For the past 39 years, I’ve been told that eating fruits and vegetables is crucial for getting the micronutrients (i.e., the vitamins and minerals) that my body needs in order to thrive.
But as I adopted a Paleolithic ketogenic diet and learned more about the science of nutrition, I came to realize that plants are an inferior source of both macronutrients (fat and protein) and micronutrients.
Without getting into a “plants vs. meat” debate, here are a few key differentiators between the nutrient density of plants and organ meat.
- Many plants have an unfavorable omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acid ratio. You can learn more about why that matters in my article about the best nuts and seeds for keto.
- Plant-based protein has an incomplete amino acid profile and inferior bioavailability. In other words, the body absorbs fewer essential amino acids from plants than from animal sources.
- Many of the vitamins and minerals in plants exist in variations the body can’t readily use without first converting them, thus decreasing their bioavailability and effectiveness. Here are a few examples:
- Vitamin A: Plants only have a type of carotenoids that must be converted to vitamin A before use in the body. Organ meats, such as liver, are loaded with ready-to-use versions of this fat-soluble vitamin (retinol) that doesn’t have to be converted first.
- Vitamin B12: There is no reliable source of vitamin B12 in plants, which is why many vegans are deficient in this essential micronutrient. On the other hand, organ meat (and liver in particular) is an excellent source of B12.
- Vitamin D: Vitamin D3 doesn’t exist in plants, with the exception of microalgae. As a result, we need to get most of it from the sun and animals (especially fatty fish).
- Vitamin K: There are two versions of vitamin K. Plants have vitamin K1, which is poorly absorbed by the body. To get vitamin K2 from plants, you need to ferment them first. The easier route is to eat meat (and especially liver), which is loaded with highly bioavailable vitamin K2.
- Iron: Non-heme iron (the type of iron found in plants), is three times less bioavailable than the heme iron found in muscle and organ meats (especially spleen and liver).
The bottom line is that plants have been a survival food throughout human evolution; they’re what we turned to when other (better) options weren’t available. Our hunter-gatherer ancestors’ primary source of nutrients has always been animals — and particularly, their organs.
Most plants contain antinutrients to discourage animals and humans from eating them.
As a result, we can conclude that organ meat from grass-fed and pasture-raised animals (such as beef) is an excellent source of highly bioavailable and easy-to-digest essential nutrients, including carbohydrates, fat, protein, minerals, vitamins, cofactors and more.
Unlike kale, I consider organ meats to be a true superfood.
Health Benefits of Organ Meats
By eating animals from nose to tail, rather than eating muscle meat only, you can obtain all of the nutrients your body needs to perform optimally.
That’s because the “odd” parts of the animal — including the organs, cartilage tissue and bones — offer incredibly high nutrient density and are rich in vitamins and other substances that you won’t find in muscle meat (at least not to the same extent).
In a nutshell, consuming organ meats offers the following benefits:
- Excellent source of highly-bioavailable vitamins and minerals, including iron, B vitamins, retinol vitamin A), choline (an essential nutrient for the brain), coenzyme Q10 and more.
- Great source of high-quality protein that contains all of the essential amino acids your body needs to function optimally and to build lean muscle mass. Additionally, the protein in organ meats keeps you full for longer, thus reducing cravings and hunger pangs between meals.
- Less expensive than other cuts of meat. Organ meats are often considered a waste product and so you can usually get them for less than what a grass-fed cut of filet or ribeye costs.
- Prevents vitamin/mineral deficiencies. Many adults and children in the United States are deficient in key vitamins and minerals. By including organ meats in your diet, you can practically avoid any potential deficiencies.
Additionally, there’s a common belief that by eating a specific organ, you can support the health of the same organ in your body. That belief is based on the idea that any given organ meat contains all the nutrients that particular organ needs in order to thrive.
For example, some people think that eating a kidney provides you with kidney-specific proteins, peptides, enzymes and cofactors.
While several Native American cultures have followed this principle, I haven’t found any scientific evidence for the claim that eating a specific organ supports the health of the same organ in your body.
However, there’s no doubt that organ meat in general is the best source of nutrients for humans.
Below is a list of some of the organs I’ve tried, their benefits, and their key nutrients. Note that organs differ in their nutritional makeup depending on what animal they came from and how the animal was raised.
