Sharon Vining: What is Meat Glue?

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Meat Glue

When I was three, I would go to my grandmothers.  As an activity, she would make glue and I would paste things together.  When I got tired of pasting things I would eat the glue.  Remember I was three. Grandmother would scold me, “Don’t eat the glue!”

Fast forward forty years.  The family goes to a steak house and I order a $20 sirloin steak.  I get this large steak.  Unbeknownst to me, this is not one piece of meat.  It’s really five small pieces of meat glued together with transglutaminase (meat glue).  Forty years later I am still eating glue!

Transglutaminase (TG) is a group of enzymes that catalyse the cross-linking of proteins. TG is a naturally occurring substance found in plants, animals and bacteria.  Because of its ability to make food: creamier, firmer, fluffier, retain water and absorb less oil, it is widely used in the food and textile industries.

Mammalian transglutaminases have nine different encoding genes.    Some TGs are catalyses of blood coagulation factor XIII.  Six TG’s are expressed in skin differentiation.  TG2 has functions in cell apoptosis, development, interactions and cell migration.  TG4 is secreted by the prostate gland into seminal fluid and is responsible for the making of animal vaginal plugs.

Microbial transglutaminase was first discovered in the late 1980’s by the Japanese while searching for a constant supply of cheap and stable transglutaminase for food applications.  After screening 5,000 microorganisms, Streptomyces mobaraenis turned out to produce a transglutaminase with the desired properties.  MTG is produced by Ajinomoto and the brand name Activa.

In meat and fish products, TG strengthens the protein network in muscle giving an improved texture, firmness and elasticity.  Reduced product loss from processing and slicing, leads to an increase profits for the manufacturers.  The use of TG also reduces the amount of salt and phosphate used. Which is considered a health benefit to consumers. The changes in the meats structure also make it resistant to high temperatures and freezing.  When benefit the canned and frozen food producers.  Another use for TG is to glue small pieces of meat together and forming one large piece of meat.

The dairy industry has also found uses for TG.  TG increases the firmness and viscosity of yogurt.   In cheese, TG can increase the curd yield, produce a less dry texture and have a high heat stability which helps cheese maintain its viscosity when melting.  Using TG, ice-cream manufacturers can produce a low calorie, sugar-free ice cream which is softer, smoother and easier to scoop.  Work is currently under way to use TG to improve the heat stability of milk.

Bake goods and noodles benefit from TG by having higher breaking strength and firmness.  Pastries are fluffier and noodles are firmer with more elasticity.  Deep-fried dough, such as doughnuts absorb 25% less oil.

Tofu treated with TG increases its water-holding properties resulting in a smoother and firmer tofu.

Currently there are several medical applications for TG.  TG has been used in products to control bleeding in surgery and in tissue adhesion.  Putrescine is a TG inhibitor and is patented for treatment of scar tissue.

The cosmetic industry is looking at TG topical preparations to form a protective layer on the surface of hair, skin and nails.  They are also trying to use it to reduce the appearance of wrinkles.

In the textile industry, TG has shown to improve the qualities of garments by: improving shrink resistance, handle, wettability, improved softness, tensile strength retention and improved stretch.

The FDA lists TG as “generally recognized as safe.”

Opponents for the use of TG claim it poses a health risk for consumers. They claim, for example,  the outside of a piece of meat comes in contact with a lot of bacteria on the way from the slaughterhouse to the table.  Usually cooking the steak on the outside will kill all of those bacteria off.  The center of a single cut steak is sterile. (Reason you can eat a steak rare.)  Glued pieces of meat could contain bacteria like E coli on the inside.  If eaten rare, could cause a person to become very sick.

Opponents also claim food labels are confusing to consumers and can be misleading. Currently, food producers are allowed to use the terms such as: meat products, cellulose gel or cellulose gum, or formed meat.

An extensive literary search using: the Cochrane Library, CINAHL, MEDLINE, PubMed, and Scopus by this author failed to find any research showing using TG posed any danger to consumers.

Rate this article: 
Average: 4.7 (7 votes)


Meat Glue!  We have no clue what we are eating.  Thank you Sharon for the heads up.

Thanks for writing a amazing,good,great article, although I never

comment but the writing of this article made me to do


Always a pleasure reading your articles,so Thanks for that.


Emily's picture

So, when you visit the expensive restaurants thinking you are getting a great cut of meat and its glued...WoW! WTF


Mason's picture

You can never tell what your eating in America.  Lol

When I first started researching for this article, I  fullly expected to find it was harmful.  I did not find that, and I really looked and still looking.  It seems to be beneficial.  However, I do think it is misleading when you pay a fortune for a steak and its reallly a bunch of cut up pieces of scraps of meat glue together.  I think resturants should tell and grocery stores should label their meat in plain English.  So the next time you are eating fat free, sugar free ice cream and wonder how they get it so creamy, wonder no more.  sv

This is my first time pay a quick visit at here and

i am truly happy to read every thing in one place.


Hello admin, i must say you have very interesting posts here.


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