Are Meat Extenders More Than Just Pink Slime?

July 5, 2019

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.

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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.”

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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.

Burger Meats

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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.

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Hotdogs and Vienna Sausages

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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.

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Corned Beef with Jelly

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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.

Luncheon Meat

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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.

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Deli Meats

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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.

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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.

Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, “Meat products with high levels of extenders and fillers”http://www.fao.org/docrep/010/ai407e/ai407e16.htm Last accessed June 23, 2014

Mia Marci Mia Marci

Mia Marci likes sampling street food, even if she doesn't know what's in it. She's gotten sick to her stomach on occasion because of this hazardous curiosity, but even the strictest of doctors couldn't stop her. Mia also writes about video games, travel, and girly issues for other publications. She also teaches English and Creative Writing. In the little spare time she has left, she catches up on film and TV shows, while cuddling up to her dog and cat.

3 comments in this post SHOW

3 responses to “Are Meat Extenders More Than Just Pink Slime?”

  1. Nica Angeles says:

    Whenever I hear the word “extenders” what comes to mind is horror meat (from animals we wouldn’t dare eat). This is enlightening; however, even prior to reading this piece I’ve been consuming more processed/canned food than I’d like to admit. 😀 No more fishballs for me, though, after that thresher shark fiasco.

  2. Ricci says:

    With or without extenders…i’d still buy canned corned beef especially the one with the blue, red and white label. hehe

  3. Monci says:

    Hello, I like the content although it seems that it could have been proofread better.

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