Attempting to Use More of the Animal

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Attempting to Use More of the Animal @learningandyearning

When my children were babies, I fed them liver because “it was good for them.” And, of course, my husband and I choked it down with them. As they grew, I served liver less and less until it was no longer a part of our diet. But now that we’re eating grass-fed and pastured meat and thinking more about nutrient-dense food, I’ve had to reconsider organ meats and other parts of the animal that I previously considered waste. Reading Long Way on a Little by Shannon Hayes convinced me that it was time to reintroduce offal into our diet. This would be good for our health and good for our pocket-book. As Shannon Hayes reminds us, “Sustainable livestock farming cannot happen without sustainable livestock consumption. We must make use of all the gifts an animal provides when we take its life.”

Traditional cultures prized organ meats. It’s unfortunate that our culture has rejected it’s use since organ meats and fat are high in vitamins A, D, E and K, essential fatty acids, and macro and trace minerals. At this point, I’m regularly preparing bone broth, rendering fat, and preparing liver. As I have access to other organs, I’ll make use of them. I’ve also begun to collect recipes, and I’ll share some of those here.

Bones:

I think this is probably one of the parts of the animal that is often wasted that is easiest to incorporate into our diet. There is nothing distasteful to our senses about a  pot of broth simmering on the stove. It’s just that we’ve become too busy, too lazy, or perhaps too uninformed to make our own broth. Now that I’ve formed this habit, I wonder why I ever thought it was hard. And I could never go back to using canned or boxed broth; there is just no comparison in taste. In addition, store-bought broth (even organic) is missing the proteinaceous gelatin and electrolytes found in bone broth. Using bones is a great way to save money. Quoting Shannon Hayes again, “Bones are one of the cheapest ways to incorporate the health benefits of grass-fed meats into your family’s diet.”

Since I wrote this post on making chicken broth, I’ve begun adding chicken feet. This insures the most gelatinous and easy to digest broth ever. Holistic Squid shares a few ways to make chicken bone broth from basic to adventurous. With beef, the bones should be roasted first. Real Food Forager explains how to make broth with beef bones.

Speaking of beef bones, have you ever eaten the marrow from them? It’s really delicious! Here is Cheeseslave’s recipe for Roasted Bone Marrow and another for making Beef Pho using beef bones and marrow.

Fat:

What a shame that our culture has demonized fat. Assuming that it is from an animal that was raised in a healthy manner, fat helps us to absorb minerals from our food, is essential to healthy hormone production and satiates in a way that no other food can.  Animal fat makes food taste good. Who doesn’t love butter slathered on a freshly baked slice of bread? It is preferable to vegetable oil for browning meat since it can withstand higher cooking temperatures. And it makes the best pie crust. The next time you are getting meat from your local farmer, ask him for the fat. Pork fat can be rendered into lard. Beef fat is rendered into tallow (Recipe from Too Many Jars in My Kitchen). When making chicken broth, skim the fat off of the top and use it to grease pans or to brown meat. Do the same with beef fat. Save bacon fat; a tablespoon on cooked vegetables is heavenly. Not only is it delicious, it saves money. And if you’re a soap or candle maker, tallow can be used here as well. Tallow can also be used in homemade cosmetics. Remember, 20% – 30% of the animal is fat and bones, so using these parts does the most to reduce waste.

Liver:

One of my hesitations in reintroducing liver into our diet was the fact that the liver’s function is to remove toxins from the blood. It is true that the liver does not store toxins, but the toxins do pass through the liver and are likely present at the time of death. For this reason, Sally Fallon, in Nourishing Traditions, recommends that we only purchase organic liver. I feel that we should go “beyond organic” and know your farmer and how he is raising his animals to ensure the least amount of toxins as possible. High nutritive value will outweigh small amounts of toxins.

As far as cooking liver, the number one secret that I have discovered is to soak the liver in milk or lemon juice for several hours before proceeding with your recipe. I now love liver, and I love the boost in energy I get from it. I could eat it every day.

A lot of bloggers that I follow have great recipes for cooking liver. Gutsy’s recipe for chicken liver pate turned me into a liver lover. It’s a good recipe to start with because it also contains lots of butter. Nourishing Joy has a few different pates. And I like Holistic Squid’s ideas for using liver. It’s common to make pate with liver, but Nourished Kitchen shares a recipe that simply fries them.

