October 2013: Introduction to Organ Meats, Their Health Benefits and Preparation Methods

by Karen Voelkening-Behegan

Tuesday night’s meeting brought 25 participants and a vast array of hearty winter soups, stews, sauces, and accompaniments.  Unlike our summer meals which tend to favor side dishes, salads, and cold foods, this repast was a literal banquet of warm dishes and entrees, many containing delightfully prepared organ meats.  The sides included fresh garden kale, sauerkraut, homemade gluten-free mini-muffins, and even a tasty gluten-fee lemon custard pie.

As a nutritional therapy practitioner and founding chapter leader, I initiated our Introduction to Organ Meats before dinner with a quick demonstration of a red wine Dijon mushroom sauce sautéed with beef kidney, liver, and heart, and served over freshly baked butternut squash.   The recipe was a modification of one I found by Clotilde Dusoulier at chocolateandzucchini.com.  It had great reviews online, so I hope the crowd approved of my alterations.* Considering that the dish was all but gone by the end of dinner, I think they liked it!

After dinner and announcements, I proceeded with a Power Point presentation that highlighted the health benefits of offal.  The photographs shown in this article came from the presentation.  To give credit where credit is due, I’ve linked the photos to their original sources.

Unlike most other foods, organ meats contain high concentrations of many important essential nutrients.  These nutrients happen to be the ones that most Americans are seriously deficient in, including vitamin C, many B vitamins, especially vitamin B12, a variety of minerals, and some very important fatty acids and fat soluble vitamins.  It is no surprise that nationwide deficiencies have emerged and grown to alarming levels ever since organ meats went out of fashion, along with the depletion of our soils, the rise of factory “farms,” aka confined animal feeding operations or CAFOs, and the decline of traditional agriculture.

Menudo

The nutrients found in organ meats are the very same nutrients so widely recommended in supplement form by doctors and nutritionists. They’re the same nutrients found to be deficient in numerous common health conditions, including blood sugar problems, digestive problems, hormonal problems, mental health problems, and many more. It is certainly no coincidence that many chronic ailments have been on the rise ever since we abandoned these important foods, once considered sacred.  Though what doctor has ever prescribed pastured organ meats like tripe for irritable bowel, liver for reactive hypoglycemia, PMS or infertility, heart for depression, or skin, bones and brain for aggression?  I hope this presentation brings home the point that organ meats, when sourced from healthy pastured animals, are among the most nutrient-dense foods in the human diet, and rather than optional, they are truly essential for good physical and mental health.

Fig, Liver & Onions

The importance of procurring your organ meats from pastured sources can not be understated. Since most meat in our country now comes from factory “farms,” the organs from that meat tend to be of poor quality, due to the inappropriate feeding of the animals, inherent deficiencies in their diets, lack of fresh air and sunshine, over-crowded conditions, tendency towards infection, and overuse of antibiotics. Organ tissue is more sensitive to the damages of toxins and tends to absorb toxic overload, which is plentiful in overcrowded, unsanitary conditions.  The most nutritious and flavorful, freshest, highest quality, and safest organ meat comes from grass-fed animals raised at local sustainable farms.

Blood Sausage

To culminate the presentation, I showed published photographs of lovingly prepared organ meats in mouthwatering presentations.  My goal was to use some attractive and enticing images to illustrate just how appetizing organ meats can be, and take the mystery and fear out of consuming them.  At the end, the presentation provided links to a number of local sources for good pastured organ meats, as well as a list of resources on how to prepare them.

Fortunately, our education was not just visual and auditory. Given the adventurous and generous spirit of our participants, the appetizing smells and tastes of locally grown pastured offal abounded throughout the evening and into the final presentation by Dr. Rosann Volmert.

Dr. Volmert who regularly prepares organ meats as part of her family’s dietary regime, spoke in detail about bone marrow and heart meat.  She began her presentation by demonstrating how quickly and easily you can prepare some mildly nutty-flavored and health-giving bone marrow.  Simply lay it in a baking dish, add salt and pepper, and bake at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes, depending on the thickness of the cut.

While the bone marrow was baking, we learned about its mono-unsaturated fatty acid content, most certainly associated with some important fat soluble vitamins, according to Sally Fallon and many other nutrition professionals.  (Once the Weston A. Price Foundation develops its research facility for testing the nutritional value of real foods, we will finally have the non-profit scientific studies we need for validation!)

