When Searching for New Meat, Don’t Overlook the Tongue or Liver

There used to be a time when items as simple as the tongue and liver were quite commonplace for daily meals. In some countries, it still is. In the United States, however, true organ meat (yep, that tongue in your mouth is an organ) became a terrifying thought for hungry consumers. Many have no problem destroying their own livers with copious amount of booze or wasting taste buds with smoking and poor food choices, but to eat an animal’s tongue or liver is crossing the line.

Liver and tongue really aren’t that hard to find, even in America. Go to any Jewish deli and find yourself a nice tongue sandwich or at the least some chopped liver. Even if you search hard enough at a grocery store, you might be able to find some chicken or beef livers. Farmers markets don’t usually advertise those parts of the body, but trust me, they’re not throwing out anything they can sell. If you’re in the south, especially Texas, tongue or liver aren’t that unaccessible. And, if you find a traditional old family restaurant you might even be able to get the classic liver and onions kids grew to despise or love in past generations.

Organ meats, however, are attempting a bit of a comeback. With gastropubs the “hot” genre of restaurant in America, these delicacies are more common on menus all across the country. The liver is often made as fancy påtés and pickled tongue on rye is now a posh meal to be washed down with a high volume beer.

So what makes these items something you would ever want to try?

First, the tongue, definitely the more uncommon of the two. And just so you can get started, here is a recipe from the New York Times earlier this year for Barbecue Beef Tongue. Tongue isn’t the healthiest of red meat alternatives, but it’s quite tasty. After getting over the initial shock of “Wow, I’m eating a tongue,” you’ll find the texture and flavor to be quite tender and juicy. Obviously you get the basic proteins that are found in most red meats, but the most important purpose is the amount of B-12 in the tongue. B-12 is another one of those essential vitamins that are often obtained through supplemental means. There’s nothing wrong with taking a chance on the tongue if there are health benefits you can get naturally.

On the downside, there have been some worries over time of the tongue/mad cow connection. The trick around this, get the tongue from someone you trust. If a cow is over a certain age, around 30 months, that’s when their tongue becomes more susceptible. The tonsils must also be completely removed in order for it to be considered safe. But do not feat, there are regulations in place to prevent this and it is monitored closely. In 2009, there was actually a beef tongue recall. I suggest your first attempt, if you can afford it, would be to get your tongue from a deli or nice restaurant. Then, explore it on your own.

Below is a solid recipe for tongue tacos when you’re ready to take that leap into the kitchen.

For more tongue facts go here.

Now, the liver is a bit more popular in mainstream, the past, and probably around most cultures. It’s not as daunting as a giant tongue, but many people are turned off by the smell and taste. Often liver is accompanied by onions or strong sauces to counteract some of the turn-offs. There are also the options of grinding it into a pate or creating a chopped liver with onions, eggs, and other mixtures many of the benefits can be obtained.

And there are a lot of liver benefits. It is one of the most mineral rich organs that people like to dive into. As explained the University of Nebraska’s meat science division, liver is a great source for riboflavin, copper, Vitamin A and Vitamin B-12 (like our friend the tongue). It also can give you protein, iron, zinc, and other items that aren’t traditionally sought out, but important for the body. Liver isn’t that high in fat compared to other organs and can be taken from a calf, cow, pig, or chicken. For a classic recipe, here is some good old liver and onions to strive for at home. Don’t worry, there haven’t been any recent liver recalls in the U.S.

But let’s not forget, like every body part, this one has controversy too. Perhaps the most popular edible liver out there, foie gras (goose liver), has made a comeback at fancy restaurants. Places like Chicago lifted their ban on the item that melts in your mouth . Of course, foie gras, while tasty if it’s done right is much maligned for the animal cruelty that goes into creating the perfect goose or duck liver. Many farms are said to force feed these animals to get the liver as fatty as possible. In fact, some are fed fat directly in mass quantities that no animal would consume in regular doses. For a solid read, our friend wikipedia breaks down the Foie Gras debate worldwide. In the past few years, however, there has been a strong movement for “freedom foie gras” and letting them live in a way where they aren’t being stuffed to die. Check out this Minnesota foie gras farm to see how they have managed the delicate delectable.

Feel free to leave comments about your favorite memories or fears about trying these organ meats.


About Benjie Klein
Born on a cold day in 1984 my eyes opened for the first time gazing hazily and it was clear, I knew nothing. Over time, however, that has changed. Hi, I'm Benjie Klein, currently enrolled as a graduate student at the University of Wisconsin in the Mass Communications and Journalism MA program. After receiving a bachelors degree at Michigan State University I worked for the Detroit Tigers and Lions before taking a year off to travel (adventures can be learned about at http://benjieofftheleash.blogspot.com/). Now I embark on a journey to tell you not of myself, but the world of technology and the way it continues to shape the world we live in. In addition, every once in a while I'll throw in some sports related commentary or just general ideas on life in a journalistic manner, of course.

One Response to When Searching for New Meat, Don’t Overlook the Tongue or Liver

  1. Erin says:

    I’ve never eaten an organ meat one at a time (…to my knowledge), but when the opportunity arises I do eat haggis, the most organ-y of meat dishes, even if it’s not cooked in an actual stomach that often anymore. It just tastes like meat.

    Plus Robert Burns wrote a poem about (to) it, so it’s clearly awesome.

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