Are Meat Extenders More Than Just Pink Slime?July 5, 2019
- Mia MarciWords
When we hear the word “extenders”, what comes to mind are the horror stories of cardboard in hamburger patties, and shark meat in hotdogs and fishballs. It is, to most people who dare to bite into too-good-to-be-true PHP 25 streetside burger, that delicious but dirty little secret that passes for real food while being kind to the wallet.
The good news is, “extenders” is a broad term and don’t just mean the bad stuff. It’s not just fat, paper, or illegally fished meat. As defined by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Extenders refer to simply non-meat content that has protein, which usually work with carbohydrate-based fillers to “fatten up” meat products, and binders for improved cohesiveness and product volume increase. Both are used to help cut the costs of meat products, but are also used to pad food with extra nutrients and make meat look more appetizing.
Also, according to Dr. Janice Ragaza, an assistant professor from the Department of Biology at Ateneo de Manila University, “Use of nonmeat extenders has been increasing due to the proliferation of animal diseases (mad cow’s disease or spongiform encephalopathy; animals are vectors of pathogens and disease), global shortage of animal protein (declining capture fisheries), rising demand for halal food, and economic reasons. Most of the extenders used are plant-based.”
Even without ever buying street food, there’s a high likelihood that you are already consuming food with extenders. Here’s a run-down of products that have been known to use extenders, and what extenders they use.
Those fry-and-go ready to eat burger patties might not be 100% beef, but it could still be good for you. Fillers used in burger meats are usually soy concentrate used as textured vegetable protein (TVP). Other low-cost burger formulations include fillers such as breadcrumbs, cassava, potato, or rice, even bamboo and potato fibers.
Hotdogs and Vienna Sausages
No surprise, hotdogs and Vienna sausages have a high amount of extenders. Some TVP is used for extenders, but to a limited extent as not to take away the meaty flavor of hotdogs and sausages. Breadcrumbs are sometimes used, along with rusk, gari, cassava, and boiled rice. To make sausages look more palatable, food coloring is often added to make a sausage look more brown or red.
Corned Beef with Jelly
You will find this in most canned corned beef. Extenders are used to bring out the flavor, as the original corned beef may have more beef, but can be found drier. Corned beef with jelly uses beef with gelatinous substances such as carrageenan or carcass parts with high connective tissue content. The carrageenan can absorb water and creates the gelatinous matrix, which keeps the corned beef even at high storage temperatures.
There is some meat in luncheon meat, but there are also a lot of extenders to keep costs down. Most luncheon meat makes use of a mix of real meats such as beef, pork, or chicken meat that’s been mechanically deboned. Starches, flour, soy protein concentrate and isolate, and carranegan are used to absorb the excess fat and water after sterilization.
Lyonese or Bologna make use of extenders, such as lean meat, fat, and water. The ingredients and process to creating these products are strong similar to those of hotdogs. Other extenders used may be rice grains, pork skins, tendons, or gelatin. Some cooked ham meats make use of modified fillers and binders for a higher yield of ham, to reduce cooking loss and to create a more neutral flavor.
What comes to mind when you hear the word ‘food extenders’? Would this list keep you from eating hotdogs or luncheon meat? Leave a comment in the section below.