Roasted Bone Marrow

For anyone who needs some serious digestive healing, bone marrow is a traditional cure which, according to Dr. Volmert (and Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride, author of the GAPS diet) should be consumed every day for optimal results.  Whether you eat it plain, as a spread, or even as a sauce drizzled over meats, it is an indispensible tonic for digestive health, and just like a medication, should be taken every day at regular intervals to stimulate adequate healing.

The next part of Dr. Volmert’s presentation addressed the nutritional value and preparation methods of heart meat.  We learned not only about its high concentrations of B vitamins, minerals, and omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids, but also about one of its star nutrients, Co-enzume Q10.  Of all the organ meats, the heart has the highest concentration of Co-enzyme Q10.  The reason for this is that Co-enzyme Q10 aids the production of ATP in the mitochondria of the cell.  ATP or adenosine triphosphate, is the molecule in our body that stores energy and releases it as needed.  The heart muscle, which never rests as long as we live, has the greatest requirement for energy and one of the highest concentrations of mitochondria, Co-enzyme Q10, and ATP in the body.  Our lives literally depend on the heart not running out of fuel, and Co-enzyme Q10 is the catalyst that makes fuel production possible.

Grilled Deer Heart with Peppers

The Co-enzyme Q10 molecule is so important in the production of energy, that we can actually build our own supplies when we don’t consume enough, assuming we have the appropriate building blocks from eating a nutrient-dense diet. But to avoid risking deficiency, we would be well advised to consume more Co-enzyme Q10 to keep our energy levels up and keep our hearts beating.  This is especially important for those taking statin drugs for high cholesterol, which deal a devastating blow to the internal production of Co-enzyme Q10, resulting in low energy and depression for many statin patients.  If medical doctors in this country received any meaningful education in nutrition, then prescribing heart meat with statins (if not finding and correcting the actual cause of high cholesterol) would be standard protocol.

Dr. Rosann also discussed how to prepare heart meat, and recommended some recipes from Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon.  One of Rosann’s family favorites include heart kabobs, followed by a delectable red meat chili with beef heart (from Nourishing Traditions’ South of the Border section) which she shared during our potluck dinner. For preparation, Rosann noted that it helps to soak the heart in a solution of olive oil and apple cider vinegar for 24 hours before cooking, to help soften the flavor.  But whether or not marinating is needed depends primarily on personal preference as well as the type, age, and feeding habits of the animal it came from.  Hearts, like other organ meats, tend to be milder in flavor when they come from younger pastured animals.

For her grand finale, Rosann pulled the baked bone marrow out of the oven to share. We all had a chance to taste it, and most of it was gobbled up by the happy crowd, even the rare pieces.  Thank you to my co-presenter Rosann for some valuable information and a demonstration illustrating just how simple it is to add some important nutrients to our diets.

Veal Sweetbreads

I hope that as a team we successfully inspired you to add pastured organ meats to your regular dietary regime.

Come join us now and take The WAPF-Pasadena Offal Challenge: Treat yourself to one meal of pastured organ meats per week, and in doing so realize the benefits of not only improving your physical and mental health, but also helping your budget, and mindfully supporting sustainable farming, animal welfare, your local economy, and the environment. There’s a reason these foods were once called sacred, and it’s time we pay forward our karma to restore our collective health and repair some of the greatest ills of this nation.

Bheja Fry

I hope to see you next month when we kick off the holiday season with a lively discussion about the 2013 annual international Wise Traditions Conference which takes place in Atlanta Georgia, November 8-11, 2013.  Until then, enjoy experimenting with some delicious and nutritious offal!

~ Your Chapter Leader, Karen

* The only changes I made to the recipe were: 1) sauté the ingredients in ghee or lard instead of olive oil, 2) add some baby portabella mushrooms to the ceps (porcinis), 3) add 3x the garlic and 3x the crème fraîche, 4) use 1/3 the amount of kidney, and equal parts liver and heart (about 250-300g each), and 5) slice and marinate the liver in milk and the heart in olive oil & apple cider vinegar a couple hours before sautéeing. 

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