Written by: Paul Davis, Ph.D., Sarah Novak | February 11, 2021
Recently, we read an article about an organization in the United Kingdom that launched a program, “Organuary,” to promote consumer awareness and the human consumption of organ meats, citing their nutritional and environmental benefits. It’s an interesting concept.
Growing up, we both had organ meats at dinner – for Sarah, it was beef heart and tongue with amazing gravy served over mashed potatoes and for Paul, it was oxtail soup and liver with onions. But neither of us have fed either of these meals to our families. We started to talk – why is that the case?
If you didn’t know, besides working for the American Feed Industry Association, Paul also has a feeder cattle operation and sells farm-to-fork beef – beef cattle farming is in his DNA. He went on to explain, that if there was a cultural shift in the United States for Americans to embrace eating organ meats, it would probably mean an increase of 3-4% in edible product per beef animal. Translate that to: less food waste.
As a beef rancher, he described how he is truly sensitive to “wasting” food, meat in particular. He does his best to provide adequate nutrition, prevent disease, and provide security and comfort for his livestock as he knows they will ultimately end up on a dinner plate. This is a responsibility he takes very seriously.
As part of the animal food industry, we both know that even if these parts aren’t being eaten on dinner plates, not a single part of the beef cow goes to waste. Many of the parts that are not consumed by people are processed and used in pet food, livestock and poultry feed, zoo animals and in some cases can be used as fertilizer – which ultimately benefit all of us – from people to microorganisms. So even if most Americans don’t eat the hearts, kidneys or tongues, we know these products are extremely valuable and not wasted.
Animal agriculture is truly the industry of upcycling and efficiency. Beyond the beef co-products used to formulate nutritious, cost-effective, safe feed and pet food, dozens, if not hundreds, of consumer goods contain animal products. Hooves and horns are used to create plywood, plastics, wallpaper and various adhesives. Components found in blood are included in imitation eggs, dyes, inks and even certain medicines. However, animal fats receive the prize for versatility. With more than 30 typical uses, beef tallow contributes to the quality and function of a wide array of consumer goods from antifreeze to crayons and candles; it even finds its way into fireworks!
While we are both proud to contribute to such a sustainable industry, we both agreed, maybe it’s time to introduce our families to a few of our long-forgotten family dishes, like oxtail soup or fajitas made from beef tongues or pho made with tripe and use it as an opportunity to talk about all the ways a beef cow helps contribute to mankind and feeding our families (and pets).