Many people crave for that juicy, tender, grass fed steak served at expensive restaurants. Restaurants sell these food at a higher price because quality meat is harder to source. Demand for premium quality meat has gone up for the past years, and suppliers are getting creative with their products. Beyond the dishonesty of this meat glue steak is the health danger.
So What Is Meat Glue?
Transglutaminase (TG), aka Meat Glue, is a natural enzyme that has the ability to glue protein-containing foods together. When raw meats are bound with TG, they typically have the strength and appearance of whole uncut muscles. TG is usually used to make sausages without casings, or making meat combinations like bacon and other meat. It will not harm you or glue your hands together and TG is deactivated by most cooking techniques and imparts no off-flavors to foods.
But when you order your steak “rare”, there is a risk of food poisoning. Since TG is deactivated once cooked, uncooked parts containing the said enzyme can cause serious health problems. What bothers most restaurants is that they are paying so much for something that is supposed to be purchased in a lower price, and they can potentially get sick if they don’t cook it well enough.
Unfortunately, they could not tell the difference between glued meat and the real deal.
Meat glue is an enzyme called transglutaminase. Some meat glues are produced through the cultivation of bacteria, while others are made from the blood plasma of pigs and cows, specifically the coagulant that makes blood clot.
When sprinkled on a protein, such as beef, it forms cross-linked, insoluble protein polymers that essentially acts like a super-glue, binding the pieces together with near invisible seams. The glue-covered meat is rolled up in plastic film, followed by refrigeration. Some manufacturers have gotten so proficient in the practice that even an expert butcher can’t tell the difference between a piece of prime beef and one that’s been glued together with bits and pieces of scraps!
Meat glue is also used for:
- Fish products such as fish balls
- Imitation crab meat
- Processed meats
Interestingly enough, Ajinomoto is one of the leaders in transglutaminase.i You may recognize that name as they are also one of the leaders in aspartame. According to their website, transglutaminase is also used to “improve the general texture” of a variety of foods aside from meat, such as fat-free yoghurt and cheese.
Meat Glue—Both Unethical and Potentially Dangerous
First, there’s the obvious issue of misleading consumers. Since food manufacturers are not required to disclose what they’ve done, you think you’re buying a prime cut when in fact you’re paying top dollar for glued-together bits and pieces that would otherwise have been discarded or sold for a fraction of the cost.
But aside from the fact that it’s a pure scam, there’s the increased possibility of contracting food poisoning from these meats.
According to the featured report, the bacterial contamination of meat glued steak is hundreds of times higher than a solid piece of steak! Hence, if you cook your steak rare, which is the healthiest way to cook your meat, you’re at a much greater risk of contracting food poisoning.
Additionally, when an outbreak does occur, it’s difficult, if not impossible, to discern the source of the contamination, as chunks of meat from multiple cows have now been combined.
Food poisoning is a serious problem in the US. According to US CDC estimates, anywhere between 6 to 81 million Americans contract food borne illnesses each year, and food poisoning claims up to 9,000 lives annually. Considering the fact that our current food system encourages pathogens and contaminations of all kinds, it’s not all that surprising that as many as one in four people get sickened each year…
The Dangers of Mass Food Production
Many people are still in the dark about the vast differences between concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) and organically-raised, grass-fed beef, both in terms of contamination and nutrient content.
It’s important to understand that when you raise animals in a CAFO — away from their natural environments and diets – you dramatically increase the risk of pathogenic contamination that can make you ill. Just take a look at the 2011 USDA list of recalls for various meat products. We’re not even half-way through the year and the list is already a long one.
Most CAFO cows are fed grains (oftentimes genetically modified grains, which make matters even worse), when their natural diet is plain grass. Grain diets create a much higher level of acidity in the animal’s stomach, which E. coli bacteria need to survive.
Meanwhile, E. coli contamination is actually quite rare in organic beef for this reason—the cows just aren’t susceptible to those kinds of disease-causing bacteria and viruses when they eat what they were designed to eat.
