Some are calling enzymes in so-called "meat glue" the next dirty little secret in the meat industry following the uproar over what is now known as pink slime, and experts estimate up to a third of all lunch meat, pizza toppings and other deli products contain it.
Advocates are urging the food industry to come clean on the common culinary practice, but the meat industry says it's not deceiving customers.
At Piccolo in south Minneapolis, owner and chef Doug Flicker is known for his new dishes, and he says he is not worried about it.
"We use it like we use salt or pepper or seasoning," Flicker said. "It's part of my daily life."
Now, one of his secret ingredients likely won't be a secret any longer. Like other high-end chefs, Flicker uses a white powder called Activa to glue pieces of meat -- like two chicken breasts -- together so they cook more evenly.
"For us, it comes and goes -- 25 to 50 percent of our proteins in some way use meat glue," he explained.
The product, which can be made from the blood of cows or pigs, has been used for years in everything from lunch meat to fish sticks and imitation seafood. Despite federal laws about truth in labeling, its technical name -- transglutaminase -- is rarely seen on the list of ingredients.
Meat glue started to get attention last year when a YouTube video from Australia showed how a butcher could take scraps of meat to sell and glue them together to create a pricier filet. Now, some food safety experts worry customers who don't know meat glue is in their food may not cook it at a high enough temperature to kill the bacteria that is usually only found on the outside of meat.
Flicker has no problem telling customers he uses the product though, because the risk mostly comes from poorly-handled food than from the meat glue itself.
"The people who I know who are using it, they aren't doing it to scrimp or save money," he explained. "They are doing it to create something that otherwise wouldn't be created."