Disclaimer: this information is for educational purposes only and has not been evaluated by the FDA or CFIA. It is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Please consult your primary care physician for advise on any of this.
My personal consumption habits dominate my thoughts. From media to possessions to technology and food, I’m always trying to learn what drives my consumption and how I can focus on consumption on things that serve me.
Meat consumption is a hot button issue. As the founder of a company that uses parts of the animal, I feel it’s my duty to stay informed.
I make an effort to question my assumptions by reading a lot of counter-arguments in an effort to be as objective as possible. Although that is impossible to be completely objective.
Food waste is an even larger issue. Our preoccupation with perfection when it comes to our food leads to a ton of wastage.
Grocery stores reject foods that don’t look pretty on shelves. It’s not their fault. They’re responding to what we want.
What happens to these non pretty foods? They go to waste.
If we can find a way to waste less food, it’ll go a long way to helping solve hunger and nutritional deficiencies around the world.
We need to open our minds around why and how meat should be consumed.
An issue I see in the west is eating too much muscle meat at the expense of more nutritious parts of the animal.
I get the appeal for choice cuts of meat, wrapped in plastic at the butcher counter. It’s what diet and media tell us to eat. It’s wrong.
Let’s talk about nose to tail eating.
Nose to tail eating is simply eating or using every single part of the animal.
It is the way our ancestors ate. The times necessitated it as our distant relatives couldn’t afford to waste any part of the animal.
A common mistake many health conscious people make is eating too much muscle meat. Western health media focuses on protein over nutrient density.
We translate this into copious amounts of chicken breast and steak when we should reach for more nutrient dense alternatives like:
Organ meats (heart, liver, kidney)
Animal fats (tallow, schmaltz, lard)
Short ribs, oxtail, flanks
Tendons and cartilage
Fatty cuts of meat
If you don’t eat any of the things listed above, you may have nutritional deficiencies that you don’t even know about.
Here’s why you should consider eating nose to tail.
You might live longer
Western diet staples like chicken breast and lean steaks are rich in an amino acid called methionine.
Methionine is mostly found in lean muscle tissue. It helps keep your liver and hormones in check.
The problem is that methionine is toxic for you in the doses most western diets consume.
It shortens our lifespan. Animals who eat lots of methionine die younger than those who eat less (1).
You might know where this is going… eat less methionine and live forever, right? Not quite.
Turns out, another amino acid called glycine buffers the harmful effects of methionine in your body.
Glycine regulates inflammation, boosts your antioxidant levels in your body and keeps your liver in check (2).
Glycine is found in gelatinous meat like chicken skin, tendons and connective tissue, small bones (sardines, herring), chicken wings, oxtail. One serving of bone broth or collagen gives you 4-5g of glycine.
You don’t have to worry about methionine if you eat nose to tail because you naturally get more glycine and less methionine.
It’s environmentally and ethically friendly
We waste one third of our food. Now there are many distribution and political reasons for this, but that is a discussion for another article.
Our demand for mainstream diet friendly cuts of meat contributes to the demise of our food system and health.
These consumption habits also mean that a large part of the animal carcass is thrown away, contributing to food waste.
Eating nose to tail ensures that resources that went into creating the animal are not wasted.
You can make your meat consumption more sustainable and ethical if you let fewer parts of the animal go to waste.
If you’re more efficient eating a share of one cow, it reduces your need for another.
Eating nose to tail also pays the ultimate respect to the animal who gave their life for your meal.
Perhaps it’s contradictory to some, but you can be both an animal lover and a meat eater.
Nose to tail eating celebrates each animal by using everything. Fewer animals need to be used.
It’s cost effective
Supply and demand dictates that less popular cuts of meat cost less. You can find organ meats like beef liver, kidney or heart for a fraction of the cost of steaks.
With a little time and preparation, they taste better than more traditional cuts.
If you’re feeling adventurous, consider going whole (or part) animal. You can go in with your neighbours or friends on a ¼ or ½ cow, for example.
Whole animals cost less because they are priced as one item by weight. The price of more expensive cuts is averaged out by less expensive ones.
This is a great option when you don’t mind a bit of extra work in the kitchen.
Nose to tail is nutritionally superior
Beef heart is full of CoQ10, a nutrient that is sometimes deficient in people with chronic health conditions (4).
Organ meats are like nature’s multivitamin. They’re high in iron, vitamin B12 and B6, folate, choline, iron and zinc.
One serving of liver gives you 50,000X more Vitamin A, over 2X the iron and 100x more B12 than other cuts of red meat.
