Have Some Glue With Your Steak

Have Some Glue With Your Steak post image

It never fails to astonish me when I find out another underhanded industry accepted adulteration of food. Just the other day I read about an additive to meat that is not identified clearly in restaurants or catering halls, that involves adding a potential allergen or worse to food and that may cause illness in certain instances. It is just as disgusting as Pink Slime.

Meat Glue

It’s called meat glue and apparently it is used commonly in the meat industry. They take cheap cuts of meat and essentially glue them together with a substance called transglutaminase. They push the glued meat into a form that shapes it to look like an expensive cut like filet mignon, but it is really made from cheap stew meat.

According to an article in the journal Food Science, microbial transglutaminase (MTGase) is a useful method for producing restructured meat (I like that term). They also discussed the fact that,

Meat cubes in combination with MTGase and sodium caseinate showed acceptable bind, and sodium caseinate (this is milk derived) appeared to be a superior substrate for the crosslinking to meat proteins than soy protein, whey protein, or gelatin.

That suggests to me that it is not only MTGase that is added to the meat, but also any of the above substances including but not limited to maltodextrin (which may be derived from wheat) soy protein, whey protein (a milk product), sodium caseinate (a milk product) or gelatin.

And you thought a steak was a steak.

What is it?

It is an enzyme called tranglutaminase that used to be obtained from animal blood but is now produced from bacteria. It is a powder that is used to thoroughly coat the meat. It is very sticky and will bond the meat together.

Importantly, it is also an active enzyme in the blood clotting system in our body. Without it, our blood would not clot. How does extra transglutaminase affect our blood clotting mechanisms? No one knows. The study showing it is safe was performed by Ajinomoto, the product’s manufacturer. No surprise there.

Interestingly, tissue tranglutaminase is also found in human intestines, but that is not the same form of transglutaminase that’s found in meat glue. People with celiac disease, make antibodies to their own tissue transglutaminase enzyme, causing the immune systems to attack their intestinal linings.

Since the form of transglutaminase found in meat glue is not the same as the enzyme normally found in our intestines, it shouldn’t affect celiacs, theoretically. But what if it does? Steak used to be the safest item on a menu for someone with digestive conditions or people on special diets.

FDA says it is GRAS

The FDA says it is generally recognized as safe. While it may be listed on an industry label that the cooks see, the consumer does not know that they are eating a glued meat product.

If transglutaminase meat glue is used in a product, it must be identified on the ingredients label as “TG enzyme,” “enzyme” or “TGP enzyme.” Additionally, meats that contain transglutaminase will be labeled as formed or reformed. However, these labels are not seen by customers in restaurants or guests at partys in catering halls.

Lets display it on the menu

  • Savory Restructured Filet Mignon
  • Succulent Glued Strip Steak
  • Juicy Sizzling Formed Beef Tenderloin
  • Grilled Glued Porterhouse
  • Reformed Rib Eye

Do you think these will sell?

Transglutaminase handling instructions

Click here for some interesting MTGase handling instructions, that involves sniffing the meat to make sure the glue is good. If it smells like “wet dog” it is good. Users are cautioned not to breath it in.

Meat glue poses health risks

The problem is that the outer surface of a steak is exposed to many types of bacteria but inside the steak is sterile. That is why is it safe to eat a rare steak. However, with this gluing method, several layers of steak may be glued together and they may carry bacteria into the inside of the meat.

This can potentially cause bacterial food borne illness if the steak is not cooked through. Filet mignon is typically not cooked through because it will shrink if cooked too long and who doesn’t enjoy a rare or medium rare steak. I know I like it medium rare.

Other issues that emerge include allergic reactions to the additives in the MTGase products as well as the issues of consumer fraud in a restaurant or catering setting.

What do you think about this? Leave a comment and let me know!


This post is shared at: Real Food Wednesday, Gluten Free Wednesday, Sustainable Ways, Healthy 2Day, Whole Foods Wednesday, Mommy Club, Allergy Free Wednesday, Whole Food Wednesday, Tastastic, Creative Juice Thursday, Full Plate Thursday, Simple Lives Thursday, Pennywise Platter, Fresh Bites Friday, Freaky Friday, Friday Food, Fight Back Friday, Seasonal Celebration, Monday Mania, Homestead Barnhop, Real Food 101, Tasty Tuesday Naptime, Traditional Tuesday, Hearth & Soul Hop

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Leave a Comment

  • Mrs. Z May 9, 2012, 8:47 am


  • jean May 9, 2012, 9:58 am

    Gag-a-magot. Sigh. Will they never learn? I would be interested in knowing if these people who manufacture these type of “foods” eat them. Like I said, we homestead to have our own clean meat.

