Ethical eaters are not necessarily vegetarian. Compassionate meat harvest is possible and requires that we use more than just a few parts and pieces of the animal.
Ok, I know I'm going to lose some of you on this one because you're squeamish or perhaps just too young to remember the time when we actually ate organs.
So first, a little history.
Traditionally, after a successful hunt, the organs were eaten first because they spoil very quickly. The rest of the animal was allowed to age because muscle meat is tough and benefits from a little decomposition.
Believe it or not, way back when, meat did not come from the supermarket. It was either hunted in the wild or grown in your backyard. Rarely is this the case these days and that's a pity shame because we have lost appreciation for the animals we consume. I believe this leads to unnecessary waste and the greater tragedy of disconnection from our place in the universe.
What are the options?
Our friend Cathy lovingly raises a few steer on her acreage in New Jersey and each Fall one of these is humanely slaughtered, providing hundreds of pounds of grass-fed beef to several families, including mine.
We just traveled to her house to pick up our share and exchange stories from the past year, including some about the animal we will consume. If this sounds strange to you, it isn't. Strange is what happens on feedlots and factory farms.
Her animals live a wonderful life with one bad day.
I request the tongue, liver, heart and some bones for broth. My favorite cookbook of recipes for these delicious foods we call "offal" is "ODD BITS, HOW TO COOK THE REST OF THE ANIMAL" - by Jennifer McLagen.
Or start HERE and let Hank Shaw show you what to do with chicken gizzards. He's just about the most real eater ever and his site is very inspiring.
Nutrient-dense organs may be challenging to cook but not to eat.
I get a kick out of serving unsuspecting dinner guests "beef" stew, burgers or "paté" made with deeply nourishing livers and hearing them gush over how good it is. If you were here last week for the elk chili with sweet potatoes (you know who you are), there was lamb liver in there too!
Here's proof of what a superfood liver really is, in case you're skeptical. This chart compares the nutrition in beef liver to blueberries, carrots, apples and kale. No contest.
It's time we get real about our food.
Eating one part of the animal over another is not more or less civilized.
It's unfair to use a small percentage of an animal and carelessly discard the rest because we think it's "disgusting".
It may just be time to upgrade our cooking techniques and expand our culinary horizons. Or at least be open to the notion that "choice" cuts are not necessarily as marked and recognize the the glory in the guts.
"Slow food" means more than just crockpot cooking. It grows slowly and is best savored not shoveled down.
This approach allows for neither haste nor waste.
When I consider Cathy's effort to raise an animal with daily care for two years before it's harvested, I can't imagine wasting a bit of my steak. I see the value of the organ meats and the bones and reflect thankfully on the nourishment I will get from them.