You’d think that since the meat is being raised in ways that are known to encourage disease-causing organisms, there’d be stringent requirements on testing. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. For example, there is no federal requirement for meat grinders to test their ingredients for E. coli prior to selling them. And most retailers do not test either. In August 2008, the USDA issued a guideline urging meat processors to test their ingredients before grinding. But the guideline is only optional and has been met with criticism and resistance from the meat industry.
Other Health-Harming Side Effects of Mass Food Production
Modern mass production of food has created a wide array of safety problems. And the methods employed to make food “safer” typically deepens rather than solves them. In fact, once you delve into the world of the food industry, it becomes clear that eating much of it is like playing a game of Russian roulette with your health.
While I’m not going to address them all here, one problem in particular, which relates to the issue of meat, is the issue of contamination with hormones, antibiotics, and pesticides. As much as 70 percent of all antibiotics used in the U.S. are for animals, primarily to serve as growth enhancers. The excessive use of antibiotics in agriculture is the primary reason for the rampant increase in antibiotic-resistant disease in humans.
As for pesticides, most people do not realize that conventionally-raised meat is actually one of the primary sources of pesticide exposure—not fruits and vegetables!
Again, it goes back to the fact that CAFO animals are raised on a diet consisting primarily of grains, which are of course sprayed with pesticides.
Genetically modified (GM) grains are another growing problem. Not only are they sprayed with MORE pesticides than conventional crops, but we also do not know exactly what the health effects on humans might be when you eat meat raised on GM grains.
However, in an open letter to Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, Dr. Don Huber, professor emeritus at Purdue University, warns that a never-before-seen plant pathogen in Roundup Ready GM soybean and corn appears to be responsible for high rates of infertility and miscarriages in cattle.
In the letter, posted on the Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance website, Dr. Huber states:
“This previously unknown organism is only visible under an electron microscope (36,000X), with an approximate size range equal to a medium size virus. It is able to reproduce and appears to be a micro-fungal-like organism. If so, it would be the first such micro-fungus ever identified. There is strong evidence that this infectious agent promotes diseases of both plants and mammals, which is very rare.
…Laboratory tests have confirmed the presence of this organism in a wide variety of livestock that have experienced spontaneous abortions and infertility. Preliminary results from ongoing research have also been able to reproduce abortions in a clinical setting.
The pathogen may explain the escalating frequency of infertility and spontaneous abortions over the past few years in US cattle, dairy, swine, and horse operations. These include recent reports of infertility rates in dairy heifers of over 20%, and spontaneous abortions in cattle as high as 45%.”
Whether or not this could affect humans who consume these grains or meats raised on them is yet unknown, but I wouldn’t be the least surprised if that’s exactly what we’ll eventually find…
Meat Glue May Be the Least of Your Problems When It Comes to Processed Meats
As mentioned earlier, meat glue is also commonly used in processed meats, but that may be the least of your problems in this case. Processed meats are so bad for your health that I am firmly convinced they should NEVER be consumed. But that’s not just my opinion. It’s also the conclusion reached by the World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) after reviewing more than 7,000 clinical studies examining the connection between diet and cancer.
Processed meats are those preserved by smoking, curing, or salting, or the addition of chemical preservatives. This includes bacon, ham, pastrami, salami, pepperoni, hot dogs, some sausages, and hamburgers (if they have been preserved with salt or chemical additives) and more.
Particularly problematic are the nitrates that are added to these meats as a preservative, coloring, and flavoring. The nitrates found in processed meats are frequently converted into nitrosamines, which are clearly associated with an increased risk of certain cancers.
The latest research from WCRF is only the most recent of a slew of evidence linking processed meats to cancer.
A 2007 analysis by WCRF found that eating just one sausage a day can significantly raise your risk of bowel cancer. Specifically, 1.8 ounces of processed meat daily — about one sausage or three pieces of bacon — raises the likelihood of the cancer by 20 percent.
