Meat Glue? It's All Good, Folks

So back to something more interesting than writerly, insider-baseball crap. Like meat glue! Because what's not to like about something called "meat glue." Meat Glue (MG to you and me) is the new Pink Slime (PS). Just about the time the PS ruckus was dying down, enter MG to take its place. (*1) MG is a perfectly safe (when used correctly), 100% "natural" substance that chefs use to bind foodstuffs together. You can read an excellent introduction to the stuff here.

But in the minds and eyes of those who spend their days critiquing the contemporary food system, MG is yet another example of the way Big Corporations are ripping off consumers and tainting our food supply. ( Nor, I might add, is the  controversy about MG anything new.  MG first came under attack about a year ago, ironically just at the same time that Jamie Oliver first lit into PS).

Nothing could be further from the truth, but as I've learned over the past six years, "truth" is a flexible concept when it comes to critiques. (*2) MG is a legitimate culinary tool that takes advantage of the natural properties of natural products.

I could go on in this fashion, making the same points I've already made about PS (click the "Pink Slime" tag in the right sidebar for the blog entries I wrote about it). But I'd rather turn this blog entry over to the experts, namely people who make their living thinking, studying, reading, and writing about food science.

So let me direct your attention to two blogs that addressed the issue a year ago. First is this marvelous piece posted at Cooking Issues, a blog run by two guys affiliated with The French Culinary Institute.

The second piece aired a couple of weeks later at the blog operated by the late, and much missed, Chris Raines. (*3) Mercifully, his blog in all its wonder and glory is still available despite his death last December. In the piece, he, too, takes on the reality of meat glue. The video link in his blog entry is dead, but the piece to which he refers can be seen in its entirety in the blog entry at Cooking Issues.

These guys are experts and scientists, and I can add nothing to what they have to say except to reiterate a couple of points. As Chris noted:

It is interesting how people speak so positively about Turducken but are somehow “shocked” by the culinary tool that is TG.

Both blogs also emphasize the point that I made when I commented on PS a few weeks back: Meat glue is nothing more than another way to do two things: use every. last. bit. of the carcass.

Chris also makes a crucial point, one I make over and over in my meat book (which, yes, will see life eventually): Using meat glue is a way to give American consumers what they want: cheap meat. As Chris wrote:

Products made using “meat glue” might include “value brand” steaks (this is how $2/lb ‘filets’ are possible, folks), imitation crab, fish sticks, and others.

Never, and I mean NEVER, underestimate the American appetite for cheap, abundant food. There ain't no. way. in. hell. all those steakhouse chains can sell what they sell as cheaply as they do without a) mass production methods of feeding; b) tools like meat glue; and c) an insatiable demand for such stuff from the public.

If you don't like stuff like MG or PS, I repeat my advice: either stop eating meat (and, in the case of "glue," other foods as well; OR pony up serious money for stuff that doesn't use either (which will, in turn, likely lead you to eat less meat, or to eat meat as an accompaniment rather than a main dish).

My thanks to Jesse R. Bussard for reminding me about Chris' meat glue blog post.


*1: Why, you may ask, have I not gotten to this sooner? Because I've been swamped to the max with a bunch of other, work-related matters (blogging being only one small part of my work), and because I was out of town when the story got hot and I still believe --- dinosaur that I am --- that vacations with family should be just that: vacations with family, rather than hanging with family and carrying on as if I were at home.

*2: This weekend I re-read James McWilliams' superb assessment of the "food critique," his book Just Food. Among the many points he makes is that much of the current food critique has less to do with food than with a loathing of corporations and globalization. In the name of that loathing, otherwise sensible people are willing to ignore facts and, worse, to ignore valuable tools that could be used to feed everyone, not just Americans with their mania for cheap food.

*3: I thought the world of Chris and am so glad I wrote this blog entry about him long before his death. (He died in a car accident.) Chris was the model of what I think of as the "new" intellectual, and I miss him and his work and his humor every day.