Offal is a vague term used to describe parts of the animal we Americans don’t eat. It includes the liver, brain, lungs, heart, tail, tongue, intestines, stomach and marrow. In the wild, carnivorous animals eat the internal organs before any other part of the kill. The alpha/leader usually claims these prime meats first: the heart, liver, bone marrow and kidneys. Muscle meat is left for the underlings. Many hunter-gatherer tribes commonly eat offal and give their domesticated animals the muscle. Internal organs are chock full of minerals, vitamins, protein and fat. Offal is a super nutritious addition to a healthy diet. Why then is this vitamin/mineral dense food shunned in Western society and usually left for our pets? Three reasons seem most likely:
1. Americans are squeamish about foods that resemble body parts like tongue, heart, lungs, and brain. The textures of offal also differ from what we are accustomed to consuming.
2. The average American has no idea on how to cook offal. Most grocery stores do not sell it or hide it in the corner of the meat section.
3. We falsely believe organ meat is unhealthy and toxic.
Offal is vitamin dense, cheap and brimming with macronutrients. It is likely you have eaten offal in sausages or hotdogs. It is quite common for processed meat producers to pack these ‘unappetizing’ organs in their meat products. The National Hot Dog & Sausage Council (NHDSC) notes that hot dogs, be they turkey, pork or beef, begin with “trimmings.” According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), “The raw meat materials used for precooked-cooked products are lower-grade muscle trimmings, fatty tissues, head meat, animal feet, animal skin, blood, liver and other edible slaughter by-products.”
Awfully Good Offal:
1. Liver is the king of organ meats. It’s one of the most nutrient-dense foods in existence and contains many key nutrients that are difficult to get elsewhere. It is an excellent source of high-quality protein, vitamin A, several B vitamins and is an excellent source of folic acid, choline, and iron. Liver is the number one food source of copper and contains heart-protecting CoQ10.
Side Note: Liver does not store toxins (those are mostly stored in fatty deposits). It is not a storage organ for toxins but it does store many important nutrients including vitamins A, D, E, K, B12 and folic acid, and minerals such as copper and iron.
2. Heart is an excellent source of a number of nutrients, including thiamin, folate, selenium, phosphorus, zinc and several of the B vitamins. In addition, beef heart contains amino acids that are thought to improve metabolism and compounds that promote the production of collagen and elastin. It is the best food source for CoQ10.
3. Bones and Marrow are not just for the dogs anymore. Both bone and marrow contain an abundance of calcium, phosphorus, and magnesium. Both are good sources of collagen, gelatin, chondroitin sulfate, vitamins A and D, vitamins K1, K2 and various crucial amino acids. Bones offer a tremendous nutritional bounty. Moreover, the marrow has the most nutrient dense fat available anywhere.
It is easy to add offal to your diet. Many top restaurants serve it as an entree or appetizer. Add bone broth to your rice, stews, chili or sauces. Add some liver, heart, and marrow into your next burger mix. The NYC restaurant Hearth serves a brilliant offal burger with grass-fed organic brisket, chuck, heart, and liver. It is delicious. My mom used to send me to school with liverwurst. I still remember the horrified looks on my friends’ faces when I unpacked my lunch. But I loved it and still do. Eating offal once a week in addition to your regular healthy diet will take care of most of your multivitamin and mineral needs.
*As always look for humanely raised meat that has been pastured fed.