We’ve known for some time that conventional food has its share of major problems, but it just keeps getting more interesting. Take, for instance, “meat glue.” You heard right. For years, the meat industry has been using this concoction to fuse scraps of meat and other goods together for appearance purposes, but meat glue has been hitting the headlines lately. It’s bad enough what’s in conventional meat, but glued meat goes way over the edge.
But let’s back up the train a bit. To begin with, conventional meat is full of hormones, antibiotics and pesticides. Animals are often raised in unnatural settings and eat an unnatural diet—including genetically modified corn instead of grass. As if that weren’t bad enough, a recent study indicated that about half of the meat in the U.S. is tainted with drug-resistant bacteria.
The Translational Genomics Research Institute found that Staphylococcus aureus— the bacteria responsible for most Staph infections like blood poisoning, skin infections and pneumonia—was present in meat and poultry from U.S. grocery stores at “unexpectedly high rates.” The researchers determined that nearly half—47 percent—of the 80 brands of meat and poultry sampled were contaminated with S. aureus. Additionally, 52 percent of those bacteria were resistant to three classes of antibiotics.
Dr. Lance Price, the senior author of the study, said, “For the first time, we know how much of our meat and poultry is contaminated with antibiotic-resistant Staph, and it is substantial. The fact that drug-resistant S. aureus was so prevalent, and likely came from food animals themselves, is troubling, and demands attention to how antibiotics are used in food-animal production today.” Findings published in the journal Clinical Infectious Disease indicated that industrial farms where food animals are fed low doses of antibiotics “are ideal breeding grounds for drug-resistant bacteria that move from animals to humans.”
In short, our conventional meat is a mess of harmful elements, including antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Speaking of bacteria…that brings us back to the meat glue.
Meat glue is an enzyme known as tranglutaminase and is produced by the bacteria Streptoverticillium mobaraense fermentation in commercial quantities or is extracted from animal blood—mainly cow or pig plasma, which makes the blood clot. What’s more is that people who work with transglutaminase wear masks so they won’t breathe it in. It’s a coagulant, so it could cause problems if inhaled.
Transglutaminase is used in a variety of ways—to bind meat scraps into a larger piece of meat, to fuse imitation crab meat and chicken nuggets, to improve the texture of emulsified meat products or low-grade meats, to make conventional milk and yogurt creamier or to make noodles firmer. It’s not listed on ingredient labels, but it is readily used in the U.S. As you might imagine, there are differing opinions on the use of transgluatminase. Those in the conventional food industry and some chefs who routinely use it are often pro-transglutaminase use.
Interestingly, the FDA classifies transglutaminase as GRAS, or generally recognized as safe. Its safety, however, is questionable since the bacterial contamination of glued meat is much higher than meat that isn’t glued together. Glued meat is also more difficult to cook thoroughly—which makes it harder to kill the bacteria. Adding to the problem is that you really can’t tell which meat is glued together and which is not—and it may have come from multiple sources if it’s glued meat.
I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t touch conventional meat or any glued food with a ten-foot pole. If you want to avoid any risks associated with conventional meat or glued food, then go with organic, grassfed meat and other organic foods.
No one should eat glued food of any kind.