We have become very, VERY distant from our food! Our ancesters were not! Even some of our close living relatives weren’t! Learn about the old ways, nose to tail eating and why you should eat offal!
The Old Ways
My grandma was recently telling me a story about the farm she lived on as a child! She often talks about it in longing nostalgic ways, her mother’s victory garden, the crops they grew, fresh milk from the cow and long listless days playing with the chickens! She talks about how much her life changed (and not for the better) when her father took a factory job and they moved into the city.
Chicken for supper
Anyways, during a recent conversation she was talking about a particular chicken recipe her mother used to make and how she could really “stretch that bird” to feed their whole multi-generational table. I naively asked if they got their chicken from a local butcher or perhaps traded milk or produce with a neighbor. She laughed (like fully belly, out loud laughed)! She put her arm up, made a fist and jerked it back and forth and said “of course not! My dad would just pick one up that hadn’t been laying and that was our supper!”
I was APPALLED! All I could think of was how traumatic that must’ve been for her as a girl! She was quick to correct me though and explain that when you grow up on a farm you know that everything there is meant for your survival. Your work animals work and so do you and your feed animals and crops feed you. That’s how it’s meant to be she reminded me! We aren’t meant to get our food at the supermarket and have no idea where it even came from!
Don’t wast a thing!
Here’s the thing, when people lived like this they didn’t waste a thing and they really COULD “stretch a bird”. They relied on wisdom passed down for many generations. And they knew that for SO many reasons it was imperative to eat every bit, even the bits we might today consider gross. It turns out they were right! If you’re going to eat meat you need to eat humanely raised meat and you need to eat nose to tail!
What Does Nose to Tail Mean?
Nose to tail is about a lot more than just eating! It’s a philosophy of using every part of the animal and leaving nothing to waste! This philosophy has been practiced by humanity for most of our history. Our Ancestors followed this way of life! Anything they couldn’t eat they used as tools, clothing etc. But most of what we toss today are things they used to eat! And these were considered the prime cuts! For example, the liver is so nutrient dense that most predators naturally eat it first and that is what humans historically did as well. Now liver and other organ meat is considered offal.
What is offal?
Offal is the term for all of the waste produced when meat is butchered. In the US skin, cartilage, bone, bone marrow, tendons, some fattier cuts and animal fats are all offal along with organ meat. This varies in other cultures and sometimes things we consider offal others consider a delicacy. In other words, not only is offal entirely edible but you should be eating it! This might sound like an awful idea (see what I did there) but don’t worry, I’m going to make it approachable!
5 Reasons You Should Eat Nose To Tail
I know that it might be difficult to imagine consuming foods we often consider waste and are pretty squeamish about. I’ll give you some great ideas for how to get it into your diet but before I do I want to make sure that you understand why this is SO important.
Nutrition is usually one of the biggest reasons people start practicing nose to tail eating. It is often practiced by people who follow an ancestral diet or “Paleo” lifestyle. But many are turning to this way of eating just to get the additional nutrients offered by eating offal! There are two big reasons why offal is so important to the nutrient profile of the human diet!
It turns out that animal products are meant to be consumed together! Many of the nutrients and amino acids found in muscle tissue are reliant on other nutrients and amino acids found in offal for proper absorption! There is even an amino acid common in muscle tissue that can build up in the human body and be damaging without it’s counterpart (found in collagen / bone broth)! However this amino acid is converted to one of the most important antioxidants when both are present so avoiding meat isn’t helping either! This happens very often in nature! Eating things as they are meant to be consumed creates synergy that is imperative to getting the most out of our diet!
Vitamins, Minerals, Anti-Oxidants and More
Offal is incredibly nutrient dense. As a point of fact, there is nothing more nutrient dense than beef liver! We are literally throwing away the best sources of vitamins like A, B12, B6, E and Folate! Not to mention the abundance of iron and zinc! It makes absolutely no sense. The amounts of vitamins and minerals found in offal are more substantial than those found in most multivitamins! Not to mention the creation of glutathione (a super powered anti-oxidant) and the presence of CoQ10 (an anti aging antioxidant necessary healing and brain health)! Offal is so packed with vitamins, minerals, anti-oxidants, amino acids etc that the discussion of this could be it’s own post! You can check out the USDA website for more information regarding the nutrient density of different organ meats and other offal!
With all of those nutritional benefits I’m sure you won’t be surprised that there are significant health benefits as well! Rather than get into long explanations of the many health benefits associated with this nutritional boost, I’m simply going to list them here!
- Aids in recovery from illness
- Decreases inflammation
- Improves arthritis pain
- Promotes healthy skin and growth of healthy hair and nails
- Increase energy levels
- Beneficial to nervous system
- Prevents Alzheimer’s disease
- Decrease dementia, depression and anxiety symptoms
- Improves heart health
- Increases hemoglobin level in the blood
- Protects against heart disease
- Helps to maintain healthy blood pressure
- Decrease high cholesterol (speak to doctor)
- Improve health of blood vessels
- Slow aging
The increased levels of folate even help with fertility and are great for pregnant women because it helps prevent fetal defects and morning sickness! Can you imagine anything else that we typically toss in the trash having these kinds of far reaching health benefits!
