Meat Glue

Filet mignon served in restaurants is often, in fact, an agglomeration of scraps of lesser beef, welded together with Meat Glue. [ABC]

Terje took powder and dusted it liberally over the meat pieces. The coated stew meat then went into a circular tin to give it a nice, round filet mignon shape. He was also able to make a New York strip out of thin cuts of round steak. Adding water makes a soupy glaze, and an easier way to coat the meat.The final steps were to seal the meat in a vacuum bag, adding some pressure to the bond, and then it was off to the fridge to set overnight. Twenty-four hours later, the humble $4-a-pound stew meat now looks like a $25-a-pound prime filet.



    1. If you look her up on Google Scholar it seems fairly obvious she was  destined to be a shill for ConAgra and friends. Much of her research seems to be aimed at increasing profit.

      The real question this brings to light is how is the education system set up when it comes to food research? What ideology is being passed down to the students? Are they looking out for the public or private interests? Is most research funded by the government, consumer protection groups, or by corporations?

  1. If you have ever gotten food poisoning from the “beef tenderloin” at a buffet or catered meal, this is why. The meat glue doesn’t get cooked enough to kill the nasties it picks up from the beef trimmings.

    1. That’s just not true. Bacteria lives on the meat, not in the glue.  If you bind meat together, then just as with ground beef any bacteria on the surface is now on the inside.  If the meat is not cooked through, then the bacteria can live.  The glue is a naturally occurring enzyme that catalyzes the formation of covalent bonds between proteins, aka glues meat together.  Perhaps you get sick from time/temperature abuse at the buffet or catered meal. Or from cross-contamination. Or from a whole host of other problems. 

      1. The bacteria lives on the meat, then the glue makes contact with the outer area of the meat and picks up the bacteria… then they cook this meat until it is “rare”, still pink, as one might with beef tenderloin. If it was hamburger it will be cooked past the pink stage.

        1.  It’s not so much “glue makes contact with outer area of the meat” as much as “when you glue two pieces of meat together, two “outer” surfaces become “inner” surfaces. Unavoidable, and a problem with various other kinds of meat dishes.

          The failing is not meat glue somehow magically breeding germs, but with cook-staff not being told it’s a hamburger-like or loaf-like product, or not caring that it is.

          I don’t particularly like “solid” cuts of meat myself, gristle and connective tissue are not awesome between my teeth and I can’t afford better cuts of meat, so hamburger all the way here. Cooked medium.

          1. I’ll stop commenting now. Arguing the excruciating minutiae and pedantic’s of the exact meanings of comments is insufferable.

      2.  That’s the problem, however: whole proteins tend to be cooked to lower temps than ground beef, because the bacteria is on the outside (and so killed off by the searing). With meat-glued product you have to be particularly careful in order to cook the insides to temperatures well past rare to kill all the baddies.

    1. Is anyone going to eat that tiara or pass if off as a pork chop tiara? Missing the point.

  2. First off, any good restaurant is not doing this.  I’ve been the chef in many restaurants, and have played with transglutaminase.  I am also getting my masters in food science as we speak.  While I’m sure there are some unsavory chefs out there, I can almost guarantee you that the majority of them do not know what meat glue is. Obviously you could “glue” together pieces of stew meat and shape it into a filet medallion, but it is not going to taste like filet or have the same textual cues as filet.  Stew meat is tough meat that needs a long cooking time.  Filet is tender because the muscle is not used much.  It also has no fat, which is why most chefs think it’s a crap cut of meat. The public, however, thinks that it’s the bees knees of meat.  So in summation…if you order filet, you’re an amateur meat eater and deserve to be tricked.  Eat bone-in-ribeye.

    1. I thought I was enjoying it, but obviously I was wrong. What else should I not like?

      1. I  also like filet, but I won’t pay more for it than rib-eye, as one is often expected.

    2. But are the restaurant workers doing it, or the manufactures that supply the restaurants doing it with the workers having no clue? I hardly see a place like Texas Roadhouse or Garfield’s (steak and cheese fries sale, anyone?) having it’s chefs doing this, pretty sure steaks are shipped pre-cut, not fresh cut at the restaurant. But I’ve never looked in their freezers, so I could be wrong.

    3. The only way that this would work would be if the meat were well-done. You can’t really fake up a rare filet mignon since the grain is quite obvious.

      1. Agree, and anyone not getting a filet medium or much less (rare for me) needs to order something else.

    4.  The resturants aren’t doing it, but the suppliers are selling the product as fillet. So you wouldn’t encounter that ‘in house’ at the Outback, or Olive Garden.