I usually stick with and recommend organ meat derived from 100% pasture-raised and grass-fed cattle. However, I also regularly consume organs from chicken, deer, turkey or even pigs — depending on their availability.
Types of Organ Meat
Below is a list of the most popular organ meats and their unique benefits. I’ve consumed most of these organs either fresh or as freeze-dried versions.
The adrenal glands are small, triangular-shaped glands that sit on top of the kidneys. They’re responsible for the body’s stress response (by managing cortisol levels), for regulating sodium/potassium and blood sugar balance, and for producing certain sex hormones (such as DHEA and androstenedione).
The adrenal gland contains nutrients including adrenal-specific peptides commonly found in the bovine adrenal cortex and adrenal medulla tissue.
Brain is an excellent source of sphingomyelin (an important building block of high-density lipoprotein), brain-derived neurotrophic factor or BDNF (which promotes the survival of nerve cells), cobalamin (vitamin B12), vitamin C and heme iron. It’s also a good source of protein and healthy fats.
However, considering BSE and USDA regulations, it’s probably not easy to find brain — unless you butcher the animal yourself. That’s why I’d recommend considering beef brain capsules that are sourced from New Zealand, a country that hasn’t had any cases of BSE or similar diseases in decades.
That said, if I had a trusted source of brain from domestic animals, I wouldn’t hesitate to consume it.
Grass-fed beef eye tissue is an excellent source of vitamin A, omega-3 (DHA) and zinc. The eye also contains ample amounts of lutein and zeaxanthin, which act as antioxidants that protect eyes from light-induced damage.
The bile in the gallbladder improves the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins, including vitamins A, D, E and K. But I’ll be honest: it’s bile, and it’s not known for tasting great. In fact, I have yet to find a recipe for it. So I probably wouldn’t start my organ meat journey with this particular option.
The heart muscle is an excellent source of coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10), vitamin B12, collagen, elastin and other proteins, peptides, enzymes and cofactors commonly found in heart tissue.
Heart is a muscle and, as a result, it tastes like muscle meat (i.e., steak). That’s good news if you’re one of the many people who don’t like the taste of organ meat, because chances are that you will like heart. We usually slice it and then grill or fry it, just like we would a steak. I promise, it tastes delicious!
Intestines are an excellent source of vitamin B12 and selenium. Whenever I travel to Latin America, I try to find some fresh Sopa de Mondongo, a soup made with diced tripe and slow-cooked with vegetables.
I’m going to be honest: the first time I tried Mondongo at my in-law’s house in Costa Rica, I couldn’t stomach it (pun intended). But over the years, I’ve learned to get over the thought of eating a cow’s stomach and have come to realize that it’s really delicious.
Grass-fed kidney is an excellent source of diamine oxidase (DOA), an enzyme that helps break down excess histamine in your body. Too much histamine can lead to food sensitivity issues and other health conditions.
So if you’re having issues with allergies or other auto-immune maladies, consuming kidneys might improve your situation.
Ounce for ounce, grass-fed liver is the most nutrient-dense food on the planet. By consuming liver, you can get most of the vitamins and minerals you need on a daily basis.
As a result, I highly recommend making liver a regular part of your diet and to consume it several days a week. We usually do that in the form of liver pâté that I make from scratch using this recipe.
Additionally, my wife often makes meatballs by mixing grass-fed ground beef with some liver. The ground beef masks the taste of the liver, so even the kids eat it without hesitation.
Frankly, it’s the only method we’ve found to get our kids to eat liver, besides offering them freeze-dried liver capsules.
Grass-fed lungs are an excellent source of vitamin C and vitamin B12, and contain ample amounts of other B vitamins, including riboflavin, niacin and pantothenic acid. Lungs are also a great source of the following minerals: heme iron, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, copper and selenium.
A friend of mine recently gave me the lungs from two deer he killed on his last hunting trip. I wasn’t sure how to prepare them, so I just added some salt and pepper and fried them with tallow in a cast iron pan.
I wasn’t sure what to expect taste-wise, but I was pleasantly surprised that lung, much like heart, had a really pleasant taste.
Grass-fed pancreas is an excellent source of pancreatic enzymes — such as lipase, protease, trypsin and amylase — which are required for breaking down fats, proteins and carbohydrates.
If you follow a high-fat diet but don’t consume enough lipase, and then suffer from indigestion or heartburn, consuming pancreas can help.
