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Update: Meat Glue

Many of you have been curious about the prevalence of meat glue.  Here are answers to the most common questions I’ve gotten since my post.

1. Does Boars Head or other processed lunchmeats use meat glue?

Answer: No.  Boars Head does not.  I can’t necessarily say the same for other brands!

2. Is there anything on a food label that would identify the product as one that contains meat glue?

Answer: Yes.  By US labeling laws, the product must state that it is a “formed” or “reformed” product.  However, these terms don’t necessarily mean meat glue; products may also be “formed” or “reformed” with pork collagen (both act as binders).

3. Is meat glue unhealthy or have negative effects?

Answer: Meh…To me, it’s a little gross and just one more additive.  Most of the products that use meat glue are processed, which means they have other sub-optimal ingredients (i.e. hydrogenated vegetable oil or nitrites). However, gross-ness is not in question here.  No, meat glue hasn’t been shown to have negative health effects. But, again, the point of my last post was not that meat glue in itself was unsafe, but that different meats have different cooking temperatures and that it can introduce more bacteria to your food.
4. What products have I heard of that contain meat glue?

Answer: Turducken. Some chicken nuggets, imitation crab meat, sausages, fish balls, or reconstituted meats.  An example from the food service industry: the chef at NYC restaurant WD-50 uses meat glue to create shrimp noodles.

So who else uses meat glue? Well, here’s a funny story that a friend told me last weekend at brunch:

“It was my friend Amy’s birthday and so we decided to go to one of the underground chef’s table dinners.  It was around $90 a person for a 5 course meal, with wine pairings for each course, at this chef’s house.  I was skeptical of getting murdered at first, going to some random guy’s house but I did.  Anyway, at one point, one of the other guests (there were only 8), mentioned meat glue and I told them about your post.  Apparently, while we were talking about it, the chef heard us, came out to the dining room, and set a big bag of meat glue on the table.   I was a little grossed out, but he said he uses it often.  In our meal, he used it to stick the ends of fish fillets to the meatier part so that no one got a skimpy portion of fishI hope that piece wasn’t mine!

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