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Watch out for Meat Glue!

Is it a steak? Or some sort of meat collage?

That's right, you heard correctly here... there's actually a glue that is used to bind small pieces of meat together to form larger faux-cuts of steak and the like.  This video from an Australian news program tells a little bit more about it.

Basically, meat glue is a substance made from Transglutaminase, an enzyme that clots blood in various animals.  It has a binding property that pulls blood particles ( or meat particles) together, creating a strong bond between the particles.

The substance is being used commercially in the US (and Australia, as the video shows) to allow meat producers to bind smaller pieces of meat into larger "cuts."  However, it is illegal in the European Union.

And why is that?  After all, the FDA uses a study done by the product's creator, Ajinomoto, to show that the product is safe for use.  And despite the fact that users of the product wear masks to avoid inhaling it while treating meat (to avoid getting blood clotters into their lungs, I suppose), there haven't yet been any studies to show that meat glue itself is harmful.

The problem comes from the meat itself.  Picture a steak - one that hasn't been glued together.  Any bacteria on the steak would be on the outside surface of the steak, where high heat from cooking can kill it off before it hurts the consumer.  But with a steak made with smaller bits of meat and meat glue, some of those bacteria are being pushed into the center of the cut, as surfaces that were formerly exposed are no longer so.  Any bacteria that would have been destroyed by the heat might not be if the steak is cooked any less than extraordinarily well done.  So a perfectly healthy way to cook meat suddenly becomes much less so - hence the EU's reluctance to allow meat glue's use.

And as the video shows, it's very hard to tell the difference between a glued steak and a real steak, especially after it's cooked - making it a prime product for use by restaurants where you rarely see the meat in its raw form.

Some restaurants have made "special" cuts of meat such as "pasta" made from bound-together pieces of shrimp, or bits of elk, llama, and yak to make "exotic meat filets."

For the time being, it all comes down to cooking time - making sure that the bacteria are killed throughout your sirloin instead of just on the outside.  The other option would be to ask if meat glue is used by a restaurant, butcher, or grocer before purchasing their wares.  Of course, the better option all together is to buy your meat from farms you trust and that do not use such substances.

Another thing for us to watch out for when looking for the best meat for our Paleo lifestyles!


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