I know this story on Planet Green—all about the edible "meat glue" that holds together everything from imitation crab sticks and chicken nuggets to modernist chef cuisine—is supposed to make me freak out and only want to eat organic, whole foods from the farmer's market.
Trouble is: I kind of think meat glue sounds pretty cool. I like the fact that we've found new ways to use scraps and parts of meat that aren't sell-able on their own. That alone is nothing new. Humans have been doing that for centuries (See: sausage, soup stock). Transglutaminase—meat glue's real name—is just a newer tool. And it doesn't even sound particularly scary or gross. At least, not to this honest-with-herself omnivore.
Technically called thrombian, or transglutaminase (TG), it is an enzyme that food processors use to hold different kinds of meat together. TG is an enzyme that catalyzes covalent bonds between free amine groups in a protein, like lysine, and gamma-caroxminid groups, like glutamine. These bonds are pretty durable and resist degradation once the food has been formed.
Thrombian is made from pig or cow blood, though you'll see it on labels, if at all, as "composite meat product."
It's a naturally occurring enzyme, derived from animal blood. When you put it that way, it's easy to understand why the EU—which tends to be more stringent on rules about food additives than the United States—voted nearly unanimously in favor of allowing transglutaminase to be used in products sold in EU countries.
Personally, I'm with wrecksdart, who Submitterated this, in wondering where I can get transglutaminase, and what ridiculous foods I can make at home with it. Animal-shaped meatloaf pops, here I come.
Maggie Koerth-Baker is the science editor at BoingBoing.net. She writes a monthly column for The New York Times Magazine and is the author of Before the Lights Go Out, a book about electricity, infrastructure, and the future of energy. You can find Maggie on Twitter and Facebook.