    • Angel May 23, 2012, 6:28 pm

      they learn. they get their assets chewed, and they go to some other trick.

  • Niki May 9, 2012, 10:17 am

    How do we find out what restaurants generally use these type of products? Is there anyway to tell or find out?

    • Jill May 9, 2012, 10:35 am

      Hi Niki,
      You would have to ask the chef. I think it is more common in cheaper restaurants and catering halls.

  • Laura P. May 9, 2012, 10:37 am


  • Sara Tetreault May 9, 2012, 10:44 am

    We just ate beef on Saturday for the first time in six months. I only purchase it from a particular store, who knows where the beef has come from. We rarely go out to eat in restaurants for this reason. I want to know what I’m eating and what I’m serving my family. This makes my stomach turn.

  • suzyhomemaker May 9, 2012, 11:23 am

    I notice you linked up this post to a lot of “real food” link parties. I think you should also link it up to other general food/recipe link parties. So many other link parties have people linking up recipes with boxed mixes and processed foods. Those who don’t read real food blogs need to be exposed to this info!

  • France @ Beyond The Peel May 9, 2012, 1:26 pm

    Where do you find this stuff? Jill, you never cease to find stuff that blows my mind. Because I have zero faith in the FDA, I actually am not surprised.

    • Jill May 9, 2012, 1:34 pm

      Hi France,
      I was actually quite shocked as I thought steak was a “safe” food to eat out.

  • Laura @ Gluten Free Pantry May 9, 2012, 7:25 pm


    I want to thank you for always researching and writing such informative articles and posts! I thought steak was safe as well-major bummer!

  • Saeriu May 9, 2012, 8:05 pm

    Is anything safe anymore? Corp Food and Big Ag are having a race to see who kills everyone first. This is really nasty…we haven’t bought beef in over a year, and we aren’t big steak eaters. Most of our meat is wild game. Still…chalk up one more reason to avoid eating out, buying from the grocery store….

  • Debbie May 9, 2012, 8:37 pm

    Jill, I am amazed at where you find this JUNK, and you explain it so well! Thanks for keeping us so informed – much appreciated. My opinion of the FDA is getting even LOWER……

    • Jill May 9, 2012, 9:03 pm

      Thank you all for your kind words. The more you dig, the more —- you find.

  • Steph (The Cheapskate Cook) May 9, 2012, 10:42 pm

    Your new menu descriptions are hysterical. You’re right – not gonna sell well.
    Thanks for the heads up! One more reason to only eat at nice restaurants.

  • Solveig May 10, 2012, 5:16 am

    @Debbie, my opinion of the FDA is past low, it’s GONE.

  • Bebe May 10, 2012, 1:04 pm

    I used to really enjoy going out to dinner as a treat. Now it’s a gamble rather than a treat. Is nothing sacred anymore? I know of ONE restaurant in our little town where I have absolute confidence in ordering anything off her menu. She sources all her meats, fish and eggs, as well as most of her vegetables and other ingredients, locally and in season. Expensive but honest real food.

  • Jen May 11, 2012, 7:43 am

    How beyond annoying! I stayed away from ground meat because frankly it is untrustworthy. Now I have to worry about the steak too? Aye. I am NEVER eating outside my house again. Really, never. Thanks for the great article.

  • Sarah T May 14, 2012, 10:22 am


  • Crystal May 16, 2012, 10:56 am

    Congrats! This post was my #5 most clicked post in The Mommy Club-Mommy solutions and resources the past week! I really appreciate you taking the time to link up and share. Stop over and see your feature. I can’t wait to see what you share this week!

    I’m following you on Pinterest and gave your post a pin.


  • Rebecca @ Natural Mothers Network May 18, 2012, 5:28 am

    This makes my stomach turn-how awful!! I loved your alternative menu meal names-lol:-) Another reminder not to eat meat away from home!

  • Beth B May 27, 2012, 5:10 pm

    Thank you for this very informative article. This may explain why some of my dear family are getting sick from foods they believe are safe and free from known allergens. My mother has discovered in the last year or so she’s allergic to beef, perhaps it’s not really the beef she’s reacting to. She is also very allergic to soy and corn, another source of maltodextrin, in addition to the wheat mentioned in your article.

    One of my nieces is also extremely reactive to soy, corn and milk and will very rarely eat meat. She has repeatedly told us she has a terrible time digesting meat and that it makes her stomach hurt. Her mom has tested positive as a Celiac and has also stated difficulty in digesting meats, particularly beef. Well, no wonder! I’ll pass this on, I know they’ll all be grateful for the information.