By Stanley A. Fishman, author of Tender Grassfed Meat
The standard American diet, known as “SAD” (and it is really sad, especially for those who eat it) does not contain any organ meats. In fact, organ meats are demonized for having fat and cholesterol. This is truly a shame, because organ meats from grassfed animals are one of the most nutrient-dense foods available, being packed with vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and other nutrients.
Our ancestors knew the value of organ meats. They gave great value to liver, heart, and kidney, and used these foods to support the health of their own organs. We can do the same.
Organ Meats Were Crucial in Traditional Diets
When I did the research for Tender Grassfed Meat: Traditional Ways to Cook Healthy Meat, I read a number of old cookbooks. I was astonished to find literally hundreds of recipes for all kinds of organ meats. Liver was considered a staple of the diet, and was sautéed, made into dumplings and pastries, eaten raw, puréed, roasted, and minced. When hunters killed an animal, it was a tradition to eat the warm liver on the spot, raw, with everyone in the hunting party having a share. This was not only a tradition among European hunters, but was also done by the Native Americans, and other people all over the world. Even predators such as lions, bears, and tigers will eat the liver first. There are hundreds of traditional European sausages made from liver, liverwurst being just one of them. Pâtés are one of the tastiest results of this tradition.
There were a myriad of recipes containing kidneys, heart, brains, sweetbreads (thymus gland), intestines, even lungs, spleens, and other organs. These organs were also made into sausages, pies, soups, fritters, and preparations unique to each organ. It was also traditional to stuff the stomach of an animal with chopped organ meat and other foods, the famous Scottish Haggis being an example of this. Most of these recipes were a great deal of work, because most organ meats require a great deal of trimming. There are often membranes, veins, arteries, and other inedible parts that must be removed, and the edible portions often required soaking, often multiple soakings, pounding, and intense cleaning. These recipes would often go into great detail as to how to prepare the organ meats for cooking.
The healthy peoples studied by Dr. Weston A. Price all ate organ meats, and valued them highly. Their traditional preparations of these meats also involved a great deal of work in cleaning and preparing the organs.
It should be noted that many of these dishes did not taste particularly good, and were resisted by children. People ate them anyway, and forced their children to eat them.
Why did all of these traditional peoples go to all that work and trouble? Because they knew there was something in these organ meats that was good for them, and because this knowledge had been handed down from generation to generation.
The Traditional Use of Organ Meats to Support Organ Functioning
Many traditional peoples, including the Native Americans, and even the pre-drug medical profession, believed that eating the organs from a healthy animal would support the organs of the eater. A traditional way to treat a person with a weak heart was to have the person eat the heart of a healthy animal. There were a number of country doctors who reported success with using this method. Eating the brains of a healthy animal was also believed to support clear thinking. People with bladder and kidney problems would be fed kidney meat from healthy animals. Native Americans with a vision problem or eye injury would be given the eyes of animals to eat. There are many reports confirming the success of such practices. In modern times, a number of people who need thyroid hormones have eaten the thyroids of animals, as an effective alternative to thyroid medication. However, I do not recommend that anybody do this on their own, without the supervision of a qualified medical professional. Nevertheless, many people have reported success with this practice.
Liver was often given to sick people, as the huge amounts of quality nutrients in this organ helped rebuild their bodies. Great emphasis was placed on only eating the organs from healthy animals.
However, most of the organ meats were eaten as part of the regular diet, by healthy people whose culture knew that eating these organs would support the natural functioning of their bodies. That is why they went through all the work necessary to prepare them.
Science Has Confirmed the Nutritional Benefits of Organ Meats
The development of the ability to identify and test for the presence of nutrients has confirmed what most people already knew—organ meats are a nutritional powerhouse, full of vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and many other substances vital for nutrition. Liver in particular is crammed full of vital nutrients, which is why predatory animals eat it first, and why it has been so valued over the course of time.
Unfortunately, organ meats have been demonized because they contain fat and cholesterol, and most people are afraid to eat them. The cholesterol myth is just that, a myth, and the fat of healthy animals is beneficial for human health, as shown in these articles: Know Your Fats Introduction and Cholesterol: Friend or Foe?
The organ meats eaten by our ancestors and traditional peoples have great nutritional value.
An Easy Way to Eat Organ Meats
We can get the benefits of organ meats, even today. I do not recommend eating the organs of factory animals. The organ meat of factory animals is not the same meat that has been eaten for thousands of years, but is different, as the animals have usually been given hormones and antibiotics, and have not been fed their natural feed. My personal choice is to eat the organs of grassfed and grass finished animals only. In the case of omnivorous animals such as pigs and chickens, I choose to only eat the organs of pastured animals.
But I will confess that all the preparatory work that is necessary for enjoying most organ meats is more than I want to do. I will buy organ meats that come ready to cook, but my favorite way to eat organs is by eating organ sausages.
Great care must be taken in choosing sausage, because all kinds of undesirable ingredients are often added to them. I insist on knowing everything that is in a sausage before I eat it. Currently, I know of only one Internet source for grassfed organ sausage that has no undesirable ingredients. These sausages are of the highest quality, and I eat them at least once a week. These are the organ sausages made and sold by US Wellness Meats. They make a delicious liverwurst that contains liver, heart, and kidney. They make two kinds of braunschweiger that contain a lot of liver: one cooked, and the other one raw. They also sell a headcheese that contains tongue and heart. These sausages can be made into delicious recipes. Here is a link to a recipe I created for the raw braunschweiger: liverloaf. There are also recipes using these sausages on pages 179-182 of Tender Grassfed Meat.
Organ meats are some of the most vital and nutrient-dense foods available to us. Our ancestors knew this, and we can learn from them.
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