Feb 06 2013
By Pauli Poisuo, Cracked
Unless you’re one of those people who substitute a lump of tofu for a real turkey on Thanksgiving, meat is meat. And don’t worry, we’re not about to tell you that the juicy slab of rib eye that you brought home from the shady discount butcher isn’t a real steak. In fact, it could be half a dozen steaks… as well as whatever else they swept off the slaughterhouse floor.
There’s a substance in the meat industry’s bag of tricks called “transglutaminase.” That’s an awful lot of syllables, so most people just call it by its nickname: meat glue. It’s exactly what it sounds like. Its intended purpose is for fancy chefs who sometimes need to stick different parts of a meal together after preparation (to make crab cakes and such), but it has another, shadier purpose among renegade butchers.
It goes like this: During the heavily industrialized process of turning animals into delicious food, there tends to be a lot of pieces left over that aren’t good for much but pet food. Transglutaminase can be used to glue these tiny bits together into a sort of patchwork slab, which looks a lot like one consistent cut of meat.
Since the process doesn’t leave a trace, and transglutaminase isn’t among the substances required to be mentioned in the table of ingredients, you have fat chance of knowing it’s there unless you’re an expert at interpreting the seams in your meat. This process not only sells you scraps for the price of prime meat, but it also leaves you with a “steak” that might well be made from a dozen different cows, making it next to impossible to trace the source for your food poisoning, the chances for which are incidentally now tenfold, thanks to the uneven consistency of what you’re trying to fry up.
Meat glue works its magic just as well on chicken and seafood, which is bad news once again for our Muslim, Jewish, and Hindu readers — transglutaminase comes from pig and cow blood. Well, at least that tofu turkey is pretty kosher.