PITTSBURGH -- The prime
filet steaks customers think they're ordering at restaurants may actually be
pieces of stew held together by 'meat glue.'
Several restaurant owners told Channel 4 Action
News' Jim Parsons chefs in western Pennsylvania are using transglutaminase --
better known as meat glue -- in their kitchens.
Doug Shirey, a chef at Mighty Oak Barrel in
Oakmont, said his restaurant doesn't use meat glue, but showed Parsons how it
The transglutaminase is used to bond pieces of
meat that would have likely been scrapped or used for a stew.
The meat is wrapped together, put in the refrigerator, and 12 hours later, it's
gone from stew meat to prime filet steaks.
The difference is virtually unnoticeable -- raw
'They're taking the clotting agents out of pigs' and cows' blood, and they're
using that to clot together chunks of meat,' said Nigel Tudor, a cattle rancher
at Weatherbury Farm in Washington County. 'Just like a clot forms whenever you
get a cut, except instead of healing up a wound, it's taking pieces of meat and
clotting them to each other into one giant chunk.'
Mighty Oak Barrel owner Grainne Trainor said a supplier recently tried to sell
the restaurant meat glue.
'There's a deceptive quality we don't like about it, and there's also a health
and sanitation quality that we absolutely disagree with,' said Trainor.
While the federal government said meat glue itself is "generally recognized as
safe," health experts have expressed concerns.
'There's a food safety problem. I think that would be the number one concern,'
said Steve Steingart, of the Allegheny County Health Department.
Steingart said the process of turning scraps that have been handled -- and
possibly contaminated -- into the inside of a filet poses health risks.
'(The meat) would have to be cooked because if you ordered this rare, there's a
possibility that this steak, there could be growth on it,' said Steingart.
Either way, a consumer wouldn't know if a glued steak had been ordered.
Federal regulations require glued meat to be labeled as "formed" or '"reformed"
But that doesn't apply to restaurants.
Tudor said he suspects restaurants don't want customers to know what meet glue
'I don't think that they do because they… it's just not something when you
realize what it is that you would want to eat,' said Tudor.
'Meat is something you buy at your neighborhood
local butcher shop,' said Trainor. 'Glue is something you buy at Home Depot.
Those two words just don't belong in the same sentence.'
Since restaurants are not required to disclose on the menu if meat has been
glued together with transglutaminase, Steingart said the only way to find out is