Meat has become more convenient than ever to buy. Unlike our ancestors, who had to hunt for their food every time, we can simply go to a nearby supermarket or butcher and order the kind of meat that we want, plastic-wrapped and chopped up neatly.
Pork belly, ribeye steak, ground beef, chicken wings, and thighs–these are among the most popular choices. Anyone who’s on a carnivore diet probably already has a few favorites that they buy regularly.
But what about unusual parts such as chicken feet or beef heart? The more adventurous ones might even try beef tongue, pig’s blood, or tongue. Although these might not show up frequently in the menu, they’ve been the highlight in countless traditional recipes going back hundreds of years and more–and they’re part of a growing health and culinary trend called nose-to-tail eating.
Nose-to-tail eating is literally what it sounds like–it refers to using up all of the parts of an animal in cooking. Instead of focusing on only the muscle meat, you can get creative and include other bits as well, such as the animal’s offal, blood, bone marrow, or fat.
Nose-to-tail eating has gained support from people in different fields, ranging from those following the carnivore or paleo diet to chefs because it provides complete nutrition than muscle meat alone. Cartilage, skin, and meat together make a complete nutritional diet.
Versatility is one reason–these parts can taste surprisingly delicious when cooked the right way. Different animal parts can have varying nutrients, and some of them are even superfoods, possessing significant amounts of amino acids and vitamins.
At the same time, nose-to-tail eating also leads to less wastage. If you stick only with the popular cuts of meat, so much of the entire animal carcass actually goes uneaten. You might miss the essential nutrients.
Because meat was scarcer before, people maximized it by cooking as many parts as they can, which gave rise to certain traditional dishes. Here are a few examples from all over the world:
When you’re on a carnivore diet, you’ll want to diversify the kind of meat that you’re eating to reap the most significant benefits. Eating exclusively muscle meat can lead to an amino acid imbalance.
Amino acids are the building blocks of protein in our body. Muscle meat is particularly rich in methionine, which is an essential amino acid that we can only get through dietary sources.
However, too much methionine can deplete glycine, another amino acid. Your body can make glycine on its own, but glycine is also available in protein-rich foods. You can get additional amounts of glycine from eating collagen, which is found in the connective tissues, skin, and bones of animals. Glycine has several health benefits, such as improved sleep as well as supporting collagen production and cellular growth.
As methionine keeps rising and glycine decreases, the amino acid homocysteine can become elevated. High homocysteine has been linked to heart disease and other conditions, and it may affect blood vessels negatively.
Many animal parts that you’ll encounter in nose-to-tail eating are also well-known health foods. Bone broth has had a huge presence in the wellness scene, and UK doctors have even launched Organuary, with the recommendation to add organ meat to at least two meals every week. Dr. Paul Saladino, a pioneer in the carnivore diet movement, even says in The Carnivore Code: “I believe that a nose-to-tail carnivore diet is our fundamental ancestral diet, and that the vast majority of humans on the planet will thrive eating this way.”
Let’s delve into some components of nose-to-tail eating:
The first thing that comes to mind when it comes to nose-to-tail eating would probably be offal or organ meats. Depending on your culture, you might find it normal to eat certain organ meats, while other types of offal may be off-putting for you.
Organ meats are incredibly dense in nutrients, containing Vitamins A, B, and E as well as magnesium, iron, phosphorus, omega-3, folate, and more.
In particular, they’re among the best sources of choline and Vitamin B12. Both of these play many roles in your body, from keeping your brain healthy to contributing to red blood cell production, respectively. Most people start with beef liver, which is a superfood–it has the highest concentration of Vitamin A in nature, with up to 1100% the daily requirement.
Bones and Connective Tissue
Animal bones and connective tissue are rich in compounds such as collagen, glycine, and proline. Your body needs collagen because it keeps your own skin, tendons, and ligaments elastic, and it protects the cartilage in your joints. In turn, glycine and proline are amino acids that are used to create proteins like collagen.
Bone broth, a well-known health food, is made by simmering the bones as well as other animal parts such as tendons, ligaments, marrow, and skin. The compounds in these blend together in the broth, creating a synergistic effect. In fact, bone broth contains more than 20 amino acids, vitamins, and minerals, and it may have anti-inflammatory effects.
As an energy source and building block for organisms, fat has a crucial place in your diet. Still, people have been encouraged to skip animal fat because of the misconception that the consumption of animal fat leads to heart disease.
However, there is no consistent association between saturated fat and heart disease or even mortality. If anything, brain development requires a certain kind of omega-3 fatty acid that is only found in animal fat and not plant fat.
Centuries ago, when modern cooking oils weren’t freely available, many households relied on animal fats such as lard and tallow while cooking. Lard is the second-best food source of vitamin D after cod liver oil, with as much as 1000 IU’s of Vitamin D.
Whether you’re on a carnivore or a regular diet, nose-to-tail eating can help ensure that you maximize the nutrients in your meat. Here are a few tips for incorporating more animal parts into your diet:
Despite being referred to as a rising trend these past few years, nose-to-tail eating is an ancient practice, and there might even be dishes in your own culture that you can incorporate. With nose-to-tail eating, you can make the most out of the meat, both in terms of health benefits and sustainability.
Ima Ocon is a writer and editor who works with different businesses from all over the world. She’s passionate about wellness, psychology, and science writing, and she’s currently taking postgraduate classes in mental health counseling. Her work has been published on high-volume websites such as Thrive Global and popular Medium blogs.