Grass-fed prostate contains the building blocks of healthy prostate tissue, including proteins, peptides, enzymes and cofactors.
Grass-fed spleen is the best source of bioavailable heme iron (12.5mg per ounce). Splenic tissue is also an excellent source of splenin, tuftsin and splenopentin peptides, which enhance immune function.
I often mix liver and spleen when making pâté because it helps to mask the taste of the liver.
Grass-fed thymus is an excellent source of proteins that help make disease-fighting T cells, support immune health, and enhance natural killer cell activity.
Grass-fed thyroid is a good source of preformed vitamin A, B12, choline, folate, heme iron and other micronutrients commonly found in thyroid tissue.
Grass-fed tracheal cartilage is a rich source of Type 2 collagen, glycosaminoglycans, proteoglycans and chondroitin sulfates. The latter two are vital building blocks of cartilage tissue.
Tongue meat is an excellent source of calories and fatty acids, and it’s loaded with zinc, iron, choline and vitamin B12. I usually pan-fry or grill tongue — similar to how I prepare steak.
Where to Buy Organ Meats
In the United States, finding high-quality organ meat can be difficult. For example, the only organ meat I’ve ever seen at Whole Foods is air-chilled chicken livers.
The good news is that I’ve found a couple of farms, including White Oak Pastures*, that sell individual organs. You can also get them when purchasing the meat of an entire animal.
For example, once a year we purchase an entire pasture-raised cow from Big Hickory Farms here in Georgia.
The only caveat is that as per USDA regulations, only the liver, heart, kidneys, spleen, pancreas and testicles can be harvested. More “exotic” organs — such as the adrenal glands, brain, lungs, intestines and eyes — have to be discarded if the animal is processed in a USDA-certified facility.
You could also check with your local butcher and ask if they can get you organ meats from the farms they work with.
Isn’t it odd that the government prohibits you from sourcing some of the most nutrient-dense foods on the planet while not restricting the production and sale of processed carbs, soft drinks and other disease-inducing foods?
The argument of the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) is that certain parts of the animal, such as the brain, can increase the risk of food-borne illnesses. While that’s true, the risk is negligible, in my opinion.
For example, in the past 15 years, the USDA has only confirmed six cases of BSE in the United States — most of which were related to imported cows. Plus, it’s entirely unclear how many of these cases involved 100% pasture-raised animals as opposed to feedlot-raised cattle.
If I had to guess, animals that grow up in a species-appropriate environment and are fed a healthy diet are far less likely to develop any disease than their grain-fed and feedlot-raised counterparts.
On the flip side, you hear about E. coli and other issues associated with produce on an almost weekly basis, and nobody prevents manufacturers from selling spinach. I find that mind-boggling.
How Much Organ Meat Should You Eat?
How much organ meat you can and should eat depends on the type of organ. Certain organs, including the liver and the spleen, contain high amounts of fat-soluble vitamins or iron that can be toxic if you overindulge.
That’s why I limit my intake of liver and spleen to approximately one to two ounces per day.
On the flip side, I eat as much heart, tongue and kidney as I want, because they contain mostly water-soluble vitamins that don’t accumulate and cause issues.
If you plan on using organ meat supplements you should know that 3 grams of freeze-dried organ meats correspond to approximately 1 ounce of fresh organ meat.
What To Do if You Don’t Like Eating Organ Meats
Even if you have easy access to fresh organ meats, the problem is that most people are turned off by the thought of eating organs, such as offals, as I discussed in my blog post about the best beef liver supplements.
In fact, I’ve heard from many people who are disgusted by the thought of eating these animal parts — even though they’ve never tried them.
Some of them have tried liver, which is known for its strong taste, and assume that eating other organs will be a similar experience.
I don’t blame them, because I used to be in the same boat. I tried liver when I was younger, didn’t like it, and then never tried organ meat again until just a few years ago.
The good news is that many organs taste really good, and you can even prepare liver in a way that masks the strong flavor. In fact, I eat liver pâté almost every day and genuinely like its taste.
Check out my liver pâté recipe if you want to give it a try.
If none of that convinces you to consume fresh organ meats, then desiccated organ meat supplements are for you.
These supplements are made using a gentle freeze-drying process that removes water, carbon, hydrogen and oxygen molecules, while preserving most of the macronutrients and micronutrients (including fat, protein, vitamins and minerals).
In other words, you can get all the benefits that organ meat offers without the taste implications or the need to cook them.
