Meat glue

The rise of meat glue

Food “additives” are generally an anathema to the informed consumer world, until high-profile chefs reverse them into sexy: the latest to cause a stir is protein-bonding transglutaminase.

FROM THE TRENDY meat-o-phile journal, Meatpaper, we can learn all about the rise of protein-bonding transglutaminases that have recently been causing quite the stir at restaurants like that owned by Wily Dufresne, proprietor of the edgy New York restaurant wd~50, who says some 40% of high-end chefs now use the stuff:

Once considered a crude tool for food manufacturers, the epoxy has recently caught on with haute cuisine chefs like Dufresne who use it to fuse bacon to cod medallions, say, or to de-bone and restructure lamb. The strange and intricate multispecies meat sculptures made possible with the adhesive make the once-outrageous “turducken” (turkey, duck and chicken – on sale at Checkers this past festive season) look rudimentary and unimaginative.

In the United States, meat glue is most commonly sold under the label Activa TG, which is manufactured and marketed by the Japanese food and pharmaceutical giant Ajinomoto. The company, whose name translates as “the essence of taste”, also credits itself with the discovery of umami — a taste described most simply as savoury — and is the world’s largest manufacturer of monosodium glutamate, or MSG. Ajinomoto operates in over 23 nations worldwide, where it widely markets several versions of the meat glue, each one modified for a specific type of flesh or protein, including fish, red meat, and even dairy.

Long used in cheap, reconstituted meat products like chicken nuggets, the enzyme first showed up on a swanky menu in 2004 when chef Heston Blumenthal made a “mackerel invertebrate” by de-boning a fish and gluing it back together. Blumenthal owns the Fat Duck in Bray, Berkshire, England, which some critics consider the best restaurant in the world. Since then, the binding agent has been championed by other chefs attracted to such gastronomic trickery, like Dufresne, and Grant Achatz at Chicago’s restaurant Alinea, who was once called the “love child of Julia Child and Einstein.”

Meat glue is now so popular that Ajinomoto is considering offering smaller-sized, more consumer-friendly packaging for home cooks. While Ajinomoto declined a request to release specific sales figures for meat glue, the company did acknowledge a rapid uptick in sales. “The business is increasing every year significantly,” said Guy Tinay, Ajinomoto’s account executive for Canada and much of the United States…..

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