The case for organ meats (offal)

by Catherine Haug, December 30, 2013

I’ve been eating liver since I was a kid – as liverwurst, sautéed chicken livers, liver paté, and calves’ liver. I love the heart from a chicken but have not tried heart from other animals. And I’ve yet to try kidney or brain. But I know most people gag at the thought of eating these foods. Certainly there is cause to dislike liver that has not been properly cooked, or liver from an older animal. Or kidney that has not been deodorized by removing the urine before cooking.

The most important consideration in eating these foods is that they are rich in vital nutrients that are very bioavailable (much more so than taking those minerals supplementally. Another important consideration is the importance of using these foods ONLY if they come from pastured animals, which means that you need to get them from the rancher/farmer or from an Organic source, as commercially raised livestock are highly contaminated with toxins that tend to collect in the organ meats, especially in the liver.

All traditional peoples ate the heart and liver of animals raw, while it was still warm after the kill. They believed that consuming the organs supports the same organs of the eater: eat heart to strengthen your heart; eat liver to strengthen your liver. And raw is still the best way to eat these foods, but quickly and lightly cooking them (rare) is also good. Cooking too long destroys most of the exceptional nutrients in the organs.

NOTE: If you have a problem in one of your organs, but you cannot bring yourself to eat the organ meat that supports it, you can take desiccated organ meats supplementally; however, be sure to pay attention to the source. Those that come from New Zealand are probably the most pure and devoid of toxic contamination. My source is Dr. Ron’s (a naturopath in Connecticut (1)). Another supplement source of desiccated organ meats is Standard Process (3); these supplements usually contain a mixture of ingredients and are only sold through health practitioners.

Nutrients in Organ Meats

According to Mercola (2), these are:

  • High quality protein;
  • B-complex vitamins, including methyl-B12 and methyl-folate;
  • Minerals, including a highly bioavailable form of iron;
  • Fats, especially Omega-3 fats;
  • Choline, another B-vitamin important for cell membranes, brain and nerve function, heart health, and prevention of birth defects. Choline is a rich source of lecithin which helps in the digestion of fats;
  • Trace minerals such as copper, zinc and chromium – in the proper proportions;
  • Cholesterol, essential for synthesis of vitamin D, and for detox;
  • CoQ10, a potent antioxidant that is also essential for energy production and cardiac function;. Animal hearts offer the highest levels of coQ10.
  • Natural vitamin D
  • Vitamin E, which supports circulation tissue repair, healing, deactivation of free radicals, and the slowing of aging;
  • Pre-formed vitamin A or retinol (as opposed to beta-carotene from plants, that has to be converted in the body to vitamin A and some people cannot do this conversion);
  • An unidentified “anti-fatigue factor;”
  • Purines, which are nitrogen containing compounds that serve as precursors to DNA and RNA;
  • Vitamin K2;
  • Amino Acids, the building blocks of protein.
  • Fat-soluble activators: This includes vitamins A (retinol), D (colecalciferol)  and K (several forms). More on this below.
  • Enzymes: Raw or desiccated pancreas is the best source of highly active digestive enzymes (1), and enzymes to support problems such as arthritis.

Dr. Weston Price and fat-soluble activators

I’ve written before on the profound work of Dr. Price (see The Diet of Traditional Peoples: the Work of Weston Price & Frances PottengerDiet and Disease, and The Third Generation & Health). He was a dentist who traveled the world in the 1930s to study the diet and dental health of traditional peoples. What he discovered impacts not only dental health, but health of the whole being. Most of his conclusions have been validated by modern scientific research.

He identified what he called Three Fat-Soluble Activators that included vitamins A (retinol), D (colecalciferol), and what he called ‘Activator X’ which we now believe to be vitamin K2 (Menaquinone). Note that all of these vitamins have synthetic versions, most of which are toxic and should not be consumed, including:

  • Beta-carotene form of vitamin A (which is also available naturally in plants, but which some people cannot convert into the active form of vitamin A known as retinol);
  • Ergocalciferol or vitamin D2 which is toxic at higher doses; and
  • Vitamins K3, K4 and K5, which all have some toxicity.

The best source of all three activators is from pasturedgrass-fed animal sources including organ meats. The “grass-fed” attribute is important, as animals raised in CAFOs are deficient in these vital activators.  Pasture is important because this gives the animals exposure to sunlight, which is an integral factor in the animal’s ability to create vitamin D.

Raw cream, yellow butter and egg yolks are other excellent sources of true vitamin A, in addition to liver and other organ meats. However, if you are taking cholesterol-lowering drugs, be aware that these drugs interfere with the absorption of vitamin A from foods, and this includes the plant form, beta-carotene.

The beneficial bacteria in your gut will produce vitamin K2, and it is also found in raw milk from grass-fed dairy animals.

If you can only stomach one type of organ meat, I suggest choosing liver. Because liver is the most important detox organ in the body, and since we are exposed to so many toxins in our modern world,  from the food we eat, the water we drink, and the air we breathe, the liver is especially important and needs support from dietary liver. The best way to consume liver is raw, and I highly recommend Raw Liver Tonic (two versions (4)), which you can drink. Otherwise, I like to cook calves’ liver rare (see my recipe: Calves Liver, with (or without) Onions (5)).

See also Mercola’s article (2) for other sources of recipes for organ meats (scroll to end of article).


  1. Dr.Ron’s desiccated organ meat supplements:
  2. Mercola:
  3. Standard Process:
  4. Cat’s Kitchen Raw Liver Tonics: (2 recipes)
  5. Cat’s Kitchen Calves Liver recipe: Calves Liver with (or without) Bacon and Onions

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