Thinking of eating organs meats might seem at first awkward or sound even gross. Depending on where you’ve been brought up, you might’ve never got into contact with animal organs. Traditionally some cultures still eat a lot of organ meats, but the general trend goes definitely away from those and more towards lean muscle meat such as chicken, steaks, and pork. More often organs get ditched for ribeyes and wings.
In Germany, where I’ve been brought up, people still incorporate organs in traditional dishes, such as Leberwurst, Blutwurst, Goulash made from Kidneys, or Liver with Onions. Those are a few very traditional dishes – when you go further south the Austrians even have many dishes on their menus incorporating thymus and intestines, the Romans cook tripe within tomato sauce.
So why do people traditionally eat animals from nose-to-tail and regard them as a delicacy? Looking at the writings of explorers such as Vilhjalmur Stefanson, it becomes clear that hunter-gatherer cultures value organs highly. He lived with the Inuit and described the children treating kidneys as sweets, eating them raw from the warm kill. As human as i gets!
Throughout this post, we follow this train of thought and discover what’s behind organs, why they’re nature’s only true superfood and how you can incorporate organs within your diet for optimal health!
When it comes to nutrient density nothing will get close to organ meats – foremost liver packed with many of those! Forget about kale, goji berries, and turmeric, chlorella and broccoli pale in comparison. Most organs contain a wide variety of highly bioavailable nutrients that can hardly be found somewhere else. Some organs even store certain nutrients such as bones store calcium, phosphor, and boron for scarcer times.
Moreover, they completely lack antinutrients and defense molecules that are common in plants. These guys are there to literally punish you for eating them and make the plants’ nutrients as unavailable as possible for predators. Plants aren’t the friendly nutrient suppliers people think they are – they’re living beings that want to flourish themselves. Animals can fight or flee, plants stack up on chemicals or thorns.
A great book on all things animal nutrients and the Carnivore Diet1 is the Carnivore Code* by Dr. Paul Saladino. He did outstanding pioneer work on this frontier.
The below table compares some ‘superfoods’ with beef liver and muscle meat. But keep in mind that these numbers don’t encompass bioavailability. The plant sources are from a standpoint of bioavailability inferior to the amounts in animal foods.
Eating Offal adds Variety
If you follow me for a while, you know that I am a huge fan of an animal-based diet. Solely eating beef meat, fish, seafood, mixed up with a few other cuts already makes up for a lot of exposure to critical nutrients and variety. If you now add the whole array of available organs to that, you got a lot more cuts to chose from. This makes for a lot more variety to cook with and taste.
Plus, experimenting with new sources of food can be a lot of fun, too! But more than that food shouldn’t be a source of pleasure but of lifelong health.
If minerals, vitamins & zoonutrients are a topic you want to further look into, no worries I got you covered. I created an ebook addressing all of these nutrients in the context of an animal-based diet that helps you construct one avoiding deficiencies. You can download it for free, by clicking the button down below.
Eating meat and killing animals in itself is not unethical if you’d ask me. It’s what we and other animals did from the dawn of time and before. But there is a lot of more nuance to that discussion if we include questions like:
Did you kill and process your meat yourself or bought it for 5$ in a box of plastic?
How was the animal raised and treated?
For what use was it killed?
What were its parts used for?
Most of us are widely disconnected from food – I also included.4
This story is only a part of the whole – but in short animal foods shaped our race like nothing else. Our entire lineage adapted to our habit of social hunting and eating animals from nose-to-tail. Carnivory made us human:
Hunting forced us to be social, many apex predators of large animals are highly social
Hunting created a need for tools
Our brains grew huge for the imposed demands of tools, hunting, and tracking down prey within a group
Our shoulders closely evolved to the use of tools and spears
And many more!
The Health Benefits of Eating Organs
This list covers the most commonly eaten organs. It is by no means an exhaustive list. I’m mostly going to cover beef organs as they provide the biggest benefits to us humans because they’re ruminating animals in comparison to monogastric animals such as pork or chicken. Those can quickly accumulate polyunsaturated fatty acids within their tissues, and their entire fat makeup differs largely from what we humans probably evolved to eat.
Besides meat5 liver is probably the most commonly found organ in our Western world. I even saw it in the normally conservative Canadian and American big grocery chains!
Liver is a real nutritional powerhouse – a true superfood! It contains:
Copper, Iron & Zinc
Vitamin B3, B6, B12
If you’d eat a 500g of Beef Liver per week many of the possible malnutritional pitfalls are already covered! Furthermore, it’s a cheap cut – often 500g of liver comes for ~5$.
Beef Kidney needs to be prepared well, but then it makes for many great dishes and can replace the so often consumed muscle meat partially. A 100g of beef kidney contain:
DAO and other peptides
Even more interestingly, Kidney naturally contains Diamine Oxidase (DAO)6, a digestive enzyme important to break down histamine. Therefore, integrating kidney regularly within your diet can help with autoimmune conditions such as allergies, rashes, or other common problems. But remember – often those are caused by dairy, eggs, and toxic plants. Try to address the root cause first, cut those out and see if one of those is the bad guy.
