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Why do people use such words as binding when talking about combined meat parts?

‘Binding’ has connotations with tying and adhesion and have been used in culinary texts for many years to describe the combining of products or materials.

How can I see that meat is a combined meat product?

In some meat products, such as steaks, you can see that the meat has been combined from several pieces of meat. The texture of the meat has not changed, but you can see that the meat is composed of several parts. Products that are all exactly identical and streamlined are usually combined meat products as well. Most ‘fun shapes’ of meat products are also combined meat products. But otherwise it is hard to tell whether meat products are made of reconstituted meat. This is why the packaging is labelled with information stating that the product is made of combined meat parts. Since the labelling information can vary at this moment, the European Commission is working on rules on standard labelling on combined meat products.

Is combined meat safe?

Combined meat complies with Dutch and European requirements for meat. It is just as safe as any other meat. In April 2005, the EFSA (European Food Safety Authority) stated that the use of fibrinogen and thrombin to reconstitute meat is safe. In the USA, the use of fibrinogen and thrombin to combined meat has been approved by the USDA (US Department of Agriculture).

Who produces combined meat products?

There are many producers of combined meat products throughout Europe, also in the Netherlands. They are responding to consumer demand for this type of product. 

Are different kinds of meat used in one combined meat product?

That is possible, although it is not common. If this is the case, it will be indicated on the packaging or on the label.

What kinds of meat are combined together?

Binding and forming meat is a natural process. In principle, all types of meat can be used for this.

Is meat of a lesser quality used for combined meat products?

No. Combined meat products are made to comply with consumer wishes, such as ease of preparation, a consistent product, tenderness and succulence and a good value for money. To combine meat, large cuts of meat are first cut into small pieces and then combined to create a larger piece which is then used to make new products.
It is also possible that small pieces of meat of a good quality which are left over after a process are combined and bound to form a large piece. The meat is then formed and processed into new products. This is a good way to prevent high-quality meat being wasted.

How are fibrinogen and thrombin made?

Dutch slaughterhouses have been approved by the EU (EC 852/2004, EC 853/2004 and EC 854/2004) and work as sustainably as possible. This includes collecting blood from which valuable substances are extracted. The blood is collected, transported and processed separately for the different species of animal. The entire process is subject to veterinary supervision. Checks and analyses take place at various moments. The fibrinogen and the thrombin cannot be used until they have been approved by a laboratory.

Is meat combined using animal blood?

It is not as simple as that. When animals are slaughtered, their blood is collected in a hygienic manner. This blood, just like human blood, contains lots of valuable substances. Modern techniques are used to extract these substances from the blood and put them to good use, for example to produce medicines.
Fibrinogen and thrombin, which contain properties that enable pieces of meat to bind, are also extracted from the blood.

Do fibrinogen and thrombin affect the flavour of the meat?

No. Fibrinogen and thrombin have no flavour and are colourless. A study involving a tasting panel revealed that meat that had been reconstituted using fibrinogen and thrombin was after cooking actually more succulent compared to regular meat. (TNO Nutrition and Food Research, report B93.356).

How does the binding and forming of meat with fibrinogen and thrombin take place?

This method consists of mixing relatively large pieces of meat with the fibrinogen and the thrombin. This creates a net which binds the pieces of meat together. This natural process takes place automatically and without heating. The meat bonding process occurs in the same manner as when you have accidently cut yourself: fibrinogen and thrombin are activated causing the muscles to bond back together.

What is used to combine meat?

To combine meat,  fibrinogen and thrombin extracted from plasma can be used. Plasma contains lots of valuable substances, i.e. to produce medicines.  Modern techniques are used to extract these from the plasma.  The natural fibrinogen and thrombin contain properties that enable pieces of meat to bind.

Is there a risk of BSE infection via beef protein?

No. Scientific research has indisputably shown that BSE cannot be transferred via proteins from blood.