Monday, June 13, 2011 meat glue?

Wow!  This stuff has ratcheted the blogosphere to eleven.  At its most basic, meat glue is a binding agent that is an naturally occuring enzyme.  Transglutaminase is its name, meat glue is its schoolyard nickname.  Meat glue is similar to using whole blood as a binding agent, except with only the binding stuff.

True, many people find blood pudding disgusting but they would eat sausages or hotdogs.  Now, if you are getting any of this stuff from the grocery store and not a reputable butcher then all bets are off.  You are probably eating way more dangerous compounds than meat glue.  Meat glue is currently found in commercial applications such as surimi and chicken nuggets.  There are some better applications that can be found in stores such as this bonded pork jowl. Vegetarians may also be getting the vegetarian version in their tofu.  See the GOOD article below.  It is also found in restaurant creations from the Fat Duck and WD50 to create an effect, make protein cook better, or as a novel technique (shrimp pasta made mainly from shrimp).

So, as I see it.  Meat glue can be used for bad  (Fooling people about their cuts of meat, additive to make bad look good) or good (Novel foods, use less binding more meat, and other great kitchen tricks).  But, you need to decide for yourself.  Here are some starter arguments so that you don't need to go through the tons of conspiracy pages or apologists.

I have gone over many pages and the contra arguments are largely visceral, as in yuck.  The other main category is THEY are tricking us.  To be fair to Ms. Howard, she is trying to find a story and I may be mischaracterizing her a tad.

On the pro side, I didn't even grace the makers with their retort that amounts to "luddites".  The more balanced and thoughtful arguments come from chefs.  Cooking issues, one of my favourite blogs for doing away with bad food issue thinking has two really good articles for my purpose.  The first is a
primer and the second is basically a rant.  It goes through the arguments on both sides. 

Overall, I am more interested in the reaction to meat glue and how it is spreading like an urban myth throughout the internet.  This focus on a minor risk versus the lack of outcry around other bad food practices and how the food system is programmed to continue these practices is appalling.  As this discussion continues, essays are now beginning to ask those questions.  GOOD, whom I think is a great magazine, has started this aspect of the discussion by talking about what this means for the food movement.

While I don't believe that the food movement is generally a monolithic organized committee of like minded card carrying board, I do believe that on these issues, we need to hear from Marion Nestle, Michael Pollan and others.  I look forward to hearing a more reasoned and far fetching discussion on not only these additives but more importantly, the difference in application by the various food factions.
PS.  I was too lazy to use transglutaminase and resorted to the equivalent of calling it "Ginger".  If I have offended transglutaminase in any way, I am sorry and promise to mend my ways.

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