Don’t get me wrong: I always try to get as many nutrients as possible from fresh food.
But I realize that can be a challenge when it comes to organ meat. That’s why I supplement with freeze-dried organ meats on a daily basis.
The Best Organ Meat Supplements
Considering that I can’t just drive to the store anytime I want to and get fresh organ meats from pasture-raised animals, I started purchasing freeze-dried and non-defatted organ meat supplements from companies such as Ancestral Supplements* and Heart & Soil.
In fact, for the past year or so, the entire Kummer tribe has been taking organ meat supplements (especially liver) on a daily basis.
While I really like the brands mentioned above (and I’ve been recommending them to friends and family for years), they are not what I would consider “perfect” products — ones that absolutely do not cut corners or compromise in any area.
For example, Ancestral Supplement ships all of its capsules in plastic containers that aren’t great for the environment and that have the potential (like most other plastics) to leach endocrine-disrupting chemicals into the capsules.
On the other hand, Heart & Soil uses glass containers but they don’t have a product that contains only liver, which I consider the most important of all organs. Plus, their products have a higher price point that might be above what many customers can afford on a regular basis.
That’s why I decided to produce my own grass-fed beef liver supplement. It’s made from the highest-quality ingredients available, produced in effective dosages, and packaged in eco-friendly recyclable glass containers that don’t leach toxins into the capsules.
By taking full control over the entire manufacturing process — including the ingredients, formula and packaging — I know exactly what I’m putting in my body.
With all of that said, here are my three favorite organ meat supplements:
You can’t go wrong with any of these, but if you decide to give my product a shot, make sure you use code BLOGLOVE10 to get 10% off your purchase and free shipping.
You can also learn more about these and other good products in my roundup of the best beef liver supplements.
Frequently Asked Questions
Now that we’ve established the benefits of consuming (beef) organ meats and I’ve outlined an alternative to eating fresh organs, let’s answer some of the most common questions (and talk about some of the misconceptions) surrounding the consumption of organs.
Who should eat organ meats?
I strongly believe that everybody should make organ meats part of their diet!
Our ancestors and early humans leveraged organ meats as their primary source of nutrients for millions of years. Heck, even my grandparents had plenty of organ meats (and pig blood) in their diet when they grew up in Austria.
By removing organs from our diet, we have eliminated the best source of micronutrients, leading to a higher prevalence of vitamin deficiencies and chronic diseases.
That’s because plants aren’t a great substitute for organs when it comes to nutrient availability and absorbability. Plus, the nutrient content in plants has been on the decline, due to soil depletion and other factors associated with industrial farming practices.
As a result, I encourage everyone to consume more organ meats — if not fresh than in the form of supplements!
Do organ meats taste awful?
While I agree that liver can have a strong taste (depending on how you prepare it), most organs actually have a very pleasant taste. For example, both heart and lungs have a similar taste and texture to muscle meat; with your eyes closed, you might even mistake them for steak.
For our 2020 Thanksgiving dinner, my buddy and I challenged his 12-year-old son (who is a picky eater) to try raw turkey heart and liver with us. To our surprise, he ate both and actually liked how they tasted. So if a picky 12-year-old can eat (raw) organ meats, I think anyone should be able to at least try them.
What’s the difference between organs from grass-fed vs. grain-fed animals?
Most grain-fed cattle are metabolically sick by definition. Think about it: cows get fed grains so they’ll fatten up quickly, and we know that both humans and animals who are obese suffer from a host of metabolic issues and chronic diseases.
That’s the primary reason why I strongly recommend staying away from foods that were harvested from grain-fed animals.
The second argument against the consumption of grain-fed beef is animal welfare. I don’t want to support an industry that keeps animals in feedlots and that feeds them a diet that’s inappropriate for their species.
In other words, I believe in voting with my dollars, and my vote goes to farmers who practice regenerative agriculture. That’s better for my health, the health of the animals, and the health of the planet.
Can you get sick from consuming organ meats?
Consuming fresh organ meats doesn’t pose a higher risk of catching food-borne illnesses than consuming muscle meat (such as steak), as long as you follow the recommended food handling and preparation guidelines.
As far as desiccated organ meats are concerned, make sure you purchase from brands (such as MK Supplements) that have their ingredients tested by a third-party and that use GMP-certified manufacturing facilities. If you do, you can rest assured that you’re not exposing yourself to any food-born pathogens.
