Everyone likes a good old plate of steak–and it's a great source of rich protein. But how about a fresh plate of beef liver and onions or a bowl of oxtail stew? Ever thought of mixing things up with other meat sources on your dinner plate?
While organ meats have gained some popularity in the Paleo and Carnivore Diet community, most people are still unaware of the tremendous benefits of eating these nutritional powerhouses regularly.
In this guide, you're going to learn the basics of organ meats and why you need to try and incorporate some of these into your daily diet today.
- What are organ meats?
- What are the popular types of organs meat?
- Nutritional benefits
- What ie nose-to-tail eating and its benefits?
- How to cook organ meats?
- Organ meat supplements
What are Organ Meats?
Organ meats, also known as “Offal,” meat, are the consumable organs like the liver, hearts, brains, intestines, and even testicles of animals–commonly from cows, pigs, lamb, goats, chickens, and ducks–that humans can prepare and consume.
Nowadays, most animals are raised and harvested for their muscle tissues i.e steaks and roasts, and organ meats are neglected. But if you look at our history up until the depression era, these ancient superfoods have been prized worldwide and for a good reason.
What Are the Popular Types of Organ Meat?
Organ meat nutrition varies slightly depending on the type of organ and animal it comes from. Nevertheless, organ meats have high nutrient density–more than muscle meat on a pound-for-pound basis.
Most popular organ meats come from beef followed by lamb and mutton organs which are extremely tender ( especially from lamb).
For this article, we will focus mainly on Beef Organ meats.
You’re probably wondering what your options are for organ meats–an animal’s body has many parts, so which ones are edible and the most nutritious? Let’s go through them in this section:
Beef liver is the most nutrient-dense organ meat. It's a powerful source of copper, vitamin B12, B6, and vitamin A, which takes care of your eye health and reduces diseases that cause inflammation, Alzheimer's, and arthritis.
It also contains folic acid, iron, chromium, copper, and zinc–known to be beneficial for the heart and increasing hemoglobin levels in your blood.
Beef liver does have a relatively strong taste to it that people complain about. Remember, the larger the animal, the stronger is the taste of its liver. Some liver pieces may have some veins still attached. It’s best to remove them to cut down the intense flavors carefully. Soaking the liver in buttermilk for an hour before frying also aids in lightening flavor and getting the bitterness out.
Beef Kidney meat is a nutrient- and protein-rich source of omega-3 fatty acids. In addition, it is considered to contain anti-inflammatory properties and is beneficial to the heart.
Many regard beef kidney as an acquired taste. It’s one of the more chewy offal meats, but of course, it depends on how you cook it. It’ll require a longer stewing in butter and then sliced for a tender and slightly pink center, for instance, to be tasty.
The meat of the brain is high in omega-3 fatty acids and nutrients. It contains phosphatidylcholine and phosphatidylserine, which help the nervous system. Moreover, brain meat also contains antioxidants that protect the human brain and spinal cord.
Brains have a firm yet tender and creamy texture. Until bitten into, it tends to hold its shape well before becoming mushy. As far as texture goes, tofu, ackee, and scrambled eggs are the closest comparable foods.
Beef Heart is filled with folate, iron, zinc, and selenium. Additionally, it contains the B-complex vitamins: B2, B6, and B12. These B vitamins and the coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10, antioxidant) in heart meat have cardioprotective effects, so they protect against heart disease. CoQ10 has also been shown to slow down aging and improve energy levels.
Additionally, they're linked to maintaining healthy blood pressure, reducing high cholesterol, and forming healthy blood vessels. Furthermore, studies have shown that they reduce the risk of Alzheimer's disease, dementia, depression, and anxiety.
Heart tastes beefy with a very mild hint of gamey flavor not found in steaks.
Besides zinc, iron, choline, and vitamin B12, beef tongue meat is rich in calories and fatty acids. Those recovering from illnesses or pregnant women are mainly said to benefit from eating this meat. Folate is a vitamin in organ meats that helps prevent such congenital disabilities as spina bifida and heart problems in a baby.
Furthermore, vitamin B6 can help with morning sickness during pregnancy, while B-12 is especially abundant for promoting healthy red blood cells and nerve function.
Tongues taste like any other cut of beef, but they are soft and should melt in your mouth. Of course, it will naturally be enhanced by any flavoring additives. Nevertheless, when the meat is skinned, it is typically compared to shredded beef because it is tender and tasty.
Don’t let the name fool you. This part of animals is neither sweet nor a type of bread. Sweetbreads are made from the thymus gland and pancreas. Its nutritional benefits include improving blood cholesterol levels, lowering heart disease risk, and helping blood sugar.
Photo credit: Rick Lew via Getty Images
Sweetbreads, though mild in flavor, have an offal-like flavor similar to that of the brain. The texture is often described as "tender" and "creamy" and considereda delicacy to this day.
Tripe is the lining of the animal’s stomach–it’s mostly from cattle and can have a chewy texture. Being an excellent source of selenium, Tripe has been shown to reduce the risk of heart conditions, infertility, and arthritis.
Tripe is also great for bone and muscle support to help your body repair damaged tissue and build muscle–as it’s a great, inexpensive source of lean protein.
The softness of the tripe makes it easier to cook quickly and a firm favorite in soups found in Chinese, Japanese and Vietnamese cuisine such as Pho.
Unlike some animal parts, the flesh has a nice bite and is not too spongy, though it's incorrectly still characterized as such.
Although not strictly an organ, Oxtail is the tail bones and meat from the cows tail. The name "Ox" is merely the old name from a bygone era for this delicious cut which is loaded with soft collagen, fat and plenty of meat wrapped around each bone.
What is Nose-to-Tail Eating–and its Benefits?
