Myth: 'Glue' Is Used To Hold Some Meat Together
Transglutaminase is a protein that is used to bind ingredients together in many foods. In meat products, for example, it can help hold bacon around a filet mignon to create a bacon wrapped filet or it can help hold several smaller cuts together to make a larger cut that can be sliced.
Unfortunately, the clever nickname “meat glue” has made transglutaminase sound much more exciting that it is.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recognized transglutaminase as safe and it has been safely used for many years. Canada, Australia and many European countries also recognize this as a safe food processing aid. Transglutaminase is not classified as an allergen. Still, when it is used, it will appear on the ingredient label.
Think of a whole beef tenderloin. It has a pointed end and a thicker end – much like a cone. The disadvantage of this is that when slicing and serving tenderloin, it’s difficult to serve the same size portion. This is particularly important in food service and restaurants where consistent portion sizes are critical.
A meat processor could lay two tenderloins over one another, point to point, and add transglutaminase, which makes the cuts bind together. The product can then be portioned to a standard serving size and cooked for a more consistent and enjoyable eating experience.
Because transglutaminase binds several smaller pieces together, products that use it will be labeled as “chopped” or “formed.” These products need to be cooked like a ground product to 160 degrees F.