When you go out for a steak you expect nothing but the best right? Especially when you’re paying a good bit of money for an expensive one.
Well, apparently some customers are not quite getting what they are paying for. Rather than the correct cuts that they are ordering, they are getting some random stew bits held together by what is known in the industry as ‘meat glue.’ These are essentially ‘mock filets,’ they are created by gluing scraps of meat together and then selling them as prime cuts. Sounds pretty damn shady, doesn’t it?
Don’t get me wrong, not all restaurants do this, but it is worth noting for the ones that do. The meat glue is supposed to be safe to ingest but has been raising concerns in more recent times. It comes in a powder form and the chef takes different cuts of meat and dusts them with the powder. Once everything has been dusted the meat goes into a tin so that it can get the proper shape overnight. The meat is sealed in a vacuum bag and the pressure works to bond the meats together.
Meat glue has been around for years and was even investigated by ABC7 back in 2012. Their report stated as follows:
Meat glue is a powder officially known as transglutaminase. Originally, the natural enzyme was harvested from animal blood. Now it’s primarily produced through the fermentation of bacteria. Added to meat, it forms a nearly invisible and permanent bond to any other meat you stick it to.
Chef Terje takes food seriously. He doesn’t use meat glue in his restaurant, but like many chefs, he knows how it works, and he agreed to show us.
He takes powder and dusts it liberally over the meat pieces. The coated stew meat then goes into a circular tin to give it a nice round filet mignon shape. He also decides to make a New York strip out of thin cuts of round steak; adding water makes a soupy glaze and an easier way to coat the meat. “You can see this is really sticky,” Terje explains. “I’m gluing my fingers together.” The final steps are to seal the meat in a vacuum bag, adding some pressure to the bond, and then it’s off to the fridge to set overnight. “Twenty-four hours later we’ll have steak,” he says.
Our humble $4 a pound stew meat now looks like a $25 a pound prime filet.
The FDA lists transglutaminase as “generally recognized as safe.” It’s OK to eat cooked meat that’s been glued. But here’s the problem, the outside of a piece of meat comes in contact with a lot of bacteria making its way from slaughterhouse to table. Usually cooking a steak on the outside will kill all that off. The center of a single cut of steak is sterile, that’s why you can eat it rare. But glue pieces of meat together and now bacteria like E. coli could be on the inside.
“And say somebody wants that filet steak rare, the center temperature is not going to reach the temperature that will actually kill the bacteria,” says Terje. “And that’s also a really, really happy environment for things that can kill you.”
Pinning down who is using transglutaminase isn’t easy. One meat company owner who wouldn’t go on camera told us gluing meat is a common practice, and the most glued product by far is filet mignon destined for the foodservice industry.
An industry trade group told us meat glue is most often used where filet mignon is served in bulk — at a restaurant, banquet, cafeteria or hotel.
“You ask yourself, how can they make money? Selling these cheap steaks all day long, and that look really nice, and this is one way of doing it,” says Terje.
While the USDA says that the ingredient label must state that the meat has been reformed or formed, you aren’t very likely to see an ingredient list at a restaurant. As stated above there are some very real risks associated with this meat glue. Bacteria is not something to joke about or take lightly. For more on this please feel free to check out the video below.
(Image Via: Daily Mirror)