Beef producers said the depiction of
meat glue by consumer activists is unfair and the industry’s
practice of using transglutaminase to bind pieces of meat into a
single cut is safe.
The American Meat Institute, a Washington-based trade group
that includes Cargill Inc. and Tyson Foods Inc. (TSN), released
information showing how transglutaminase is used in dairy,
seafood and baked goods as well as in beef for texture or to
bind cuts together. Transglutaminase is an enzyme sold for
almost two decades and has inaccurately been nicknamed meat glue
for “shock appeal,” the group said yesterday in a statement.
“Someone gave it a catchy name, so now it’s catching on,”
Jeremy Russell, a spokesman with the National Meat Association,
another industry lobbying group, said in an interview.
The industry is trying to gain control of the debate over
transglutaminase after a public backlash earlier this year over
ammonia-treated beef scraps that consumer activists dubbed
“pink slime” led to lost business for Beef Products Inc. and
other companies. California state Senator Ted Lieu, a Democrat,
last week called for a U.S. Agriculture Department investigation
into transglutaminase because of potential contamination risks.
“Food suppliers, restaurants, and banquet facilities
should not be deceiving the public into thinking they are eating
a whole steak if, in fact, the steak was glued together from
various meat parts,” Lieu said in a letter to the agency.
He said in an interview yesterday that it would be unfair
for consumers to pay the same for meat pieced together as they
would for steak from one cow.
“I just don’t think consumers should be paying more,” he
Packaged meat products made with transglutaminase must be
labeled as formed or reformed, the American Meat Institute said.
The group said it’s unaware of any food safety issues.
Consumer groups say sticking together cuts from different
animals to form a muscle meat increases the chances of E. coli
or other contamination. Comments slamming the practice have been
popping up on Twitter and Facebook following news stories.
“It’s consumer deception,” said Michael Hansen, a senior
scientist with Yonkers, New York-based Consumers Union, which
publishes Consumer Reports. “When you see a muscle cut, you
think it comes from one animal, not a jigsaw from a number of
Exterior contamination on a single cut of beef is often
destroyed during cooking, according to Consumers Union. By
piecing together meat with the enzyme, exterior contamination
may get inside the final product and may not be killed if the
meat is served rare or medium rare, Lieu said in his letter.
“Proper cooking is recommended for all raw beef products,
but there’s not a contamination issue,” said Russell, with the
National Meat Association.
In addition to the spotlight on meat glue and pink slime,
the U.S. industry last month was struck by its first case of mad
cow disease in six years. Indonesia suspended meat imports after
the U.S. reported the disease in a California dairy cow,
prompting cattle futures on April 24 to tumble to a nine-month
A petition drive in March against pink slime, or lean
finely textured ground beef, caused demand for ground beef to
drop to the lowest amount for that month in a decade.
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Stephanie Armour in Washington at
To contact the editor responsible for this story:
Reg Gale at