Liver and onions is a classic way to serve beef liver. I really liked what Thank My Body has to say about liver. She reminds us that liver does not store toxins but instead it stores a lot of powerful nutrients that the body uses against the toxins. She also shares how to make beef liver cubes to add to recipes that use ground meat. The Coconut Mama also has great ideas for sneaking into other recipes. Homemade Mommy uses it in her chili. I like that idea. She also shares a traditional Yiddish recipe from her grandmother for chopped liver with hard boiled eggs.

Kidney:

Yes, I’ve tasted kidneys, but have not yet cooked with them. They have a stronger flavor, so I’ll be using recipes with sauces, and lots of onions. I understand that soaking them in lemon juice helps, just as it does with liver.

Here’s how to prepare kidneys. Culture Palate shares how she uses it in her chili recipe. (My husband loves chili, so I was attracted to these recipes).

Oxtail:

A friend of mine and I were splitting some beef and I said, “no, you go ahead and keep the oxtail”. Well, next time I get it so that I can make Oxtail Soup, and Korean BBQ with Oxtail. :)

TongueTongue:

Ok, I admit that I may not be ready for this one. I can hardly look at the photo. But, just in case, I gathered some recipes: Tongue, it’s Whats for Dinner and Tongue-Tacos.

Heart:

This, I think I can handle without a problem: Braised Beef Heart and I Heart Texas Chili.

Pig’s head:

Well, not anytime soon: How to Cook a Pig’s Head

Our ancestors used all of the animal from nose to tail and I really am of the opinion that we are doing ourselves a disservice by not at least attempting to do the same. What great ways are you using offal?

 

Shared at: Thank Goodness It’s Monday, Homestead Barn Hop, Meal Plan Monday, Family Table Tuesday, Slightly Indulgent Tuesday, Fat Tuesday, Scratch Cookin’ Tuesday, Teach Me Tuesday, Down Home Blog Hop, EOA, Wildcrafting Wednesday, Whole Foods Wednesday, Healthy 2Day, Party Wave Wednesday, Frugal Days Sustainable Ways, Homeacre Hop, Real Food Wednesday, Thank Your Body Thursday, Simple Lives Thursday, Fight Back Friday, Small Footprint Friday, Farmgirl Friday, Clever Chicks, Sunday School, Real Food Wednesday, Tasty Traditions
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Comments

  1. says

    I’ll be looking for chicken feet now to add to my stock. I also save my bones after a meal, freeze them and then add later to soups. They add so much extra flavor besides all the health benefits. Great post, thanks.

    • Susan says

      The chicken feet really make a difference. They aren’t the prettiest thing, but we really have to get over the yuck factor and grow up (HaHa, I’m talking to myself here).

      • Heather says

        I’ve tried using the feet in the broth and they smelled. They smelled BAD :( They were chickens we raised, slaughtered & butchered. Any idea why they smelled so bad?

        PS Yes, we cleaned them well!! LOL

  2. Sarah DJ says

    We LOVE cow tongue tacos. That treat is the highlight of our year…I wish we could get more than one tongue from the cow. ;-)
    I just can’t stand liver, but have been able to tolerate it in meatloaf (1 lb of liver to 2 lbs of ground beef). I haven’t tried it in chili yet, but have heard that covers the taste as well.
    Kidneys are so, so strong. I choked some down the first time I prepared it (without soaking) and am hoping to get a more tolerable end result when preparing it differently.
    We love the oxtail, bone broths, fats, etc! I just wish I liked the taste of liver and onions…it would make life much simpler. :-)

  3. says

    We LOVE tongue in our house… I’d also encourage you to give tongue a go!! I usually just boil mine, slice it and enjoy… going to check out those tacos though for next time. :) I’ve managed to sneak liver into burgers for the kids, (I get my butcher to mix together 400g of organic lamb mince and 100g of organic lamb liver) still working on them on chopped liver (a traditional family food of ours!).

    • Susan says

      My husband and I were just talking about this post; he used to go to a Beast-Feast every year at a local sportmen’s club. It turns out that the smoked tongue was his favorite! Who knew!

  4. says

    We often order half or whole hogs and we get a lot of cuts that I have no idea what to do with and generally wind up feeding to the dogs. But you make a great point, and it really is a waste. I need to come up with creative ways to use those up.