Bones in itself are tough to eat, true that – but in bone broth they’re true heroes! Even after cooking them out you can powder bones and make a seasoning to get all out of them. Bones provide your body with the following substances:
Therefore powdered bones, bone broth, or even eggshells are one of the best calcium providers there are on a dairy-free animal-based diet! Phospor helps with… . Boron is involved in a men’s health regarding testosterone!
Connective tissues are all the gnarly bits like skin, joints, cartilage, and Co. These are very interesting on an animal-based diet because of their intricate amino acids’ makeup. In comparison to muscle meat they contain a lot of collagen and glycine, muscles contain a lot of methionine. The glycine-to-methionine ratio of your nutrition is an important factor and should be balanced. Therefore, incorporating these gnarly bits, either eaten in a broth or going raw, is an important part of everyone’s diet to balance out high amounts of glycine by eating a lot of meats. Check out this in-depth post on the topic of collagen and the aforementioned two amino acids.
These gnarly parts are best used in bone broth and other slowly cooked stews. Cooking these bits, plus bones and other trimmings you toss in there for a long time releases these amino acids and extracts them out of the tissues into the fluid. That’s why broths often tend to look like gelatine when cooled down.
Intestines are another big organ that one can consume – there are a lot of different parts that one could eat. Depending on where you come from often certain parts are preferred. In Canada, I often encountered the honeycomb tripe, which is a cow’s second stomach, while in Austria you often find the third stomach, also known as Kutteln.
[adinserter name="Block 3"]
Intestines contain per 100g:
These parts are one of the ones that tend to need a higher amount of preparation. They need to be well soaked, cleaned, and best be pre-cooked in water to make them well chewable. Don’t get me wrong you can eat them without preparation, I’ve been there, but especially boiling them for a few minutes makes them more edible when you plan to fry the tripe. With organs, the process of preparation often determines the end product’s quality.
I know what you probably think right now, and I understand your concerns. But in fact, brain is another real superfood regarding its ingredients. It contains a lot of peptides, neurofactors, and omega 3 fatty acids. Plus, brain is one of the easier organs to cook if you can find a trustworthy supplier in your area. A favorite of mine is for example scrambled brain – it works exactly like scrambled eggs and you can even mix them with eggs to sneak the brain in those.
Brain is especially high in those:
Omega-3 fatty acids and arachidonic acids
There’s a concern around eating brain and prion diseases like the Kreutzfeld-Jakob-Disease, Bovine Spongiforme Encephalitis (BSE), or Kuru. Especially after the BSE wave this concern gained momentum. All these diseases are caused by misfolded proteins, also called prions. In my opinion, those prions enter the hosts body through cannibalism. If you eat brain from trustworthy sources, where the animals don’t get in touch with involuntary cannibalism you should be well off. Nonetheless, this is my mind making sense of the facts and not an established fact. Brain is one of those foods where quality really matters – if those criteria are met for me brain is a true superfood. Another reason to befriend a farmer and a butcher!
How to Start Eating Offal
Start with Liver
Regarding the nutritional benefits, liver is the big domino. It contains so many highly-valuable nutrients. With you eating roughly 300-500g of liver per week you got many possible malnutritional factors totally eradicated. Plus, after the initial period the taste is very pleasant and one gets quickly used to the more tender texture of beef liver.
Start by mixing it into dishes combined with other meats, lots of fats, and if you use spices plenty of them. Three great recipes to start with are
Beef Liver Stroganoff
Bowl of Ground Beef, Eggs, Cheese and Liver blended into the ground beef
Beyond cooking liver a handy tool is to make your own pills. How does that work? Freeze dry cubes of ~30g liver for 2 weeks or longer. Freezing the raw liver for more than two weeks will make sure all possible parasites are dead. Afterwards you can just pop those frozen pieces raw and get into the benefits of eating raw liver – without the taste and in a safe manner.
Preparation is Key!
For us people not used to the strong taste of organs, it pops out on some cuts, on others the texture might differ. Good preparation comes in handy to dodge a few of those, like for example soaking kidneys for 2 hours in cold water mixed with salt, or pre-boiling intestines to make them more edible.
That way organs become more palatable. Therefore take your time upfront and research how each organ is traditionally prepared – or ask your grandma. This will save you time and some unwanted surprises. Unless you want to go cavemen and ditch all the preparation.7
While this point is also true for muscle meats, it is even more so for organ meats. Fortunately, the governmental rules and standards make up for superior quality within even the cheapest meat cuts from the big discounter chains. Nonetheless, buying meat and organs from animals that were raised consistently to nature, improves their overall nutrient makeup and makes eating them more ethical, plus you often support the local farmers and businesses.
A common misconception about organs is that they store toxins because organs like kidneys and the liver get rid of them. That is not true, while they get rid of them none stores toxins. That is not their job. But when it comes to certain cuts like the brain you want to be on the safe side, rather spend 2$ more per pound to make sure you really get around the abysmal small percentage of contacting something that unusual as a prion disease.
