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Posted on: February 22, 2019 at 2:06 pm
Last updated: July 8, 2019 at 12:31 pm

Organ meats are often perceived with disgust by some people, but they may be more nutritious than you think. If you’re vegan or vegetarian, this isn’t meant to change your mind, but if you’re not, organ meats may be worth a try. And for those who’ve been enjoying liver and kidney recipes for years, keep it up!

Why Did We Stop Eating Organ Meats?

Until relatively recently, meat-eating cultures around the world generally used a “nose-to-tail” approach to preparing and eating meats. Along with the muscle meat of cows, goats, chickens, and other domesticated or hunted animals, organs like the liver, kidney, heart, brain, and intestines were enjoyed instead of going to waste.

Eating organ meats and other less muscly portions is still very popular around the world. Just try the Caribbean dishes of oxtail or chicken foot soup, the chitterlings of the deep south, or liver and onions in any good British pub.

But the “modernization” of Western agriculture and the demands of a capitalist food industry has led to a lot of waste of what many people would say is perfectly good food. What’s more, the trend of using less of an animal contributes to a devastating environmental impact.

“Although delicious and often addictive, beef production is one of the worst things we have done to the environment. The production of beef has had a massively negative impact land, water, and energy usage. In regards to land use and compared to that of other meat production – chicken, fish, pork – beef production uses 28% more land per calorie consumed.¹

According the the World Research Institute, “One-quarter of the Earth’s landmass, excluding Antarctica, is used as pasture-land.”¹.² Much of said land includes area that was deforested, detrimentally, for usage.”

(You can finish reading our take on the environmental impact here)

But are Organ Meats Actually Healthy?

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We’d first like to emphasize the importance of choosing your meats (organ or otherwise) with care. Non-organic livers can contain residue from antibiotics and pesticides (1), just like muscle meats. It’s often thought that since the liver acts as ‘filter,’ it must accumulate toxins more so than other parts of the body. By this logic, one would assume we shouldn’t eat it, however, this is for the most part, a myth. The liver would be better described as, a self-regenerating filter that breaks down toxins into harmless substances that can then be eliminated by our bodies. In the end, it is always important to source your meat as locally as possible and opt for grass-fed, organic, free-range choices. Accumulation of heavy metals and other toxic substances are still an issue, in organ or muscle meats. The bottom line:  sourcing meat from animals raised in non-toxic environments is paramount.

Liver

Registered dietitian, Alexandra Rowles calls liver “possibly one of the most nutrient-dense foods on the planet”. (2) Its benefits include being:

  • low in calories
  • rich in quality protein
  • well over your recommended daily intake of vitamins B2, B12, and A
  • excellent source of folate and iron

Kidney

Kidneys are another rich source of many nutrients. They’re especially good for: (3)

  • high source of Omega-3
  • anti-inflammatory properties
  • supporting a healthy cardiovascular system

Heart

Though a little less popular than kidney and liver dishes, the heart certainly packs a wallop in nutritional value. Some of its benefits include being:

  • excellent source of B-complex vitamins
  • supporting a healthy cardiovascular system
  • excellent source of CoQ10

Tripe

Tripe (the muscles of the stomach walls) is another underrated organ meat. Some of the benefits of this nutrient-rich dish include being: (4)

  • low in calories
  • high in protein
  • good source of selenium, zinc, and magnesium

Are There Drawbacks to Organ Meats?

Excessive consumption of organ meats may increase your risk of developing gout, a common form of arthritis. Organ meats are high in purines, which convert into uric acid in our bodies. Higher levels of uric acid are a risk factor for developing gout (4). If you have gout or are at risk of developing it, keep your consumption of these meats to a minimum.

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The bottom line?

Organ meats are nutrient dense and can be a healthy choice when consumed in moderation. When we substitute other muscle meats for organ meats in our diet, consuming them can reduce waste and is better for the environment. Finally, always make sure to seek out quality meats.

Interested in enjoying some delicious recipes? Keep reading below!

How to Cook Organ Meats

We’ve compiled a few tasty recipes to help you get some inspiration. There’s no need to sacrifice flavor when you’re being good to your body and good to the environment!

3-Herb Garlic Liver

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Kaluhi’s Kitchen uses some great tricks in her recipe to avoid the dreaded chewy result.

Spiced Lamb Kidney Roast

Manchatti Kitchen walks you through exactly how to season and cook a flavorful and fresh kidney roast that kicks the spice up a notch.

Roman-style Tripe

Food Wishes created a fabulous beginner-friendly recipe for a super-savory tripe dish made from simple ingredients.

Read Next: Homemade Vegetable Hamburger Soup

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Emese Graham
Health Expert
Emese believes women's health, mental health, and spiritual health really matter, so she jumps at the chance to bring those conversations to light. In her spare time, Emese enjoys finding challenging workout videos on Youtube (because gyms are hard for introverts), and she's all about getting creative in the kitchen and making recipes a little different every time - who needs measuring cups?

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