    I’m with you on the tongue, though. I won’t eat anything that can taste me back! :P

    • Susan says

      It’s really a shame that our society in general has lost so much of this knowledge. I do think I’d do better with the tongue if someone else cooked it!

  5. says

    It is definitely an adventure when you begin to serve the more “offal” parts of animals. I have fed my kids (and myself and dh) tongue, heart, liver, and tail. I make lard and tallow but the head, well I doubt I will be sourcing that any time soon. We really enjoy the unusual cuts and eat them often. I have some recipes on my blog if you are looking for more ways to enjoy them. Great post!

  6. says

    You ROCK! This is a great post and incredibly timely! A new contributor to Wildcrafting Wednesday hasn’t yet learned about nutrient dense food and your post explains many factors of a nutrient dense diet beautifully! :) Thank you for sharing on the blog hop! :)

  7. says

    I can’t wait to check out all the wonderful links you’ve shared. I’m always looking for more ways to hide liver. When I was little and we visited my German grandpa, he would offer us head cheese, which as I remember was sort of a meat aspic. Of course, I never tried it, but it was something he loved from the old country.

  8. Eric Umbarger says

    Hey, I came here from Food Renegade’s Friday post and I enjoyed the article. I have always been a pretty open minded eater, and with the exception of bugs, I’ll eat anything once. You mentioned being hesitant on tongue, but that’s one of my favorites! My favorite Mexican restaurant (real, not Americanized) in town has lengua as an option of tacos, sopes, and burritos. I tried it once just to say I did, now every time I go I get at least 2 lengua tacos. Also, one of the best things I’ve ever eaten was at a Peruvian place in Tennessee when I was on a business trip; beef heart on a stick basically. It is a dish called anticuchos de corazon, you should Google a recipe, you won’t regret it. Anyway, just wanted to say I like the post and agree that people need to eat more of the good stuff

    PS, I think you’d like the book Odd Bits

    • Eric Umbarger says

      oops, also meant to suggest to any readers to make South Carolina Hash if they are scared of liver. A recipe is near impossible to find, but you basically smoke a pork shoulder and then throw it, the liver, and anything else you have (a friend’s family of mine puts lung as well) and you basically have a pot of moosh that tastes pretty amazing.

      Also, more on tongue and pig head, try to fins some German recipes, they eat a lot of weird stuff. For using as much animal as possible, I really enjoy Zungenwurst, which is basically a deli meat made from blood and tongue. It sounds, and looks, disgusting, but is one of my favorite sliced meats.

      • Susan says

        Well, you are certainly WAY ahead of me on this journey. I did learn that my husband loves tongue. I never even knew he had tried it!

  9. says

    I’m saving your post! – We are just upping the notch by gulp raising goslings for the table. I know the very first time is going to be hard.
    Thank you for sharing.
    Love Leanne

    • Susan says

      Hi Leanne, Oh yes, I’d like to say that I’m ready for raising and slaughtering my own animals, but it just isn’t the case. Best of luck!

  10. says

    Susan

    You listed a lot of good ways and references to using non-traditional parts of the animal. I am a big fan of making my own beef and chicken broth.

    When I was first out of college I worked in a major Beef Harvesting Plant. As part of my training I got to spend time in every plant department. White Offal is its own department and includes most of what you named and more. I remember packaging livers, kidneys, oxtail, tongues, hearts and head meat. In the adjoining room they dealt with paunch, tripe and other ruminant stomach by-products. Most of these products are shipped over seas to foreign markets.

    • Susan says

      Hi Tracy, we purchase all of our meat directly from farmers and it’s a great opportunity to tell him just what we want. None of the farmer’s we deal with do the slaughtering and butchering but they give our instructions to the slaughterhouse. So basically, we can get anything we want. Thanks for visiting.

  11. says

    Very interesting post. I think these days we dont make use of all of the animal. I know my mother used to do more and she used all sorts of parts. I love liver but rarely cook it as my husband hates it lol. I am going to start eating it just for me. Thanks for sharing

  12. says

    I love your excitement and passion for writing about the food that you use and love. While I happen to be a vegetarian and have not tried your recommendations, it was enlightening that there are so many uses. I would never have guessed that tongue and feet could have a use in dishes. Where do you learn about the specific benefits of each organ? Do you create your own recipes or is there some super secret society that I’m not privy to? hee hee From this veggie girl to you, this post was fascinating!