Across the board organ meats give you between 10 to 100 times more nutrients per serving than muscle meats (5).
This is great because you can eat slightly less meat (and more vegetables) whilst getting more nutritional benefits.
It’s the way our ancestors ate
Meat wasn't always unsustainable or unethical. Our homo sapien relatives celebrated the whole animal.
After hunting and killing prey, the most nutrient dense parts of the animal were eaten first. These included the organs, bone marrow and fattier cuts.
These parts of the animal have the most vitamins and minerals. This translated into survival.
The leaner muscle meats were not useful because they had too much protein and no fat. Fat is needed to absorb vitamins and minerals properly.
Our ancestors should be applauded for their resourcefulness. They found ways to use the entire animal, including the necks, shoulders, innards, brains and kidneys.
Animals were respected and appreciated for giving their life by using all of the animal. Some ancestral communities even made early iterations of bone broth (6).
Fast forward a few millennia, you definitely have a kooky grandparent who loved liver and onions or head cheese.
These unusual cuts went from dietary staple to forgotten grossness. However, we are seeing a revival of the whole animal movement. You should join it!
You open your mind to new delicious flavours
Some nose to tail staples are an acquired taste. But if you take some time to prepare them correctly, you’d be amazed at how delicious they are.
Tough cuts of meat are filled with collagen. Collagen is the sinewy connective tissue that makes me tough.
It just takes longer to break down the collagen tissue. But you are left with melt-in-your mouth flavours.
There’s nothing better than braised beef short ribs or oxtail. These two examples that hit home rule number one of cooking obscure cuts.
Keep things low and slow. Slower cooking times at a lower temperature help break down the collagenous muscle fibres. It leaves you with meat that falls off the bone.
Rule number two is to marinate. Organ meats, flanks and other cuts respond well to acid. The acid in marinades is needed to remove some of the strong taste of organ meats.
I typically marinate my liver for 3-6 hours in either red wine, balsamic or lemon juice combined with smoked paprika, cumin, garlic powder, cinnamon, salt and pepper.
If you can’t get down with liver on it’s own, then try grinding it up and combining it with ground beef. You can also incorporate it into sausage making.
Beef heart is my personal favourite. It tastes like the most amazing steak you’ve ever eaten.
However you need to marinade for at least 24 hours. The same marinade as above works great!
How to get started with nose to tail?
Maybe you’re curious to start eating nose to tail, but where to start? Below I’ll list a few ideas worth trying.
Go piece by piece
Experiment with one lesser-known cut like oxtail, liver or beef heart before taking on something more ambitious. Most butchers and some specialty markets sell these cuts.
Fish provides a simple way to eat nose to tail. Smaller canned fish can be eaten whole: like some salmon, herring, sardines and anchovies. Fish bones are a great source of glycine and calcium.
Eating less meat or different cuts of meat misses the point if the meat you eat is from bad sources.
For all animal sourcing, trust is the single most important thing. You need to trust the source is telling the truth about their claims.
This is why 3rd party validation (like Certified Organic or the Global Animal Partnership) is important.
For beef and lamb: choose grass fed / finished, pasture raised and organic. Beef gets a bad rep from a few propaganda laden documentaries.
The big secret of the agriculture industry is that chicken and pork are easily the shadiest industries. They’re fed genetically modified feed, exposed to antibiotics and live in awful conditions.
At the very least your chicken should be organic and non-gmo.
Get to know your butcher or farmer and ask their advice for the best quality.
Farmers markets are great for this as you directly support local agriculture. Fish should be wild caught if possible.
Eat the skin and fat
Stop throwing away the skin on your fish and chicken or fat on your steak. You should embrace the extra flavour and chewing.
Weston A Price found that civilizations that spent more time chewing their tough cuts of meat had better dental health (11).
Try making bone broth!
Grab some frozen bones from your local market or butcher and start experimenting with making your own bone broth.
Bone broth is a great way to use up vegetable scraps as well. To get started, read our primer on 4 mistakes everyone makes with bone broth.
If not, here is a primer on what to look for when buying bone broth. It applies to all meat products.
Make the perfect charcuterie plate
Look for local pâtés, liver sausages or terrines and serve with an assortment of other charcuterie fair like: crackers, pickles, dried fruits and nuts.
There you have it. A few ideas to hopefully open your mind to nose to tail eating. Nose to tail eating is how we should approach our animal consumption today.
This way we can save money, the environment and our health.
Do you eat nose to tail? What’s your favourite way to prepare a lesser known part of the animal? Let me know!