Nutritional Content of Some Specialty/Organ Meats

I have long been troubled by the "they ate nose to tail", and all of the fatty organs.  By FAR, the most common organ mentioned is the liver.  Ahem.  The liver is not supposed to be fatty, and I don't think these people are really so hypocritical as to eat foie gras and claim that's what they mean.  Well ....

As the fauxtrage over the not-yet-released 2015 Dietary Guidelines rages on over on Marion Nestle's blog, George carries the fatty offal flag in to blame American health issues on our Orwellian fear of the fat in organ meats ... at the hands of the DGAC.  Yeah, if by that he means we've been avoiding tongue, tripe and brains (classic American fare!), I guess he has a point.  Actually, as you'll see, many of these meet the DGAC's definition of "lean" (< 10 grams per 100 grams weight), but are not "low fat" by percentage.   

So just a little sampling of some specialty/organ meats.  You can click, resize in browser, and the URLs for are included.

The concern for most of these seems to have been the cholesterol levels, which has been dropped.  Still, how much liver did we used to eat?  Mathematically it just can't be that much!  Near as I can find from combining sources, the liver is perhaps 1% of the "meat" on a steer (~570 lbs total5-6 lb liver) and according to my first link, the specialty stuff totals around 5%.

Keep in mind that 30% total/10% saturated fat in a 2500 calorie a day diet amounts to 83 grams fat, 28 grams saturated fat.  One could eat over 12 ounces = 3/4 lb of high fat, high "healthy saturated fat" chiterlings a DAY, and be within the guidelines.  If you're *individualizing* that is ;-)  Such an amount would be roughly double the meat intake of Americans in 1850s (roughly 150 lbs/day, up to 200 lbs a day if you exaggerate)  according to Nina Teicholz, carnivore.

I await the chiterlings craze in paleo!!!

Some math:

[150 lbs/yr] x [16 oz/lb] ÷ [365 days/yr] ≈ 6.5 ounces per day
[200 lbs/yr] x [16 oz/lb] ÷ [365 days/yr] ≈ 8.75 ounces per day


John Smith said…
The more unappetizing the meat the more Paleo cred you get from eating it, Kangaroo intestines are reserved for the true superstars.
MacSmiley said…
Keep in mind that 30% total/10% saturated fat in a 2500 calorie a day diet amounts to 83 grams fat, 28 grams saturated fat. One could eat over 12 ounces = 3/4 lb of high fat, high "healthy saturated fat" chiterlings a DAY, and be within the guidelines.

Yup. Even if 30% fat was called "low fat" at the time, it was nowhere close to being such. Jimmy Moore's "saturated fat deficiency" is a ludicrous absurdity.

This is exactly why the veg*n docs have been complaining about the guidelines for decades. It's partly why those who've followed the USAG/AHA/ADA guidelines have seen their chronic diseases continue to progress even when followed to a T. My own dad is an example. Only alive due to medical interventions, otherwise he would have joined my grandfathers decades ago.

It's also why the nutrient-focused language in the guidelines (versus a real emphasis on naturally low fat whole plant foods) enabled the food industry to capitalize on the "low fat craze" with its myriad of concoctions.

BTW Nina is now on a tear about how an increase in fruit and veggie intake is not curing obesity. Somewhere in the guidelines it needs to emphasize REPLACING junk with fruits and veggies, not just adding them to an already calorically overloaded SAD. And Nina shouldn't be so ideologically blind to such a concept.
Melly Crane said…
Though I doubt this precisely answers your question, "how much liver did we used to eat?", I've noticed in my copy of The American Woman's Cookbook by Ruth Berolzheimer, published in 1938, that she advocates eating liver once per week. In her menu and food planning guide, she also states that 4 oz. is the correct serving size for meat, and it need only be served at one meal per day, the other meals containing such sources of protein as eggs, cheese, or beans. The cookbook has multiple recipes for offal: liver, brains, sweetbreads, tripe, kidneys, plus recipes for scrapple and head cheese (both made from a pig's head.)
carbsane said…
Thank you Melly! The only way that liver runs afoul of the Dietary Guidelines would be it's somewhat high cholesterol content (100 grams is shy of 4 ounces, 275 mg per 100 g) but it's not counterindicated in any other way, and if once per week, wouldn't put anyone over an average there.