    • Susan says

      Hi C.Lee!! Thank you for the encouragement despite the fact that you don’t eat meat. Well, yes, as a matter of fact, there is a “secret” society. It’s called the Weston A. Price Foundation!! Well, not so secret, but a great encouragement to us meat eaters who want clean food.

  13. says

    Wow! You are a brave soul. I have my own food blog, but I leave the liver and bone marrow dishes to the restaurants. I know, I am a wimp when it comes to cooking meat, especially poultry. The skin makes mine crawl. ;) Maybe one day I will overcome this. I am definitely not a fan of waste.

    • Susan says

      That’s interesting about the chicken skin. If it’s crisp, I love it!!! I really got into this because I’m looking for nutrient dense food.

  14. says

    I grew up in Trinidad and we cook the chicken feet there. People would put it in soup. We also eat the chicken hearts sometimes and the gizzards. I don’t think I could eat tongue especially if I knew that’s what it was and we love Oz tail soup.

  15. says

    I am one of those rare folk who love kidney. In recognition that most are not, however, I submit the most approachable recipe I’ve found for kidney novices: Beet and Kidney soup.

    The basic formula is just diced beets boiled until tender in stock and water with kidney (chopped small, soaked in a couple changes of water with lemon juice, and browned in tallow) and some rice to fill it out, seasoned liberally with cumin. The kidney flavor is pretty well-tamed and integrated in this, unlike the root-vegetable roast with goat kidneys I did last week, which was more of a kidney-lover’s dish. ;-) I’m working on an offal cookbook and I’ll be sure to expand on that there.

      • says

        Yeah, it seems to carry off most of the urea and ammonia smell/taste that can be found in the kidneys. I don’t mind it so much myself and sometimes eat kidney raw, but it certainly does make it more palatable to soak.

    • Susan says

      I’m ok with the feet in my broth, but I’m not sure I’m ready to chew on them!! I wish I had been raised with this; I’m sure it would be so much easier.

  16. says

    I will have to say that this is an incredibly interesting and informative article on a topic that made me wince on more than one occasion. The only thing I can relate to in the article is adding bacon fat to vegetables and other things because it really does enhance the flavor. Cooking meats in sauces and such creates a delicious taste…but for me…I’m the type of eater that has ‘texture’ and visual issues. This is why I can’t eat scallops, tapioca pudding, and the fat on meats. I am aware that fat adds flavor, but texturally, I cannot stand the way it feels on my tongue. I think you give good tips about soaking some of the items in lemon juice and such for people considering trying them for the first time.

    I will say…I am now open to trying out a bone marrow recipe because of this article (you have me really curious about it) and will most definitely pay attention to other parts of the animal when I’m browsing the meat section in the grocery store.

    I’ll be thinking about your article!!!!

    • Susan says

      Well, it’s great that you are open minded. I know other people who, like you, don’t like the feel of fat in their mouth. Actually, we always called my son “the surgeon” when he was young because he had to cut every last sliver of fat off of everything. I, on the other hand, LOVE fat!!

    • Heather says

      Bone marrow is ABSOLUTELY delish, it’s almost like eating an explosive, totally intensified flavored bit of butter! That’s the best way I can explain it…you’ll just have to try it in all of it’s awesomeness!!!!

  17. says

    You really got me thinking with this post. We are still researching the work and care of a dairy cow and are hoping to bring home half a beef cow soon from a neighbor that raises grass fed beef next door. I never really considered learning to prepare organ meat, nor thought about the waste of not doing so. I had better do more research before I take that plunge. Thanks again.

  18. says

    I’ve attempted to eat most of the parts of the animal previously, but some of them just don’t sit well in my stomach apparently. Unlike my brother who can eat pretty much an entire animal. It’s great that you’re trying to use more of the animal! It’s certainly less wasteful and I’ve been told that some of the not-so-traditional animal parts to eat can actually be really good for you!

  19. says

    I am an incredibly picky eater, and I don’t eat beef, pork, lamb, or basically any mammal (easiest way to describe it, I do eat chicken and turkey). I don’t think I could eat organs or other parts. My boyfriend, on the other hand, is willing to try anything. I’ll pass on these tips to him. They are great tips, I’m just really weird about food, lol!

