Or it may be one piece made from scraps or underutilized portions of carcasses. You will not know and the person behind the counter may not know either. The meat in the display case does not carry a label.
Photo Credit: MCCAIG/iStock
- The Healthiest (And Unhealthiest) Ways to Eat Chicken
- Is Jerky Actually Healthy?
- Is Turkey Sausage Actually Healthy?