I find old cookbooks fascinating BTW. My favorite is a bit newer, from the Culinary Institute, and contains plans for how to build a root cellar!
Blue Wren said…
ewww. I'll stick to cow's tongue. My mother (South American) used to boil it, with salt and herbs then cut it up into strips, and mixed it with shredded boiled eggs. Lastly she drizzled olive oil and vinegar over it. Tongue was given to us children because it was a good source of "red blood cells" as she would say, but it was "too skinny" she said, hence the eggs. Oh and we had fist size of it on a corner of the plate next the boiled potatoes, boniatos, pumpkin, spinach and a glass of coke. We were all lean and fit those days, including my aunts, and uncles and all the Spanish that used to visit us.
Will Kriski said…
So gross no matter how you slice it!
charles grashow said…
So - if I buy a pound of grass fed/finished beef liver - divide it into 9 or 10 portions - freeze them and then defrost one portion to put in my smoothie every few days - I'm not paleo enough!! OMG
charles grashow said…
Bill Murrin said…
LOL, that makes you paleo enough for me Charles. Liver in your smoothie, how do you mask the flavor?
Bill Murrin said…
I'll see if W.O Atwater had anything related to consumption of organ meats. Will let you know if I find anything.
Bill Murrin said…
Pretty hard to find anything and couldn't find anything from W.O Atwater. Found this - which lists a 1914 Slaughtering and Meat packing census listing covering 1899, 1904 and 1909. The category "all other fresh mreat" includes edible offal (stated in the article). I also found a non-historical article (no sources listed) suggesting we really started eating organ meats during and after WWII since they were sending most of the other meat overseas -
charles grashow said…
Frozen fruit for one
carbsane said…
I'm not sure Atwater would have done anything. He did some work on availability of macros from different foods and prep -- e.g. I'm pretty sure it was him who did some study of raw vs ground vs cooked meats.

He was more of a metabolism guy than a food analysis one. I like because they have the most extensive listing of fatty acids, amino acids, etc. I am curious about the relatively low fat content of the brains.
Rosie May said…
I had a bodybuilder boyfriend who used to buy liquid liver in bottles, yuk! Wonder if that stuff's made a comeback with the paleo people.
carbsane said…
I've always kinda wondered how anyone who has done surgery, autopsies or animal work involving such could ever eat liver. My roommate in college cooked some up one time, the semester after I worked upstairs from the morgue. She kept going on how delicious it was. I kept gagging.

I will, however, eat pate. Heck, if I don't "know" what I'm eating, it's OK :-) It's not the organ I'm averse to as much as seeing the whole thing like that.

I know quite a few people who freeze little bits and just shoot them without chewing or anything.
LWC said…
I lost my taste for liver as a child. My mother would make beef liver and onions and I couldn't gag it down. The liver was pasty and would seem to coat my mouth as my throat closed. I did, however, try fois gras in Rheims France when I was there (which of course, is duck liver, not beef). That was edible, but I was by no means "transported" by the experience the way some are.

I get what you mean about not "knowing" what it is, but it doesn't always help for me. My parents used to have this noxious tube of goose liver paste (which I guess is a kind of pate) in the house, and they eat slabs of it on white bread with ketchup. There's bile rising in my mouth even as I type those words. Deeply scarred as I am by that, I avoid most pates as well.
MacSmiley said…
Didn't Jack Lalanne used to sell liver pills in the 1950/60s?

