Many cultures around the world have a long history of eating a “nose-to-tail” diet which made use of the entire animal after a hunt. In America, many of us grew up on muscle meats alone — chicken breast, hamburgers, lamp chops, and other familiar cuts. In cultures with a longer history on the planet, it is common to eat brain, cheeks, tongue, thymus gland, kidney, liver, heart, pancreas, stomach lining, testicles, tail, blood, and bone marrow. These parts of the animal are called “offal” and refer to organ meats.
Some offal dishes that are considered international delicacies:
- Peruvian Anticuchos – Beef heart marinated, skewered, and seared over the grill. A common and inexpensive snack in Peru.
- Argentinian Parrilladas – Parrillada is a barbecue dish with a wide assortment of sausages and offals, usually shared at gatherings. The word comes from parilla, which means “grill.” The organ meats may include morcilla (blood sausage), mollejas (thymus gland), and chinchulín (the small intestines of a cow).
- French Foie Gras – Famous in high-end restaurants, the buttery richness of duck or goose liver is internationally renowned. However, this product is produced with animal cruelty, by force-feeding young ducks (or geese) until their livers swell to eight or more times their natural size. For this reason, I have never tried it.
- Scottish Haggis – A savory pudding made with sheep’s heart, liver and lungs, minced with onion, oatmeal, suet, spices, salt, stock, and then cooked encased in the sheep’s stomach (though nowadays, an artificial casing is often used).
- Leberklosse – Beef liver dumplings, a traditional dish of German, Austrian and Czech cuisines.
- Mexican Tacos de Lengua – Tongue tacos are a classic dish in Mexico, and typically are made with bright and flavorful counterpoints like tomatillo salsa verde, avocado, and cotija cheese.
- Chinese Duck Blood Soup – Duck blood and vermicelli soup is a traditional Chinese delicacy made by cooking vermicelli, duck liver, blood, and intestines with dried tofu, dried shrimp, ginger, sesame oil, and caraway seeds.
WHY SHOULD I EAT OFFAL?
Organ meats from animals that are grass-fed and grass-finished, and raised humanely, contain concentrated vitamins and minerals — up to 100x more nutrients than muscle meats! They are nutrient dense and have highly bioavailable protein, and a balanced profile of amino acids and micronutrients. Humans are already eating a diet deficient in minerals due to depleted soils and plants that are far less nutritious than in years past. Adding some grass-fed organ meats to ones diet can improve your health significantly. Below are some of the major nutrients found in specific organ meats:
LIVER – vitamin A (retinol), choline, folate, vitamin B12, CoQ10, iron, hyaluronic acid. (Note: Be aware that liver is high in vitamin A, so if you eat a lot of it, make sure to avoid vitamin A toxicity.)
HEART – taurine, CoQ10, vitamin B12, collagen, elastin
BRAIN – cholesterol, niacin, vitamin B12, phosphatidylserine, omega-3 fats (EPA + DHA)
KIDNEY – DAO (diamine oxidase), vitamin B12, selenium
SWEETBREADS (THYMUS GLAND + PANCREAS) – phosphorus, selenium, potassium, zinc, iron, thymosin (peptide)
SPLEEN – vitamin C, selenium, iron, vitamin B12
TRIPE (STOMACH LINING) – vitamin B12, selenium, zinc, calcium, iron
So, what’s the problem — why aren’t more of us eating these nutrient-dense foods? This issue is that many of us are squeamish at the mere thought of eating organ meats. They usually are an acquired taste, and the thought of having to handle them during meal prep can feel unappetizing. I’m going to be sharing some recipes that incorporate or feature offal in the coming months, as I explore this food category for myself.
I hope you will keep an open mind. My mind was fairly closed until recently, when my health declined rapidly from Crohn’s Disease and the resulting vitamin and mineral depletion. I needed to add concentrated nutrients to my diet quickly. I had to sit and think about organ meats and ask myself if I would be willing to at least try some of them. Who knows, maybe they are delicious and incorporating them into my diet will be easier than imagined. I have some beef cheeks, head cheese, oxtail, chicken liver and chicken heart in my freezer to start with. Are you ready to ride along with me as I take this dietary journey?
If you still are a hard “no” to offal, there are always whole food supplements you can take to receive similar benefits. Two of my favorite companies are Ancestral Supplements and Heart and Soil. They both sell a wide range of freeze-dried grass-fed/grass-finished beef organ blends to help you saturate your body stores with vitamins and minerals and totally upgrade your health!