– Food producers fear ‘meat glue’ use will spark public panic after ‘pink slime’ debate (Daily Mail, May 9, 2012):
Meat processors are rushing to quell fears about another kitchen trick that may leave consumers wary of their next steak.
A recent expose about the use of ‘meat glue’, a powder substance that connects small pieces of sometimes lesser-quality meat together before repackaging it and pawning it off as a proper fillet mignon, has industry insiders fearful of more consumer outrage following the ‘pink slime’ debate.
‘Someone gave it a catchy name, so now it’s catching on,’ Jeremy Russell, a spokesman for the National Meat Association told Bloomberg News in response to the questions being raised about the use of the powder, called transglutaminase.
The so-called ‘meat glue’ has been used in American restaurants and the kitchens of banquet halls for decades, is USDA-approved and considered safe for the diner.
The problem lies with the increased potential for bacteria in meat that has been created by multiple pieces.
During the slaughter, production, packaging and shipping of meat, the area that is most likely to be contaminated is the exterior. The majority of the time, that bacteria is killed off when the meat is cooked, and the interior portion is fine to eat raw because it was never exposed to air.
Because steak is created using multiple pieces essentially compresses the exteriors of various slices, those exteriors become the new interiors of the final product. As a result, they may not be fully cooked when the new piece of steak is fried up, meaning that any bacteria left on the old exteriors may still be lingering.
Aside from the obvious health concerns, consumer rights activists also believe that transglutaminase is deceptive in that the diner may be paying for one solid slice of steak and not a number of sub-par portions pieced together.
‘It’s consumer deception’ scientist Michael Hansen from Consumers Union said.
‘When you see a muscle cut, you think it comes from one animal, not a jigsaw from a number of sources.’
In a somewhat unlikely pairing, a number of well-regarded chefs are supporting meat processors in their attempts to dispel public concern about the use of ‘meat glue’.
Wylie Dufresne, a New York-based chef who is known for his advancements in the field of molecular gastronomy, says that transgluminase helps increase creativity in the kitchen.
‘People have been manipulating food ever since they realized cooking a whole animal was difficult. Cows don’t come in hot dog form,’ he told the food website Meatpaper.
In his case, Dufresne used transgluminase to connect bacon with cod medallions.
‘Meat glue makes us better chefs,’ he continued, estimating that 40 per cent of the world’s truly inventive chefs use the substance.
Meat producers are understandably trying to nip the issue in the bud after public attention was paid to the practice of heating up ground meat and then adding ammonia to it during the production process.
The resulting meat, referred to as pink slime, lead to outrage, petitions, and at least three production factory closures due to lost profits.