He switched to fish and egg whites later on after a stint as s vegetarian, I believe.
charles grashow said…
charles grashow said…

Adventures in Macro-Nutrient Land
Posted on April 2, 2003 by Sally Fallon and Mary G. Enig, PhD
Nutrivorous said…
"Liver is the most popular of the variety meats and is a rich source of vitamins and of high-quality protein. Moreover, liver is usually not very fat - less fat than the ordinary steak cut from the same animal - and the fat it contains is less highly saturated. We recommend the frequent use of liver in the diet, several times a month at least. A fourth of a pound makes an abundant serving, and two ounces will suffice for many men who would feel cheated if they were only given twice that amount of beefsteak. It is popularly supposed that only calves' liver is really good to eat but young steer liver is excellent, and the only objection to cheap beef liver is the content of tough blood vessels and connective tissue, most of which can be removed with a sharp paring knife before cooking. Chicken and turkey livers are also recommended; they are fine sources of vitamins and first-class proteins, and the fat they contain is relatively unsaturated." - Ancel Benjamin Keys and Margaret Benjamin Keys, Eat Well and Stay Well (1959), pg 137.
Nutrivorous said…
"Next to liver we rate heart among the 'variety meats'. The fat content is not too high, modest amounts give satiety, and the nutritional quality is very good. In the United States, there is a good deal of prejudice against eating heart; people think it must have a strong or peculiar taste, but the cure for this is a simple trial. In our own home we have served heart with great success to scores of people who have arrived at middle age without ever having tasted it before. They would have refused it if they had been told beforehand what they were eating. In making such a first trial, however, it is just as well to serve heart in a form that does not too obviously show what it is. After a good bit has been eaten with all signs of relish, you can make the announcement." - Ancel Benjamin Keys and Margaret Benjamin Keys, Eat Well and Stay Well (1959), pp 137-138.
Nutrivorous said…
"Much of what we have said about liver and heart applies to kidneys - high nutritional quality, not very much fat, fat less saturated than the muscle meat of the same animal, satisfaction with modest portions. But kidney does have a special taste which does not appeal to everyone. Try small amounts in casserole dishes first if you are afraid of the taste." -Ancel Benjamin Keys and Margaret Benjamin Keys, Eat Well and Stay Well (1959), pg 138.
Nutrivorous said…
"The other variety meats - brain, tripe, sweetbreads - are of smaller interest. Brain contains far more cholesterol than any other organ in the body except, possibly the adrenal glands, which are of no consequence as a food anyway. While we are not particularly fearful of the cholesterol content of foods (the fat content seems to be far more important), it does not seem to be sensible to tax our cholesterol eliminating machinery with such a great load as is provided in brains. Besides, brain is very high in true fats. Sweetbreads, too, are very fatty and cannot be recommended on that account. Tripe, on the other hand is low in fat and is allowable for those who like it." -Ancel Benjamin Keys and Margaret Benjamin Keys, Eat Well and Stay Well (1959), pg 138.
Nutrivorous said…
nutritiondata was purchased a few years ago by a large publishing firm and has more or less been abandoned. A better source for nutritional information is CRON-O-meter, which is more current and culls its info from more sources.
Nutrivorous said…
"The large servings of meat now so common in the United States are needed only when the rest of the meal is poorly designed and prepared. Huge servings of meat are poor substitutes for good cookery.

"The Italian custom of starting the meal with a big plate of pasta - spaghetti and the like - has the virtue of filling up the diner to the point where he is content to take only a small amount of meat to follow. A bowl of soup as the first course has much the same effect and contains fewer calories, but salad does not do the job so well. We think the place for salad is after the meat course, when it provides a desirable freshening of the mouth and has the advantage that the diner, knowing that salad is to follow, is more content to stop without gorging on meat. When a man can only count on good meat and the prospect of nothing more than a cloying sweet to follow, he will fill up on meat if he can. Make the accompanying items of food as tasty as possible, offer them in generous amount, and the meat consumption will decrease.

"We do not advise removal of meats from the diet but we insist that complete eating satisfaction, including the hunger for 'animal protein', can be obtained with only moderate amounts of meat by intelligent menu planning and more attention to the art of cookery. A diet developed in this way will not only be better in regard to fat and calories; it will also be more interesting in the long run." - Ancel Benjamin Keys and Margaret Benjamin Keys, Eat Well and Stay Well (1959), pp 138-139.
carbsane said…
"After a good bit has been eaten with all signs of relish, you can make the announcement."

LOL ... I kinda like the Keyses ... but I don't think I would have gone to their home for dinner after reading that!

