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Organ Meat - Love it Or Hate It

Updated on March 17, 2013
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Rebecca Graf is a seasoned writer with nearly a decade of experience and degrees in accounting, history, and creative writing.

by aiyah on Flickr
by aiyah on Flickr

The thought of organ meat can cause some people’s mouth to water or it can make you want to fast for the rest of your life (I tend to lean toward that reaction). But no matter which reaction you possess, organ meat is a popular ingredient in many countries around the world. But as with all things, with the popular usage and all the pros of eating it, there are also many reasons not to indulge.

In reality most organs of any animal is used in some culture. The most popular ones are the liver, tongue, kidneys, brains, heart, stomach, and intestines. In looking over the history of man it becomes apparent that organ meat in the diet was extremely common and maybe even more so than that of eating the muscle meat of the animals. Our ancestors somehow knew that the organs were vital for survival and full of nutrients. You can even find that same focus in the animal kingdom. When a carnivorous animal begins to feast, they always begin with the internal organs.

HeadCheese by methyl_lives on Flickr
HeadCheese by methyl_lives on Flickr

Pros and Cons

Most organs are full of vitamin B12, protein, iron, and potassium to name a few. These are needed in our bodies and most people are actually getting too little. Therefore, many people stress the importance of eating organs. Liver is the most popular because it is high in iron, vitamin A, zinc, folate, and cholesterol. Ok, maybe it is not popular because of the cholesterol, but that is a large component of liver and many other organs.

Supporters of organ meat consumption stress the high levels of nutrients, but partakers need to also be aware of the dangers that come with it. Just like you need to know about the high amounts of sugar and fat in that delectable double chocolate cake, you should be aware of the protein in your diet. Most organ meats contain exceedingly high amounts of cholesterol. Because of that the American Heart Association recommends that if you have to have your liver to please have only occasionally instead of as a regular part of your diet.

If you are lover of liver, please be aware also of what the purpose of the organ is when it is fully functioning of the body. It was designed to filter out the toxins in the system. If it is doing a good job of it, there is a chance that the toxins are still present in the meat upon consumption. This is not saying that you will die from eating liver and onions, but it is a piece of knowledge that is important.

Other concerns about eating organ meat is that there can be high levels of bacteria if not prepared properly. Experts in the cooking of offal, culinary term of organ meat, take extra care to treat it to ensure that many of the concerns are not present. If you are eating offal that is part of the central nervous system (for example the brain), you need to be aware of diseases such as mad cow disease. Once again, this does not mean that you will get the disease and/or die. Even some animals’ organs can be toxic (Japanese pufferfish) if not prepared properly.

Head Cheese

Haggis by Women, Fire, &.... on Flickr
Haggis by Women, Fire, &.... on Flickr

Cultural Flavors

But despite all these concerns, offal can be found in cultures throughout the world and their popularity does not diminish much with the knowledge of health risks. In Europe and the Middle East you will find many dishes made up of brain, chitterlings (intestines), feet, heart, kidney, liver, pancreas, testicles (yes, I said testicles), tongue, nose, and stomach. The most famous is found in Scotland where you can easily find a dish called haggis. It is comprised of the stomach of a sheep and stuffed with cooked liver, heart, lungs, oats, and other seasonings. Isn’t your mouth just watering? If so, you don’t have to travel to Scotland to get it. Most European countries have a version of it in their culinary arsenals.

Latin America likes to use many organ meats also. As stated above, the most popular organs are used in every culture. But noteworthy here is the fact that if you are used to the Mexican type food found in the United States and other countries, you might be slightly surprised as to what makes up your favorite foods. Who loves a quesadilla? I do but not with the cow’s brains that is commonly used. How about tacos? Eyes, tongues, and stomachs are common here. And to think that I’m getting ready to eat a taco right now. Thank goodness I’m in America.

In Asia you will find a popular soup made with pork blood. And if you are really adventurous and remember the movie Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, you’ll recall that in parts of Asia you can enjoy the delicate dish of monkey brains. Though it is not a common one today, if you have the money you can get it during your travels. But most Asian cultures tend to use organ meat in their medicine.

In America you will find the least dishes with organ meat. But if you do desire to eat them you can find dishes made with the heart and liver of the fowl and the traditional southern food of chittlings (pig intestines). You won’t find lungs in any dishes because they were made illegal to sell several years back. Before we proceed I do want to warn anyone if they are offered Rocky Mountain oysters. I personally love seafood and thought that this would be great until my father told me what they really were – the testicles of bulls. I think I’ll pass.

Rocky Mountain Oysters


Ready to rush out and savor some offal?  I’m not!  But many of you might and because I do not discriminate based on dietary traditions I’m including some links to various offal dishes.  Hope you enjoy.


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      Dave 5 years ago

      Well this article still repeats the same dogma of demonizing cholesterol, but cholesterol is an amazing nutrient, Ancel Keys back in 1953 published a chart showing the numbers of deaths caused by heart disease increases sharply with an increase in fat intake.

      While the research used to create this chart included data for 22 countries, Keys only used data for 6 of them and conveniently excluded the 16 other countries that didn’t support his theory. Many of the excluded countries showed either low incidence of heart disease despite a high fat intake or a high incidence of heart disease with a low fat intake.

      In the early 1960s, Professor George Mann of Vanderbilt University visited the Masai tribe of Kenya to solidify Key’s theory, but instead, he found evidence that strongly contradicted it. The diet of this tribe consisted entirely of milk, blood and meat. They ate no vegetables whatsoever and consumed excessive amounts of dietary cholesterol and saturated fat. In direct contrast to Key’s theory, they had no incidence of heart disease and their cholesterol levels were 50% lower than those of Americans! The Eskimos are a great example of this paradox as well.

      Another interesting contradiction is that much of the modern research on cholesterol, when analyzed closely, actually shows that most people who die from heart disease have cholesterol levels that are lower than average. However, due to the corporate influence and dishonesty that has plagued modern research, this data is still presented in a way to support the idea that cholesterol causes heart disease.

      Although I won’t go into all of it here, there is plenty of analysis on modern heart disease research that dispels many of the cholesterol myths that we’ve come to accept as common knowledge.

      ( the rest of the article can be found on this website:

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      PamD 5 years ago

      I do enjoy liver and kidneys occasionally, but a noted, they should be a rare treat (yes, I said TREAT!!) because of the health reasons you mention. Excellent hub!

    • RobertDCrandell profile image

      RobertDCrandell 6 years ago

      LOve to it organ meats recipes!