Combine Organs with Muscle Meat
Up to a certain degree you can sneak in organs into your normal dishes – like parents tried and failed to do with broccoli for their kids. Fortunately, kids are instinctively clever and want to abstain from these poisonous cruciferous veggies without even knowing why. I bet if you’d try this with liver it would work!
By mixing liver a kidney into a bowl of ground beef – one of my favorites – you can easily eat a 100g of organs per meal without really noticing it.
You’ll get used to it!
…and will dig ’em! Each time I tried a new organ my stomach felt awkward, my tasting faculties were overwhelmed with the new flavors, and my mind was over-curious. This is what cultural upbringing and a novel impulse do to us. Funny how conditioning comes into play, right?
Nowadays, I hardly taste organs as something different – one gets used to them. This might sound controversial or unimaginable, but think about how meat tastes for you. You hardly notice it as something special, because you’re used to it. The only thing outstanding could be the quality of the meat or the cooks’ preoperational methods, not the texture or intricate taste itself. Organ meats will undergo the same process if you eat them consistently for some time.
One thing that helps in the beginning to eat a wide variety of organs are definitely desiccated organ capsules*. By popping hose you can get exposure to a many organs with a few pills, plus there are mixtures out there for different endpoints and ailments.
Is Eating Animal Organs bad for You?
Short answer – No. Many people think of eating too much cholesterol or vitamins when it comes to organs as they’re highly nutritious. But these are fortunately not true and there is a lot more nuance to that topic. If you’re metabolically healthy though, eating animals from nose-to-tail is the most valuable source of nutrients that you can choose.
Let’s talk about vitamins first. A topic that often arises is for example vitamin A in liver. Unless you’re eating polar bear liver8 chances are you’re well off and should never intoxicate yourself with eating a food that is highly valued among hunter-gatherers. In fact, rather than being bad for you organs are extremely valuable in anyone’s nutrition.
Cholesterol on the other hand can be tied to hard disease epidemiology, as it is present in arterial plaques. But just because a substance is present doesn’t necessarily mean that it causes it. Dave Feldman painted a great imaginary image of a fireman on this topic – just because a fireman is present at every fire doesn’t necessarily mean he laid it, right? The same goes for cholesterol, without the context of insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome, high cholesterol should hardly be an issue, rather a boon as it fulfills many important functions.9
Tying that back to the topic of organs – eat organs don’t fear bad effects. The risks clearly outweigh the risk, at least in my view, or what do you think?
Don’t forget about Muscle Meat
Just because organs are great for you doesn’t mean that muscle meat is inferior. They’re both contributors and allies on an animal-based diet, or any diet, rather than competitors. Think of both as important parts of your diet. The third in group is connective tissue to sustain a healthy balance of methionine to glycine within your diet.
Organs are high in micronutrients, so is muscle meat. Remember the glycine-to-methionine ratio? Too much glycine without methionine is probably neither a good thing – so is neglecting the high amounts of creatine or carnitine abundantly found in muscle tissue. So how do you combine both in a well-constructed manner?
A great number to aim for is around 200-300g of muscle meat, combined with 100g of organ meats per meal. This number is highly individual though and depends on your body, energy need, and activity, but you get the gist.
Try to eat a smaller amount of organ meats with a bigger amount of muscle meat as a cornerstone of every one of your meals.
Aim for variety on a nose-to-tail diet. While liver is awesome, adding variety is great too. Try out be curious and think what works for you.
Aim for a trustworthy source of organs of high quality, especially regarding some cuts as brain.
All of that said – eat your organs. Try them out and incorporate them in some way into your diet – either as capsules if you have a hard time eating them, mixed within other dishes, or as a meal itself. But eat them. Make organs great again. There is a reason why ancestral cultures and your grandma highly valued organ meats. Eating animals from nose-to-tail is what we as humans evolved to over millions of years and shaped us like nothing else.
Don’t eat your veggies, be a good boy, or girl, and eat your organs,
As crazy as it might sound in the beginning. I know exactly where this comes from!
A great podcast on this topic is this episode of the WildFed Podcast by Daniel Vitalis a modern hunter-gatherer. Hunting is more than just killing animals and decreasing numbers of endangered species like some narratives want us to believe. It is high spiritual, connecting and nuorishes us as humans.2Fruit nowadays looks a lot different than it used to look 100 years ago, and most fruits are available everywhere at any given time. Meat comes in a package that gets sprayed to look extra red. Most folks never killed an animal themselves, skinned it and butchered it, nor even thought about this sacred process. Doing this whole process involves a whole ‘nother level of respect towards your food. One really feels the sacred interconnectedness of beings. That’s why all cultures connected the hunting and killing of animals as a sacred practice.
Therefore eating animals from nose-to-tail, using every part of it, is a matter of respect towards that animal and the soul of the world it all came from. You value its life and regard wasting its parts as a sacrilege.
If you look at people with what the standard narrative would call extremely high levels of cholesterol caused by genetic dispositions like familial hypercholesterolemia, you see that many of them do great if they lack metabolic syndrome. The people doing the worst are the ones with low levels of cholesterol.