Pass the döner, hold the binding agent please.


It’s no secret that Berliners love döner. There are thousands of these tiny meat-on-a-stick joints throughout the capital and last year, people even gathered in the streets to celebrate their love/hate relationship with this delicious delicacy.

But have you ever stopped to wonder what’s really in your döner?

 Well a study released by the NDR says that there may be more behind the meat than meats the eye. And what’s worse? The vast majority of the meat doesn’t even quality as certified “döner meat”.

Real döner should be made of veal meat, and veal meat only. But a test of the meat sold at some of Hamburg’s kebab shops indicated that four of the five shops tested also contained beef, turkey and sausage meat. In addition, there were other additions such as flavor enhancers, binding agents and more.

Adding sausage meat, in particular, may be quite disturbing to döner lovers. According to Dr. Volkmar Heinke, a government researcher, “Sausage meat is something that can include skeletal muscles, including blood vessels, nerves and fat tissue. In other words, pretty much anything can be in it.”

As well as being kinda gross, it’s also against the law

When you add turkey, other meats or undeclared additives, the meat is not longer the classic döner meat. Thus, it cannot be sold as so. According to regulations, if a kebab also contains sausage meat, turkey or additives it must be sold as “spit meat”.

None of the five döner shops in Hamburg were following these rules. They all said their meat contained only 100% veal, and nothing else. The lab results, however, prove otherwise.

NDR also reported that many döner shops do receive meat labeled as “spit-meat” and the instructions indicate it should be sold as such. However, many shops ignore these directions and sell the products as pure veal.

And Hamburg is not the exception to the rule. A separate study made by north German officials found that 90 percent of meat sold as döner did not meet the legal requirements. In the case that a business owner does deliberately deceive customers, they can face up to 5 years in jail.

What’s the solution? 

Well, clearly labeling the meat as to what it actually contains is the first step. But also, maybe we as consumers should consider our role. We want to pay €2-€5 euros for a full size sandwich with at least 100-200 grams of meat. And we want that meat to be pure, transparently produced veal meat.

Firstly, if meat is being sold that cheaply, it is almost certain that these animals were not raised to a high quality standard, and this is definitely not high quality meat. Perhaps we as consumers should look for shops that are maybe a little more expensive but also offer a guarantee of certification such as an organic döner shop?