      The restaurants that do use Trangutaminase are usually very high places…often in the top 10 of ‘star’ rated resturants–El Bulli in Spain, Alinea..and Moto in Chicargo,  and The Bazaar in LA..along with “big fat duck” in the UK. etc..etc. But then again, they aren’t passing off cheap meats as higher cuts, but using it to transform foods and textures in house. But from what little I’ve seen they mostly use it for seafood. I’m also kinda disturb the video chef on that demo didn’t use gloves or a it can get in the lungs and ‘glue’ that meat bit together..along with your fingers as he mentioned in the vid.

    5. “So in summation…if you order filet, you’re an amateur meat eater and deserve to be tricked.”

      Great, now we’ve got hipster butchers. Get outta here. 

    6. ..if you order filet, you’re an amateur meat eater and deserve to be tricked.  Eat bone-in-ribeye.

      Agreed. Though I do like a simple strip steak or smaller cuts like flat iron or skirt for flavor.

    7.  Exactly. In addition, a bag of transG is EXPENSIVE. I have one sitting in my freezer and it cost about $100. In addition, it’s shelf life is very limited once opened. Lastly, it’s made by only ONE company and they don’t produce it in any other quantity other than “big bag”.

      Nobody would use this product when they could just as easily pawn off Select quality steaks as Choice at half the price.

      It’s an interesting compound and it used in the deli meat business and other specialty food businesses but no Ground Round or Sizzler is going to bother.

  3. So, no one else was worried that the man (made of meat) was handling the treated steak pieces (made of meat) with his bare hands (MADE of MEAT)? And that he wasn’t covering up his mouth (made of meat) when shaking some meat glue powder into the air where it could be inhaled into his lungs (made of meat)?

    1. This is a good point, he obviously doesn’t work with transglutamase very much. Chefs who do use it frequently wear gloves.

      Long story short, meat glue is not the problem here, the outside of a rare cooked steak (and the potentially preexisting contamination) being on the inside is.

      Just like tenderized (preforated/swiss) steak or ground beef.

  4. Sigh.. when L. Frank Baum included the use of Meat Glue in one of his Oz books, it was intended as a joke..

  5. Stew meat is not usually tender.  So it might look like a Filet Mignon, but the first bite will give it away.

    Filet Mignon is  indeed for amateurs.  But so are bone-in rib-eyes.  

    9 out of 10 board-certified professional carnivores prefer skirt steak.  Skirt steak is the perfect balance of beefy flavor and tender texture.  On top of that, it’s easy to cook to a proper medium-rare very quickly.

    Being an amateur can be quite satisfying and is nothing to be looked down upon.

    1. Pah, hanger steak is where it’s at. That or beef cheeks.

      Oh god I just realised that I sound like a total meat hipster…

      1. A meat hipster would likely express a preference for tendon.  Flesh is totally boring. 

        An ironic meat hipster would wax poetic about the beauty of chewing on a burnt blade steak or something.

        1. Ah, I see you’ve been to Japan, the land of gourmet gristle cuisine and bacon-like stuff containing small bone parts that people like to crush with their teeth!

          1. I love tripe, but don’t cook it dry, like barbequing it. It turns into leather.

    2. Bah. I’m so amateur I’m downright professional at it. I prefer ground beef to steak.

  6. We’re all gonna die, etc.Kent Brockman: Professor, without knowing precisely what the danger is, would you say it’s time for our viewers to crack each other’s heads open and feast on the goo inside?Professor: Mmm, yes I would, Kent.

  7. Meat glue…somehow I feel like this either needs to be the plot device in an episode of Fringe or was already.

    1. That’s exactly what I think about when I hear stories about meat glue; why haven’t we heard of terrorists or other nefarious individuals deploying clouds of meat glue dust among crowded commuter buses or trains.  The imagined horrors is exactly what I’d expect out of an episode of Fringe.

      1.  “Mulder, are you saying some creature sucked the meat glue out of the victims? Are we really looking for a meat glue vampire?”

  8. My cousin works for this little startup in Newark NJ that has been doing _a lot_ of experimenting with this stuff – it forms a huge part of their business plan.

     Their experiments sound pretty interesting but she cannot be very specific because of  the NDA, but their promotional materials for investors that she is authorized to give me were really clever. The products are supposedly really environmentally friendly. 

    I think the company’s name is Serlente, or something like it (I’m to lazy to look at the literature or Google.)

    1. Okay, its meat, from Noo Joyzee, Newark to be specific.

      I bet they’re disposing of the bodies there and serving ’em up as Feijoada, which is a Portugese meat and bean stew.

      If it was from Trenton, they’d serve it up as pork “a la Christie.”

  9. “often, in fact”

    Very specific. Not saying it isn’t true but without numbers to back it up it’s just pure, unfettered speculation. (Not directed against Rob; the original article is very weasel-wordy and hides behind generalizations and totally unsourced allegations. Which may be true, but without real data…)

  10. There have been several posts on boingboing about ‘meat glue’ in recent years so WHERE ARE ALL THE POSTS ABOUT AMAZING MEAT SCULPTURES? :)

  11. The meat-industry shill, with a Phd. no less, recommends that you ask the wait-staff if the steak was made with meat glue.  I would only ask that question only if I wanted to be sure that the kitchen staff spits in my food.  Here is my test for meat-glue: when the sommlier recommends Kaopectate instead of a merlot of cabernet that’s when you know your steak has been made from scraps.