Can eating liver cause Vitamin A toxicity?
It’s true that liver is a great source of vitamin A. But unless you’re eating the liver of a polar bear (which has up to nine million units of vitamin A per pound), there’s no real risk of ingesting toxic levels of vitamin A when consuming small amounts of fresh liver or when using freeze-dried liver supplements.
My wife and I try to consume about 1 ounce of fresh liver, or 3 grams of freeze-dried liver, per day. Our kids get a third of that, usually in the form of capsules.
To put that into perspective, 1 ounce of fresh liver contains approximately 5,000 IUs of vitamin A. That’s about 116% of the recommended daily allowance (RDA) and well within the “safe limits.”
Does the consumption of organ meats increase the risk of gout?
Western medicine suggests that consuming too much organ meat (and red meat) can cause gout, and that people who suffer from this disease should reduce their consumption of these foods because they have high levels of purine and can contribute to high blood levels of uric acid.
What most people don’t know is that over 60% of all uric acid is produced by the body and only about a third stems from the food you eat.
What’s important to understand is that most people who suffer from gout have issues eliminating uric acid via the kidneys rather than overproducing it.
Additionally, studies have shown that the increased consumption of foods that contain large quantities of purine usually leads to an increase of uric acid excretion.
In other words, if you’re metabolically healthy, there is no need to limit your intake of red meat or organ meats. If you currently suffer from gout, I recommend making the appropriate lifestyle changes to become metabolically healthy, so you can increase your intake in organ meats.
What should you look out for when purchasing organ meat supplements?
These days, you can find dozens of brands on Amazon and other online stores that offer organ meat supplements. Unfortunately, not all of them offer the same quality as some of the brands that I use and recommend.
When buying organ meat supplements, make sure the product is from 100% pasture-raised and grass-fed cows, that the organs were freeze-dried (desiccated) rather than heat-dried (which destroys nutrients), and non-defatted. Some manufacturers use harsh chemicals, such as hexane, to remove fat from organ meats — and you definitely don’t want those chemicals in your supplement.
I also recommend sticking with products that come in eco-friendly and non-toxic containers (i.e., glass bottles with metal lids).
If you apply all of these specifications you’ll realize that not many reasonably-priced products fit the bill. That’s why I decided to develop my own supplement.
Should kids consume organ meats?
Absolutely, but in lower amounts than adults. As I mentioned earlier in this article, our kids (ages five and seven as of this writing) consume approximately a third of the amount of liver as me and my wife.
Besides using supplements, we’ve seen the best success when mixing liver with ground beef to make meatballs. That way, we can sneak liver into their diet without them being put off by its strong taste.
What other parts of the animal should I eat?
In addition to the organs I discuss throughout this article, we also regularly eat tongue and oxtail. We also slow-cook bones to make bone broth to get some of the connective tissue, cartilage, bone marrow into our bodies. These byproducts are usually high in protein and other nutrients, such as collagen.
Is organ meat good for iron deficiency?
Organ meat (and liver and spleen in particular) is a great option if you suffer from iron deficiency or anemia. That’s because both of these organs have high amounts of bioavailable heme iron that can support the body in making red blood cells.
Can you eat beef liver or other organs raw?
I regularly eat raw liver and heart, but only when I trust the source of the organs. Consuming raw meat (including organ meat) increases the risk of food-borne illness. So you have to make sure you handle raw organs in the same manner you handle raw red meat.
The Benefits of Eating Organ Meat: Wrap-Up
Animal organs are a nutritional powerhouse and the best source of micronutrients for humans and other carnivorous species. As such, I firmly believe they should be at the center of our diet to support optimal health and well-being. Plus, the consumption of organ meats reflects how humans evolved over millions of years.
Liver is arguably the king of organs, and I consider it to be nature’s ultimate multivitamin. That’s why I strongly recommend making it a regular part of your diet, even if it ends up being the only organ you consume on a consistent basis. If you don’t like its taste, use a freeze-dried beef liver supplement, such as the one from MK Supplements.
If you’ve found any creative ways to prepare organ meats to make them palatable to a wider audience, leave a comment below! My readers and I would highly appreciate it.
I’m a healthy living and technology enthusiast.
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Benefits of Consuming Organ Meat & Best Supplements is written by Michael Kummer for michaelkummer.com