Image Credit: Rick Lew via Getty Images
Eating organ meat is practicing the nose-to-tail eating philosophy, which dictates that one should endevour to use every part of the animal in food preparation, letting nothing go to waste.
Eating Nose to tail including the organ meats was the way of our ancestors and is still practiced in many countries today including developed counties who have a global reputation for their cuisine and having food at the forefront of lie eg Italy, France and Spain.
For our ancestors, it wasn’t simply a matter of tradition. It was a matter of survival.Using every part of the animal for food, clothing, tools and decorative jewellary.
The situation may not be as dire for us today, but whole animal nose-to-tail eating including organs has some other advantages alongside nutritional perks. What are they, you may ask? Let’s go over them briefly:
Benefits of Nose to Tail Eating.
1.Nose-to-Tail Eating Reduces Food Waste
Did you know that one-third of the world’s food is wasted? To be fair, there are other underlying distributions and political factors, but it’s also because of our lazy unconcious consumption habits. Our mainstream dietary desires for muscle meat ie steaks , result in a large part of the animal carcass being thrown away.
2. Nose-To-Tail Eating Celebrates the Entire Animal
We can be more sustainable and ethical with our carnivorous-style consumption by letting fewer organs go to waste. Eating nose to tail allows us to celebrate each animal by using everything, so fewer animals need to be used, thereby fewer resources need to be expended.
3. Nose-to-Tail Eating Saves Money
Basic supply and demand dictate that less popular cuts of meat cost less. So, you can get more nutrient-dense meats at a lower price than the muscle cuts (steaks), and with a bit of time and preparation, organ meats like beef liver, kidney, or heart can taste better than traditional cuts.
If you’re on a budget and don’t mind a bit of extra work in the kitchen, then organ meats are a great alternative or addition to your regular muscle meat.
Organ meats can be easily stored in the freezer for up to a year if vacuum packaged by your butcher and then defrost safely before cooking.
4. Nose-to-Tail Eating is Healthier
Eating a wide variety of meats including nutrient dense organ meats ensures you get a wide variety of macro and micro nutrients into your body.
Our western diet staples like chicken breasts or lean steaks are rich in an amino acid called methionine. Though it helps regulate our liver and hormones, we usually overconsume these lean cuts. The problem is that too much methionine is toxic; studies have shown that animals who ingest lots of methionine die younger than those who don’t.
Fortunately, studies have also shown that another amino acid, named Glycine, buffers the harmful effects of methionine in your body. Furthermore, it regulates inflammation, boosts antioxidant levels, improves brain health and digestion, and keeps your liver in check.
Eating nose to tail will expose you to more glycine and less methionine, which will better take care of your bodily organs and functions, offering a better quality of life long-term.
How to Cook Organ Meats
Cooking organ meats are, for the most part, is the same as regular meat i.e fry on a pan in butter with salt. Of course, when it’s sitting in its raw state on your counter, it may be a little intimidating seeing the organs as they’re not your average cut of steak. You’ll see some arteries, veins, fat, silvery casing, and pieces of Suet aka Kidney fat still attached.
You have the option of trimming unwanted parts with a knife and rinsing the meat before cooking. But remember that your body can benefit from all the nutrients the whole meat piece provides. Nonetheless, a good reputable butcher will trim everything up for you.
After you’re done prepping and seasoning your offal meat with nothing more than good quality salt, drop a good amount of animal-based cooking fat eg Butter, Ghee, Tallow, Suet, Duck Fat into a hot pan, and cook on high heat just like a steak.
Generally speaking, smaller organs like the Kidney and Liver will be cooked rather quickly with butter and are ideally served medium with a blush of pink in the middle to preserve a mild taste and keep all the nutrients.
Larger organ meat like the tongue or oxtail needs slower cooking. The tongue must first be boiled in salted water for 1 hour, allowed to cool, peel the skin to reveal the rich fatty red meat and you can eat straight or place in the fridge and use during the week in sandwiches, on salads, or slice and refry in the pan.
Oxtail just needs to be simmered on low for 4 hours in the slow cooker or 70 mins in the Instant pot (Stew Setting) for a soft luscious treat packed with collagen and soft tasty meat.
For some offally good cooking…….:)….there are some great tutorials on YouTube if you need visual guidance. Simply type in “How to cook ___” your said meat for all manner of interesting methods to cook Offal meats.
Organ Meat Supplements
By now, there should be no doubt that organ meats are incredibly nutritious with tons of health, environmental, and economic benefits. Some people, perhaps like you, may understand the appeal and want the nutrient-dense perks of offal meats but still aren’t comfortable eating the literal organs of animals.
That’s why there are organ meat supplements like Desiccated (dried out) Liver Capsules can be a handy alternative.
Through a gentle freeze-drying method (to preserve the most nutrients, unlike high heat processing), you can turn raw liver into powdered gel capsules that are tasteless and easy to swallow.
If you want the nutritional value from offal meats but not the baggage that comes with them, then organ meat supplements are for you.
One can easily make homemade liver supplements by dicing up pieces of Liver and Kidney, storing in the freezer and swallowing with water like a pill and without any taste whatsoever.
Conclusion: Organ Meats and Nose-to-Tail
Organ meats are a proven nutrient dense source of vitamins, minerals, trace elements, fats and proteins.
Offal was once a mainstay on our dinner tables up until the introduction of industrial meat production and the development of the modern supermarket.
- Most common organs used for food are Liver, Kidney, Sweetbreads, Tripe, Heart, Cow Tongue, Brain and Oxtails.
- Organs are starting to make a comeback due to their nutritional value and relative inexpensive prices compared to steak cuts.
- Nose-to-tail eating is utilizing as much of the animal for food as possible which in turn reduces food waste and helps bring prices down.