In sharing my story regarding Offal (http://www.renosoar.com/holistic-health-tips/awful-awfuloffal-offal), edible organ meats, it has been mentioned to me that many people do not like the taste of organ meats, but that they worry it isn’t good for them or that we shouldn’t eat organ meats.
There is no doubt that offal is loaded with many healthy nutrients. Here is the list of potential nutrients:
B complex vitamins including B12 and folate
Healthy fats, especially Omega-3 fats
Choline (another B vitamin important for cell membranes, brain and nerve function)
Trace minerals copper, zinc, and chromium
Coenzyme Q 10 (important for cardiac function)
Vitamin E (circulation)
Purines (precursors to DNA and RNA)
However, as with anything you eat, the QUALITY of the food matters. A home grown organic and non-GMO (genetically modified organism) apple eaten fresh off the tree is far more dense in nutrients than one grown in another state, sprayed with pesticides, grown from a genetically modified organism (GMO) seed, and then shipped to your town store, and then purchased by you for consumption. Both are still better choices over sweetened applesauce in a jar, but there is potential risk with the use of pesticides and ingestion not to mention the potential negative effects of a GMO product. With confidence we can say, the fresh, organic back yard apple is far superior in nutrient density and potential health risk. The same is true for Offal, or any animal products. As with plant food sources, it matters how your meat (and Offal) lived. Quality of the life the animal lived matters.
My PubMed research revealed many studies related to the potential health risks related to organ meats. One study (2011) reviewed the concentration of many metallic elements in the muscle and organ meats of Red Deer hunted in Poland. They concluded that Red Deer is considered a very good source of certain essential metallic elements like Selenium and Zinc and that other metal concentrations (like Cadmium) were low and considered safe for human consumption. 2 In places where Cadmium concentrations are higher in the soil, like New Zealand, they found that animals that ate from those pastures contained safe levels within their muscle tissue for human consumption. 3 In Croatia, free-living game liver (fallow deer, roe deer, red deer, wild boar, brown bear, pheasant and hare) could be a source of cadmium, but you would have to consume weekly to give rise for toxicological concern. Monthly consumption of free-living game liver is deemed safe for human consumption when in Croatia. 4 In Zambia, polluted environments may contaminate offal from cattle that graze from those soils and monitoring the cattle for metal accumulations is recommended prior to human consumption. 5
Eating infected meats or organs from sick cattle, leaves the potential for disease transmission to humans. Yet, removing sick animals from the food chain, also removes that risk. 6 If there is concern that the organ meats pose a potential risk of infection, then cooking fully seems to provide a safe, efficient, and cheap way to prevent transmission of infection. 7,8 It is not recommended to eat anything you feel may be infected, but as with any meat or fish, consuming raw must be done carefully and only when it comes from a respected and trustworthy source.
In many cases, consumption of beef is a means to improve the human consumption of Selenium, an important essential nutrient for cognition, immune system and even fertility. A study performed on cattle fed off different feeds with different selenium concentrations found that cattle fed diets high in Selenium from agricultural products will accumulate Selenium in the muscle and organ meats. 9
What is the take home message?
In eating ANYTHING, know where it comes from and how it was grown or lived.
Be sure to properly prepare and cook all organ meats from trusted sources. Don’t eat organ meats if you are opposed to the taste unless it’s paramount to your recovery. You may not LOVE the flavor, but don’t be fearful about it being unsafe when prepared properly. We should pay attention to the quality of ALL of our food.
Choose organic, grass fed/grass finished from a local farmer whenever possible. If your meat is from a wild source, just check the area that they lived to see if metallic accumulations are of concern or not (apparently Croatia, New Zealand and Zambia are of concern). For wild caught fish safe consumerism and sustainability, check out http://www.seafoodwatch.org/seafood-recommendations/consumer-guides.
All foods have the potential for making us healthy or sick, not just organ meats. Be a conscientious consumer whenever possible and don’t be shy to ask questions.
Remove. Replace. Restore.
Remove animal products that are from sick animals, raised inhumanely and fed diets unnatural to them (ie. Fish farmed on GMO corn).
Replace with organic, grass fed/grass finished, wild from a safe source whenever possible. Buy local. Organ meats are one of the most nutrient dense foods. Eat them occasionally when looking to increase your nutrient density or recovering from illness (no more than once/week if you aren’t familiar with the safety of the source).
Restore health. What is good for your food is good for you and better for the environment.
Eat well. Move well. Thrive on.
1. Razaitas L. The liver files. http://www.westonaprice.org/health-topics/the-liver-files/.
2. Jarzynska G, Falandysz J. Selenium and 17 other largely essential and toxic metals in muscle and organ meats of red deer (cervus elaphus)--consequences to human health. Environ Int. 2011;37(5):882-888.
3. Reiser R, Simmler M, Portmann D, Clucas L, Schulin R, Robinson B. Cadmium concentrations in new zealand pastures: Relationships to soil and climate variables. J Environ Qual. 2014;43(3):917-925.
4. Lazarus M, Prevendar Crnic A, Bilandzic N, Kusak J, Reljic S. Cadmium, lead, and mercury exposure assessment among croatian consumers of free-living game. Arh Hig Rada Toksikol. 2014;65(3):281-292.
5. Yabe J, Nakayama SM, Ikenaka Y, Muzandu K, Ishizuka M, Umemura T. Accumulation of metals in the liver and kidneys of cattle from agricultural areas in lusaka, zambia. J Vet Med Sci. 2012;74(10):1345-1347.
6. Dagleish MP, Martin S, Steele P, et al. Susceptibility of european red deer (cervus elaphus elaphus) to alimentary challenge with bovine spongiform encephalopathy. PLoS One. 2015;10(1):e0116094.
7. Li J, Wu C, Wang H, et al. Boiling sheep liver or lung for 30 minutes is necessary and sufficient to kill echinococcus granulosus protoscoleces in hydatid cysts. Parasite. 2014;21:64.
8. Dutra GF, Pinto NS, de Avila LF, et al. Risk of infection by the consumption of liver of chickens inoculated with low doses of toxocara canis eggs. Vet Parasitol. 2014;203(1-2):87-90.
9. Hintze KJ, Lardy GP, Marchello MJ, Finley JW. Selenium accumulation in beef: Effect of dietary selenium and geographical area of animal origin. J Agric Food Chem. 2002;50(14):3938-3942.
Dr Carolyn Dolan DPT, Cert MDT, MSHN
Where physical therapy, nutrition and lifestyle meet, because how you live your life determines whether or not you soar. Inspiring action with information so you can reduce pain, optimize healing and improve function naturally during recovery from injury, surgery or painful condition. This is a website for the open-minded; obstinate need not apply.