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Meat Glue. That’s right. Meat Glue.

If you’re easily grossed out, don’t read this.  Trust me.  Don’t let your morbid curiosity override your sense of reason.  Stop reading now.

A package of meat glue.

Meat glue (transglutaminase) is an enzyme that can form chemical bonds between proteins.  I’m not talking about the fillers that are used to make chicken nuggets, I mean you take two slabs of meat and you shake this TG on it and then you stick ‘em together.  The point of TG (in the food industry) is to maximize the yield from a cut of meat, poultry, or fish.  If you have scraps after portioning meat, you can glue them together, wrap it in plastic, refrigerate for 6 hours and you’ll have a “new” cut of meat that would look and taste the same to anyone in a butcher shop or a restaurant.

So, here are the important points:

  1. Meat glue can be dangerous if you’re using different meats.  Some people might feel that the ability to combine proteins is a good thing: pork and shrimp dumplings for example.  My problem with it is that different proteins have different cooking temperatures so it’s much more likely that the meat will be improperly cooked and make you sick.
  2. When glued meat is cooked, it has no flavor so unless the food industry fully discloses its practices (yeah, right…) you may have had some glued meats.
  3. This is a nutrition blog so, I should mention that research suggests that meat glue is not harmful to humans.

This is the worst part (to me): if you have a bag of meat glue at home (it’s a powder) and you think it may have gone bad, sprinkle it on some protein.  Let’s say chicken.  If you sprinkle TG on chicken and it still smells like chicken, your meat glue has gone bad.  What?!  Really?  Yes.  So if your meat smells like meat, your glue won’t work.  If your piece of chicken sprinkled with meat glue smells like wet dog, then the feast is on.

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2 Comments to "Meat Glue. That’s right. Meat Glue."

  1. TB1 says:

    How can you avoid glued meat? I was not aware of the exact process you’ve outlined here, but did figure that most seemingly “healthy” deli-meats such as maple honey turkey were somehow glued together. So when ordering lunch at work, I’ve instead opted more for grilled chicken cutlets or roast beef (which seems to be at least a whole cut of single meat). Is that accurate? Are there any brands that do not use meat glue, or any cuts of meat that are generally not glued (e.g. roast beef)?

    • Kate Gardner says:

      Ordering the whole piece of chicken or beef is a great idea. Unforunately, meat glue is used in processed meats AND in cuts that look whole. After taking a look at their ingredients, Boars Head meats are definitely a safe choice. Most others are probably ok as well, as there are other fillers and binders more popularly used in processed meats.

      When eating out, always choose a reputable restaurant and ask your server if you’re hesitant about a particular item. If purchasing meat from a grocery store, inquire about the sourcing of the meat from your butcher (though most popular supermarkets do not use meat glue). The following Canadian article (and embedded video from a New Zealand magazine show) is good a good follow up if you’re curious!

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