Anytime I talk about meat consumption I am assuming that you are eating grass fed, pastured meat! It is so important to your health, the environment and the well being of animals that you do this! Due to demand for pastured grass fed meat it has become more available and the price has come down.
Offal is no different! It may actually be more important to eat pastured and grass fed! Prior to the rise of factory farming meat was a luxury food. Because of that people ate every last bit! Currently even though pastured, grass fed meat has come down in price it is still more expensive. However, the offal of these same animals is often very inexpensive or even free! The most budget friendly way to buy meat is direct from the farmer (or butcher). You can also purchase a meat share CSA and request offal. Often times these waste cuts will be thrown in for free or at very low cost and they can definitely help off set some of your meat expenses!
Simply not contributing to factory farming is already helping protect the environment! (Again, a different post) Typically though it’s difficult to maintain eating grass fed pastured meat due to it’s higher cost. Off setting this with offal helps make this lifestyle more manageable!
In addition to meat being more affordable if you include inexpensive or free cuts you avoid contributing to wasted resources. There are a multitude of natural resources that go into raising livestock. Things like water, land and even fuel used to transport it to market. Any part of the animal you waste is a waste of the resources associated with raising it!
If we all eat the entire animal, less animals need to be farmed. Thereby using less resources! If you believe that humans are omnivores and need to consume meat for optimal health then you must consider that we also need to consume offal! It is vitally important for humanity to become conscious consumers and choose a more healthful and sustainable way of living! This includes preventing food waste of all sorts!
You might not be comfortable looking at pictures of livestock while reading this article! That isn’t uncommon. People are far more comfortable with meat pre-cut on a styraphome tray wrapped in saran wrap under bright supermarket lights. Thinking of your steak as part of a living breathing cow might make you more squeamish than eating it’s liver! Here’s the thing though… your meat comes from animals! At this point all meat does! If an animal is going to give it’s life so that you can nutritionally benefit that should matter to you! Not only should it matter that the animal was raised safely and humanely but also that it’s life is honored. Eat every part of the animal not only to acquire the greatest nutritional benefit. But also to respect the natural cycles of the farm, and respect the life that was sacrificed!
5 Ways to Include Offal Into Your Diet (That Aren’t Awful)
I’m hoping that now you’re actually thinking that eating offal might be a good idea. At least in theory! The challenge of where to start and how to make it happen though is something entirely different! Most offal is an acquired taste so lets talk about practical ways to get it into your diet!
1. Bone Broth
Bone broth is likely the simplest and most delicious way to include offal into your diet! It can be made with the bones of basically any animal and is a great way to use what would otherwise go straight in the trash! I love to toss produce, that would also be waste, into my broth as well. Things like broccoli stems and onion end bits provide great seasoning! I love bone broth so much I created a tutorial series & posted my recipe!
A simple way to start including organ meat into your diet is to try out sausages or pates! Many specialty butchers and artisinal food stores sell these items. This can be a great way to try out some different cuts of meat!
3. Don’t Forget Fish
People often forget that fish also has offal. fish heads, tails and bones can be used to make broth! Fish broth is delicious in Asian dishes and as a base for seafood stews!
Small canned fish like sardines have edible bones. They are extremely nutritious and very high in calcium which is often lacking in many diets. Calcium supplements are usually made from rocks so this is a much better source of of this important mineral!
4. Start Small or Start Chefy
When introducing organ meat start with organs that will have a more familiar taste or texture. Things like tongue and heart (especially from chicken) are typically very approachable. They tend to be tough so it is helpful to slow cook them for a long period of time. Gradually add other types of offal!
Another great option is to start chefy. Many chef’s are including offal on their menu’s now! This can be a great way to try something new! Chef’s who are specially trained to prepare offal and /or have plenty of practice can create some incredibly delicious and unique dishes featuring it!
5. Hide It
When it comes to organ meat, a little goes a long way! Since you only need to get about 3 oz per week into your diet to reap the amazing health benefits listed above, you can easily hide it! Grind the organ meat or pre-cook it and shred it up and add it to well seasoned dishes. Even beef liver which has the strongest odor and flavor can be hidden in chili or taco meat. Consider adding it to meatballs as well.
Nose to Tail, Back to the Old Ways
We often romanticize the simple ways of farm life of generations past! Well, I know that I do! That’s why I ask my grandma to keep repeating the stories from her childhood! She is in her late 80’s and sharp as a tack (maybe from eating offal). There were things that we would never imagine doing, like putting babies in dresser drawers or laying them on the front seat of the car instead of in a car seat. Then there are things that we know we should return to, more family time, less tech and going to bed when the sun goes down and waking with it’s rising. Eating offal is one of these bygone practices we need to bring back!
There are so many compelling reasons to eat offal. Everything from nutrition and health to sustainability! And I hope that you now see that it’s completely doable to add it into your diet! You can easily introduce it to your family too (including your children) by following the simple suggestions in this post! I certainly hope you’ll at least give it a try!
What are your impressions of trying out nose to tail eating?
Tell me how incorporating offal into your diet works for you? Any favorite preparation methods?
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