All About Organ Meats (and why you really cannot do without them!)
Indeed, “offal” can be awful, particularly in the eyes of some people who get squeamish at the thought!
However, these nutrient dense traditional foods are easier to painlessly add to your diet than you might think. And, the profound benefits to health, particularly for children, are downright mind boggling.
It’s a shame that more people don’t grasp the fact that their nutrient density is not easily obtained from any other foods either alone or in combination.
In my view, raising 3 children with no antibiotics or other meds ever for the past 2 decades, it is simply not an option to exclude them. They are a critical piece of the puzzle in raising robust children.
The question, then, is how to best get these foods into your family with no fuss or complaining.
Benefits of Organ Meats
One of the most rewarding aspects of my weekly routine is running into blog readers as I’m doing my errands around town. It is always so interesting when they share their unique health journey with me. I learn something new every single time! Last week, I chatted with a young couple with a gorgeous one year old boy. He was so sturdy and healthy, with excellent color to his skin, clear eyes, and no dark circles.
They told me that he regularly consumed organ meats in the form of grassfed liver powder mixed in with his baby food. This is in accordance with the wisdom of ancestral societies, which greatly valued organ meats for growing children. Some cultures even used liver pre-chewed by the mother as a baby first food.
Since it is sometimes difficult to procure quality organ meats, I thought their method of using the desiccated powder mixed with baby food was a fantastic idea! I’ve always recommended grating about a half teaspoon of raw organic liver (while frozen is easiest) into a soft boiled egg yolk. Their idea works very well too!
Full of Vitamins A, D and K2
Let’s explore for a bit why organ meats rock.
Organ meats from healthy, pastured animals are the most nutrient dense food on the planet. When this edible offal comes from fowl such as turkey or chicken it is commonly referred to as giblets.
The nutrient density is due to the plentiful amounts of the fat soluble vitamins A, D, and most elusive of all, vitamin K2. There is no plant food on earth that provides the same level of easily digested nutrition. Even combining plant superfoods comes up short.
Just for grins, take a look at old cookbooks from early in the last century or before. They are loaded with recipes for all kinds of organ meats. Our forebears knew how to use the whole animal, unlike our wasteful throwaway culture of today. This not only greatly benefited the environment, but the health of the people employing the practice as well.
Animals instinctively know the organ meats are the most nutritious. Carnivorous animals and even domesticated pets allowed to hunt outside will eat the organ meats of a kill first. The liver is usually the first to be consumed. Sometimes they won’t even bother eating the muscle meats, leaving it for scavengers.
Organ meats and whole animal seafood provide vitamins A, D and K2 in amounts necessary to generate synergy. These 3 vitamins work together to protect soft tissues from calcification and nourish our bones and teeth like no other foods can. And yes, when you get sufficient amounts, it prevents and even repairs tooth decay! This is why organ meats are so important for growing children.
Healing Properties of Organ Meats
Traditional societies from multiple continents observed that eating a specific organ from an animal could help heal the very same organ of the person consuming it. This was the case in ancient China and Greece as well as several African and Native American tribes.
This traditional modality is being revived today! Numerous holistic practitioners use organ extracts to help their patients heal. Standard Process is an example of a well respected supplement company that produces organ based supplements used by such practitioners. These supplements are called protomorphogen™ extracts. They are extracted from animal glands and organs carefully processed to retain what Dr. Royal Lee called “cell determinants.” (1)
Organ meats are preferred to muscle meats for healing because they contain more DNA per gram as well as different starting concentration of vitamins and minerals. In addition, they contain a different protein profile that ill people frequently find very beneficial.
How Traditional Cultures Used Organ Meats as Medicine
Some examples of using organ meats for traditional healing as researched by author Stanley Fishman include:
Eating the heart of a strong, healthy animal was believed to help maintain the health and strength of the human heart. The Native Americans placed special value on the heart of a young stag, for this purpose. In the early twentieth century, some doctors in the U.S., used to advise patients with heart problems to eat beef heart as a way to strengthen their own heart.
Many peoples believed it was beneficial to eat the brains of an animal, and that this would make them more intelligent and sharpen their minds.
The liver was particularly prized, all over the world. Hunters would often eat the raw liver of their kill on the spot, as it was felt to be the most beneficial at that time. The hunters would divide the raw liver among themselves, so all could get the benefits. It has even been documented that the first part of the prey eaten by a predator, such as a lion, is the liver. Eating the liver was believed to make the liver of the eater stronger, and to purify and cleanse the body. Science has confirmed that cleansing and detoxifying the body is the function of the liver. In fact, the custom of eating liver regularly, at least once a week, was common in Europe and the United States up to the middle of the twentieth century.
Many peoples practiced consuming the eyes of an animal, particularly an animal known to have keen vision, to help their own eyesight.
Recipes Using Organ Meats
I have numerous recipes on this blog which prepare organ meats and whole animal seafood in a manner that is quite tasty! Here are a few to get you started. You can also blend in a small amount (no more than 1/4) of ground pastured pork heart in with ground beef when making grassfed burgers. Your family will never know. Pork heart is very mild tasting.
- Breaded beef heart
- Bone marrow custard
- Roasted bone marrow
- Bone marrow omelette with cheese
- Homemade gravy (using giblets)
- Mussels and sausage
- Chicken liver pate
What to Do if You Just Can’t Do the Organ Meat Thing
If following a traditional diet, eating organ meats is simply not an option. If you cannot stomach the thought, my best advice is to obtain raw desiccated organ powders that you can take with a meal.
The picture above is the three organ meat supplements I have in my own cabinet. My family takes all three regularly, typically rotating from one to the next every few days.
If you are able to purchase only one, I would suggest the desiccated raw grassfed liver powder (3 different types). It is available in capsules and as a powder. It comes from grassfed beef cattle and is tested for purity. The next most important is the raw desiccated grassfed heart. And, if you want to add an ocean based source, the green shell mussel supplement is fantastic. We use all three in my home. My children take all three as well.
I hope this article encourages you to take the plunge to implement this most important and yet frequently overlooked characteristic of traditional diets.
Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist
Sarah Pope has been a Health and Nutrition Educator since 2002. She serves on the Board of Directors for the Weston A. Price Foundation.
Sarah was awarded Activist of the Year at the International Wise Traditions Conference in 2010.
Sarah earned a Bachelor of Arts (summa cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa) in Economics from Furman University and a Master’s degree in Government (Financial Management) from the University of Pennsylvania.
Mother to three healthy children, blogger, and best-selling author, she writes about the practical application of Traditional Diet and evidence-based wellness within the modern household. Her work has been featured by USA Today, The New York Times, National Review, ABC, NBC, and many others.