    1. I started to laugh when I read the sommelier recommends Kaopectate instead of a merlot or cabernet.

      If you look around the counter of any such fine dining establishment you’ll also notice that they sell Alka-Seltzer©™® in enveloppes stapled to a piece of cardboard behind the troglodyte at the cash register and have a bowl of those “fecal mints” on the counter to give their departing customers fresh breath, the runs and stomach cramps.

  12. Is the news anchor at the start the same guy who comes up when you do a GIS for  ‘rapist search reporter’ ?

      1. I don’t see a problem with the product itself and its use, only that using it to deceive is pretty dickish.

        Pretty much agreed, though I don’t see how a restaurant could profit by serving it without being deceitful. If any place clearly labeled “meat glue” as in the ingredients list for menu items, those items wouldn’t sell. 

        Conclusion: use of this stuff in restaurants constitutes de facto deception.

        1. Restaurants like T.G.I.Fridays©™®, Denny’s©™®, Friendly’s©™®, Bennington’s©™®, or similar high-volume, cheap-eats joint probably have just such warnings stating meals may contain reformed meat written in 4 point type and written in black ink on a dark brown background, somewhere at the end of the menu, on the coffee and children’s menu pages where its not likely to be read and in such poor light that it blends into invisibility.

        2.  Restaurents that would be interested in this don’t list all the ingredients on the menu anyways, just feature flavors. Usually you’d have to go to a website or ask for the allergy/nutrition card for details. And they’d list it as transglutamase (sp) so who’d know?

  13. Does anyone know if transglutiminase has any impact on people with Celiac?  One of the issues in Celiac is too much anti tissue transglutiminase antibodies.  What does transglutiminase do in the body?  Is it how the body glues shut the tight junctions?

    1. From Cooking Issues’ post about transglutaminase (following a similar ‘expose’ last year):

      The relationship between coeliac disease and microbial Transglutaminase (mTG) is still being sorted out.  There is no doubt that extra antibodies to human tissue transglutaminase (tTG) are found in coeliac sufferers. I have seen research that supports that mTG can cause problems for coeliacs, and research that says it doesn’t. I have not found any acute cases of problems had by coeliac sufferers linked to mTG in the literature, but prudence says coelicas should avoid large quantities of TG till the data is in.

  14. The guy with the 2-year erection in the BMW article might be interested in some “meat glue”

  15.  The meat glue is not the problem, it’s the (in this case) deceptive purpose for which it is used. I have myself used meat glue rather successfully to make what what an extremely delicious bacon-infused roast.

  16. So would we consider using meat glue in creative ways ‘Culinary Remixing?’ I wonder if you could use meat glue to embed bacon inside of a steak or create the ultimate TurDuckEn….. I smell a new trending topic for BoingBoing! 

  17. If you cut into a “steak” and the muscle fiber is going in many different directions you should know something is wrong to begin with.   This is exactly what gluing separate meat chunks would produce. 

  18. Yet another unfounded food scare. I’ll be interested once they have evidence, but for the moment, it got too farcical for me to care when I read this about the pink goo “cleaned with ammonia” scare: “Besides being used as a household cleaner and in fertilizers, the
    compound releases flammable vapors, and with the addition of certain acids, it can be turned into ammonium nitrate, a common component in homemade bombs.”

    At that point, I just cracked up laughing and stopped caring.

    Also: meat glue. Was this used in the “Human centipede” movies? If it hasn’t been used yet, I reckon you can bet it will be in the next one, if this current scare gets any bigger.

  19. Yikes.  Not surprised to see this kind of sensationalist fluff on gizmodo today, but very surprised to see it here.  Also, kinda surprised to see the claim that “Filet mignon served in restaurants is often, in fact, an agglomeration of scraps of lesser beef” as the summary of this story.  Any restaraunt caught doing this would quickly be out of business; same with suppliers/purveyors.  
    In fact, as someone said above, meat glue is more the domain of avant garde chefs in high end restaurants to combine disparate meats for new contexts.  I haven’t heard of ANY cases of actual restaurants attempting to deceive customers in the manner you described, let alone your fallacious claims of ” [TG] filet mignon served in restaurants often”.  Perhaps some more due diligence is needed when simply linking to a TV news report. 

    Of course, the source link is broken, but if you have any documentation/linkage of a single (non-TV news) attempt at a restaurant trying to pass off lesser cuts as filet mignon, I’d love to see it. Otherwise, this story is, as the Dave Arnold summarizes in my link, “horse hockey”.

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