Other studies have also found that processed meats increase your risk of:
- Colon cancer by 50 percent
- Bladder cancer by 59 percent
- Stomach cancer by 38 percent
- Pancreatic cancer by 67 percent
And that’s not all. Hot dogs, bacon, salami and other processed meats may also increase your risk of diabetes by 50 percent, and lower your lung function and increase your risk of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
Why Is Grass-Fed Beef Your Best Choice?
A safer option, as many consumers are now beginning to appreciate, is to choose locally grown and raised foods over those that have been mass produced, despite label claims of being “natural” or “organic.”
When selecting beef, grass-fed beef that has NOT been “finished off on corn” is definitely your healthiest option as it is:
- A natural source of healthy omega-3 fats – Omega-3s in cattle that feed on grass is seven percent of the total fat content, compared to just one percent in grain-only fed beef. It also has the optimal ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fats (3:1)
- High in CLA (conjugated linoleic acid), a fat that reduces your risk of cancer, obesity, diabetes, and a number of immune disorders
- High in beta-carotene
- Loaded with over 400 percent more of vitamins A and E
- Virtually devoid of risk of Mad Cow Disease
You know, the rationale behind my nutritional guidelines really boil down to plain old common sense. My recommendations stem largely from what scientific research has determined are the types of foods that humans are naturally designed to eat. Health problems invariably surface the further you stray from eating such foods. Another way to say this would be that your body’s biochemical make-up is adversely affected if you eat things that aren’t right for you.
One result of this is that your body’s composition will inevitably change.
Why would things be any different for a cow?
When you think of a cow in its natural environment, doing what it naturally does, you likely will picture it grazing. Is it grazing on stalks of corn? Of course not! It’s grazing on green grass. (Animals given a choice will also avoid genetically modified grains, which really should tell us something…)
When cows eat grains, their body composition changes in detrimental ways, just like your body and health changes for the worse when you eat lots of junk and fast food. Most importantly for you, these changes include an alteration in the balance of fatty acids in their bodies, which leads to an imbalance in YOUR intake of omega-3 and omega-6s as well.
Does the E. Coli Risk Decrease with Grass-Fed Beef?
Yes, it does.
Grass-finished beef has a minimal risk compared to grain-fed beef due to the difference in epigastric pH in the two diets.
Grain diets create a much higher level of acidity in the animal’s stomach, which is exactly what the E. coli bacteria need to surviveand thrive.
Additionally, grass-finished animals live in clean grass pastures—as opposed to dirty, crowded pens—where higher levels of sanitation greatly reduce the risk of contamination as well.
How to Make Healthier Meat Choices
If you want to eat beef in a truly healthful way (and yes, meat can be, and is, healthy), while at the same time avoiding getting fooled by glued piece-meats passed off as prime steak, follow these guidelines:
- The beef should be organic and grass-fed
- It should ideally come from a local farmer (try finding a farmer’s market or community-supported agriculture program in your area to do this) who can verify that the products are raised on pasture without antibiotics and pesticides, and who can tell you which cuts you’re actually getting
- The animals should be allowed to live in their natural habitats, eating their natural diets
- The farmer should be aware of the relationships between animals, plants, insects, soil, water, and habitat — and how to use these relationships to create synergistic, self-supporting ecosystems
As you may know, I recommend eating as much food raw as possible, including meat. However, it absolutely MUST be grass-fed!
You’re literally risking your life if you eat conventionally-raised CAFO meat raw due to the high rate of pathogenic contamination. That goes for both prime cuts and the glued variety.
Meat glue is always going to be totally weird sounding but we’ve all eaten it before (if you eat at fast food restaurants, at least). It’s derived from blood and is a clotting agent that allows different types of meat to stick to each other, hence the name. You can do a lot of weird, Frankenstein-type experiments with it.
Here’s a fake Ribeye being made from beef brisket and cheap chopped up stew meat. He basically positioned the cheaper cuts of meat around each other to mimic the layout of a Ribeye and then glued it all up so it stuck together. After he cooked it, he said if he didn’t know any better, he would think it was a Ribeye.