  20. says

    You make some very interesting points. I just recently made homemade broth for the first time and thought it was delicious, and a lot easier than I expected. I don’t know about eating the organs though…maybe if they were ground up inside a chili or soup, that might be ok :)

  21. says

    It’s funny you mentioned the pig head! A friend of mine had hash during the holidays that was deelish!!! I raved and raved and she promised to show me how to cook it. I showed up at her house a few weeks later and was shocked and surprised to see a pig’s head (which I had no idea you could just go to a butcher and purchase!) in the kitchen. We truly can use all parts of the animal – I grew up in the South and many of these items are so normal to my family’s diet and recipes.

  22. says

    These are some amazing tips! I never would have thought about using all of these different parts. I am usually one to have thrown them out. I will be referring back to this post often.

  23. says

    I was a long time vegetarian, but I really appreciate your commitment to using all that the animal is providing. I must say when I first saw the chicken feet it gave me a chuckle and took me back to our trip to China to adopt our first daughter.

    • Susan says

      Yes, I understand that the Chinese are great at using the parts that are unappetizing to us! Hope your adopted family is doing well!

  24. says

    I can remember my father adding neck bones to his spaghetti sauce for flavor (he did remove them at some point) and my mom frying chicken gizzards. I bought gizzards to fix shortly after my husband and I were married and he inquired why I was planning on doing with catfish bait–ha! We do add bacon drippings to meals here and there but I don’t think our family is quite ready to go “whole hog” yet :) Your post was interesting to read.

    • Susan says

      Cute (whole-hog)! My aunt who makes THE best sauce wouldn’t dream of doing so w/o bones. I’ve never had gizzards and didn’t even think of them when I wrote the post. So, did he eat the catfish bait?

  25. NYCSingleMom says

    Wow, thanks for sharing. I guess I would be acting in the same way in order not to waste but I dont think I would go out of my way to buy these items.

  26. says

    I’ve been trying to use more of the animal too, usually animals that we have killed ourselves. My lovely husband cleaned all the chicken feet for me last kill day and I had them in the freezer so I could add a couple everytime I made chicken stock from a carcass. We also asked the butcher to keep the liver and kidneys from the steer we killed. I have been trying to use them, but I really don’t like the taste, I think I will just have to try to get used to it. I will try some pate recipes to see if that helps. We forgot to ask for the fat around the kidneys, but saved some other fat that I rendered to make soap. All the bones were either used to make stock or fed to the dogs. I like knowing that we are wasting as little as possible.

  27. says

    I enjoyed reading your informative post. I recently made my own broth for the first time. It turned out wonderfully. I am not sure I can tolerate liver yet, but I am keeping an open mind.

  28. Rachel Tatner says

    Great foray into offals. The French and Chinese also use them, if you’re looking into more recipes. I picked up a lot of authentic Chinese (as in from China, not American-Chinese) cookbooks and there’s recipes for chicken feet, chicken beaks, cox combs, etc.

    I got an authentic French cookbook (not just what we Americans are used to) and it was just offal, offal, offal. lol

    Also, I grew up in San Antonio, TX and popular dishes are Barbacoa (cow’s head BBQ tacos) & Menudo (a soup made with hominy & intestines). I couldn’t get past the smell to try Menudo, but everyone swears the stuff is great.

    Barbacoa can be made with whole head (brains and eyes included) or meat only (cheek meat, etc). The meat, etc is chopped up, so you don’t see individual um, stuff. Even if you can’t bear to deal with brains and eyes…the head has a LOT of meat on it. It’s very good!

    Lengua (tongue) isn’t as popular in restaurants, but available in the grocery stores. You do have to skin it. Which makes it a *little* more bearable to deal with. My sister loves the stuff.

    • Susan says

      Good ideas! A friend who is moving to Korea just visited this morning and she was telling me that she purchased a number of Korean cookbooks. I’ll have to ask her if there are any good recipes for offal in them. (We only talked about kimchi!)

  29. says

    My husband and I have been watching a show called “Supersizers Go . . .” in one era it was said that no one was to ask what dinner was until they had tasted and liked it. This sounds like one of those rules should apply :)

  30. says

    Hello! I could have sworn I’ve been to this blog before but after going through a few of
    the articles I realized it’s new to me. Anyways, I’m definitely happy I discovered it and
    I’ll be book-marking it and checking back regularly!

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