Transglutaminase is an enzyme, produced either by bacterial cultivation (via fermentation of plant extracts... sounds an awful lot like beer :scratch ) or from the coagulation factor in porcine and/or bovine blood, that bonds proteins together (hence the masks). Once it's been cultivated or extracted, transglutaminase is dried into a powder that can be easily applied to a number of products, including reconstituted steaks, fillets, roasts, or cutlets - Meat glue is added to disparate chunks of meat (like cheap stew meat, chunks of chicken - any meat, really) and rubbed in. The chunks are compressed together and left to cool; after several hours, the meat pieces have formed insoluble bonds made of protein polymers. You can usually pull apart the "steak" to reveal the composite pieces, but take a quick glance and you'd never know it was cheap stew meat glued together. To most consumers, the resultant reconstituted "steak" is indistinguishable from a real slab of meat once it's cooked, but a skilled meat glue artist can create "steaks" that fool experts - even when they're raw.
Sausages, hot dogs, and other processed meats - Transglutaminase is added to provide uniform texture to processed meats. The "bits" become smooth and seamless. Imagine Oscar Mayer balogna and you'll get the picture.
Imitation crab - Similar to hot dogs and sausages, only made with fish, usually pollock.
Fish balls, chicken nuggets, and other examples of deliciousness - Makes all that chicken viscera go down smooth.
Novel culinary creations - Some chefs are getting pretty creative with meat glue. One guy in NYC, for example, uses meat glue to make flourless noodles out of shrimp! I'd try that, who knows? I might even like it. :dunno:
At face value, meat glue sounds awful. I don't think I really have to explain why. It's instinctively repulsive on a visceral level, not a logical one. Furthermore, it's generally used to make some pretty awful foods. I can't really blame the transglutaminase for that, though. It's not the meat glue that makes chicken nuggets a bad idea; it's the hydrogenated vegetable oil in which they're fried and the refined high gluten breading in which the "chicken" is encased. I suppose you could call meat glue an enabler, but it's not the offending party. But is it itself actually bad for you?
The FDA has deemed it G.R.A.S. (Generally Recognized As Safe). As I see it, the real danger with glued meat is in the uneven heating of reconstituted steaks made up of random pieces of stew meat. Since, most people eat their steak at or below medium doneness. I'm a rare-to-medium-rare man myself, and with a real slab of animal, going rare, medium rare, or medium usually isn't a problem. The exterior - the part that's potentially been exposed to dangerous bacteria - is cooked or seared. The inside may be undercooked or even bloody, but the inside of a piece of real meat doesn't get significant bacterial exposure, so there's little to no danger. But "glued" steaks aren't one piece of meat. They are made of multiple pieces of meat, each with its own history, its own exterior, and its own collection of bacteria. If you treat a glued together "steak" like a regular steak and eat it below medium, you'll be eating some undercooked meat exteriors. Unless you braise that fake steak or burn it to a crisp, there's no way you'll know if all the component pieces have been sufficiently cooked. And if you're ordering steak at a standard restaurant, you have no control over how it's handled - or even what you're really eating. Bonded meat isn't necessarily unhealthy, but cooking it well requires a little more attention to detail, and in a restaurant, especially your garden variety chain restaurant, the cooking is entirely out of your hands.
Beyond that, it's the deception that bothers me. I think a lot of the outcry against transglutaminase can be explained by that: people don't like being deceived, especially when there's money on the line. If I buy a filet, it had better be an actual filet (singular), not a random assortment of trim and stew cobbled together and sprinkled with a bonding enzyme. Luckily, I know the meat I buy is real and whole, as does anyone who buys direct from farmers or from trusted butchers and meat counters, but not everyone has the inclination or ability to get meat from the source.
If you're worried that the meat you buy contains transglutaminase, you can do a few things to avoid any potential complications:
Do what the guy in the video did and gently tug on your meat. If your steak comes apart, it's probably "steak." It's probably best to perform the tug test before you pay for the meat, and most meat counters/butchers will allow you to inspect what they sell.
Just cook it thoroughly. I would advise against cooking your "steak" like a steak until well done, because, well, that just ruins meat, but a nice braise, crockpot stew, or soup would all work. Remember: it is meat and it is edible.
Ask your butcher, your meat supplier, or your waiter if the meat contains glue. They should know, and if they don't (or if they're unwilling to say), order something else or go elsewhere.
Honestly, though, I don't think transglutaminase in and of itself represents as big a problem as the outcry would indicate. It might come in otherwise unhealthy or suboptimal foods (processed meat, chicken nuggets, etc.) and it might expose you to bacteria if undercooked, but I don't think it's anything to lose sleep over if you're paying attention to your food like most members of this forum are.
yes, monocultures are dangerously vulnerable to disease.
yes, IMHO patenting a lifeform is ethically dubious at best.
that being said:
It is easy to self-righteously protest when you're belly is full and you're not one of the over twenty-five thousand people that starve to death every day. Stop visiting the 3rd world (like Zambia) for photo-ops & agenda-pushing, you sanctimonious a-holz & LIVE there for a couple years AS a native, NOT a rich American with the safety net of an expense account. The small fraction of the world's population that has the LUXURY to actually refuse food does NOT have the right to tell the rest that are scrambling to get whatever food they can that what they're doing is wrong; that's dangerous, ignorant & in most cases racist. Unless you're one of the 3rd world dwellers that actually IS starving, you need to STFU.
NOT aimed at any member of THIS forum, whose opinions I may not 100% agree with 100% of the time, but which I can respect and still maintain a dialogue/debate with.
??? Did I miss something? Is this glued meat product being sent to 3rd world countries to feed starving people? But...if it is, is that the most economical way to feed these people? With glued-together steak products?
My brother worked for an organization in Indiana, I can't remember the name of it, but they sent huge airplanes of food overseas. It was in the 80s and 90s.
Anyway, the rules/laws governing what foods they sent were ridiculous. Among them was that the food not only couldn't be past it's 'expiration' date, it had to be several months before the date, just in case it sat in a warehouse. There were other rules too.
Guess what they COULD do with all the food that didn't pass the rules/laws? They were allowed to donate it to American food pantry organizations to feed hungry americans. This is food considered unfit or unsafe to be sent overseas!