Thank you for these quotes. Gold!!
charles grashow said…
Mediterranean Eating Style. Past, Present, Future - and CHD/Stroke Prevention
Jeremiah Stamler, MD

The Mediterranean Diet: A History of Health

The French Paradox: Fact or Fiction?
Nutrivorous said…
If you look at some of the recipes in the Keys' popular books, you'd swear they were Paleo gurus. There are tons of recipes for game meats, organ meats, seafood and the like. A lot of them are Paleo/primal friendly, or could be with slight modification. Examples from Eat Well and Stay Well (1959 edition) include:

Fegato Veneziana - Liver and Onions
Veal Scaloppine
Lingua Piccante - Beef Tongue Piquant, Italian
Rabbit A La Minnesota
Rabbit Negaunee (recipe calls for the whole rabbit, including liver and kidneys)
Meat and Vegetable Curry (lamb,beef or pork)
Chinese Style Beef with Green Beans
Potted Calves' Heart
Shish Kebab (lamb)
Sukiyaki (beef)
Veal Chops Pacific
Roast Leg of Lamb
Roll Em Ups (beef)
Veal Shanks in Casserole
Jugged Veal and Tuna
Stuffed Breast of Veal
Veal Kidneys Klepetar
Rock Cornish Game Hen
Sweet and Pungent Chicken Livers
Rolled Fillets of Pike
Fish Fillets in Consomme
Shrimp Jambalaya
Codfish Cakes (cod,potatoes,oil are the only ingredients)
Stuffed Lobster Tails
Norfolk Oysters
Scalloped Oysters
Langoustines Medoc
Bacalo A La Lionesa - Spanish Codfish
Stuffed Trout Braised in Port Wine

The Keys were also huge fans of whole eggs, for their nutritional value. If you had high cholesterol, they recommended moderating your intake, but if not, they wanted you to enjoy as many eggs as you would like. Recipes include:

Curried Eggs
Finnan Haddie with Eggs
Asparagus and Egg on Toast
Cheese Souffle
Spinach Souffle
Mushroom Souffle

Unfortunately, I don't have access to the 1970's version called "Eat Well and Stay Well the Mediterranean Way". This was the inspiration for the "Mediterranean Diet" and costs a few hundred dollars if you can find a copy. So I don't know how they might have altered their viewpoint. But I would suspect that the book is filled with plenty of traditional recipes using nutritionally dense whole foods.

It's often noted that Ancel Keys lived to 100 years old, which some Paleo types blow off either because A) it's some sort of random accident or B) he didn't photograph very well a few months before his death. But it should also be noted that Margaret Keys, who ate the same food and lived the same lifestyle, "randomly" lived to age 95.
Rosie May said…
They would probably have been dessicated liver tablets, just seen some today in my health food shop and with a silhouette of a muscleman on it. Some of these bodybuilders might be getting heme iron overload.
MacSmiley said…
Wow. I had no idea they still made thaise pills.
MacSmiley said…
Americans adopted the pasta and almost nothing else…then they kept the large portions of meat!

Poor people ate just the pasta.
Gordon said…
Lengua tacos rock! Don't pass up a chance to try them.
Blue Wren said…
yummo ... would love to know how to make the real tacos though
Nutrivorous said…
Interesting that the base of the "Mediterranean Food Pyramid" in the middle one is actually "Daily Physical Activity".
Gordon said…
This is pretty much what I do: except I use a pressure cooker for the tongue, an hour for a normal-sized one, barely venting, letting it cool slowly. I'll use water instead of stock, since the skin on the tongue is waterproof ... it turns out fine.

I bought a tortilla press and make my own tortillas because I can't easily find fresh ones around here.

Maybe best to find a good taqueria and see if you like them before going to the trouble of making them at home. We buy half a steer every year and have friends who give us their unwanted offal, so we're motivated.

I've never had the courage for tacos de sesos ... and I had the chance.
MacSmiley said…
I may be wrong, but at least here in the US, wasn't offal historically eaten by the poor because it was considered refuse, and therefore cheap in comparison to other parts of the animal?
carbsane said…
This is generally the case, yes. As witnessed by the open meat markets featured on Jimmy Moore's Instagram. Those aren't the kinds of meats he advocates :(