Perhaps after seeing what a big splash they were able to make with pink slime, food activists are now going after something they've dubbed "meat glue."
The latest dustup is over transglutaminase, an enzyme used to bind different cuts of meat together.
This media report, if breathless and sensational, does a good job of demonstrating how it is used:
After media reports about the practice surfaced, a California senator contacted the USDA with concerns about food safety and asking for an investigation.
"If a whole steak was actually composed of different meat parts that were glued together, the center portions of the steak can be contaminated. The outside parts of the meat now become the inside parts of the new steak," said Sen. Ted W. Lieu of Sacramento. "If that 'reformed' steak is not thoroughly cooked and served rare or medium rare, the inside portions of the steak can still be contaminated and cause sickness to the consumer."
If an outbreak such as e.coli does occur, the fact that different parts from different animals are attached to one another would make tracing the source of the outbreak more difficult, he said.
He was also concerned about plain, old fashioned, consumer transparency.
"As a matter of honesty and the consumer’s right to know—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 wrote to the USDA.
Activists also said consumers should not be made to pay the same price for lower quality, reconstituted meat as they pay for whole cuts from one animal.
The American Meat Institute, an industry trade group, said the practice is safe and that concerns about consumer transparency have already been addressed, since manufacturers using transglutaminase are required to require their products as reconstituted or reformed meats.
The controversy manifested just as Beef Products Inc. announced it would close three plants, throwing 650 people out of work. BPI suspended production at the plants when school districts and several grocery stores vowed not to source its meat there after controversy erupted about the way its "finely textured lean beef trimmings" or "pink slime" filler was processed.
What are your thoughts? Does the idea of "meat glue" turn you off?