What is Offal?

Offal Super Foods for Cats and Dogs

We are often quizzed by pet parents about these unique ingredients. What is it and what are the befits? If you’re a gen X (or Y) or Millennial, then these items might be foreign to you. Won’t see them on the shelves at your favorite retailer either. Our desire for consumerism, packaging and presentation has alienated and orphaned these nutritional gems to dark little corners in old rusty shacks.

The sad state of meat affairs is that this long-forgotten food group is every bit as nutrient dense as fruits and vegetables that most of our westerners eliminated from our diets. Liver for instance, is enormously healthy and full of an array of B vitamins, vitamin A, selenium and folate. In our world of real, biologically specie appropriate raw food, we believe that liver is a superfood that is much more nutrient dense than kale and spinach. Misinformation has led pet parents to believe that animals’ livers store toxins, which one would consume if eaten. But the liver metabolizes and helps the body excrete substances that pass through it and it not only is free of toxins but also gives your fur kids’ body key nutrient to support their own liver in detoxification. Instead of sending dangerous substances further through your digestive system, the liver changes them into something less dangerous and chooses where they will go from there 1

Other organ meats, like heart, have copious amounts of CoQ10, an antioxidant that is used as a natural way to prevent and treat certain diseases and kidney is loaded with selenium and other key nutrients which support adrenal and thyroid health. Spleen, pancreas, thymus and brain, are all incredibly nutritious organ meats as well that have tremendous health benefits.

Consider this – organ meats are far higher in nutrients than the muscle meats we’re used to eating. For instance, beef liver contains 50 times as much vitamin B12 as steak and more folate and b vitamins than other food on the planet. Beef liver is known as nature’s B-complex vitamin. It’s more densely packed with vitamins and minerals than kale, spinach and broccoli!

Let’s define offal

For our article, we will use beef, chicken and lamb to describe some of the nutrient nuggets that might find their way into our supreme pet cuisine. These three animals represent most of what is available today: – beef, lamb, duck, chicken, turkey, lamb, venison and ostrich. Note: nutritional amounts are based on human RDA’s.

What We Buy In The ShopsWhat We Don't See
Real Food for Cats and Dogs
Beef Prime Cuts
Raw Food for Cats and Dogs
Beef Offal Cuts
Real Food for Cats and Dogs
Chicken Prime Cuts
Raw Food for Cats and Dogs
Chicken Offal Cuts
Real Food for Cats and Dogs
Lamb Prime Cuts
Raw Food for Cats and Dogs
Lamb Offal Cuts

(Image credit – Socket Software Pty Ltd, Queensland, Australia)

If you are an avid Do-Yourself-Raw-Feeder, then you will agree that there are dozens of “accepted” types of offal. We are not going to provide an exhaustive offal handbook, but we’ll briefly review some of the more common forms: liver, heart, kidneys, tongue, sweetbreads, brain, tripe and gizzard. Robert Sietsema wrote some beautiful articles on this topic specifically focused on human foods!

Offal items include:

  • (a) Glandular Offal’s – internal body parts which are related to the animal glands, they don’t have any muscle tissue or fiber. Glandular meats have low shelf life hence it should be consumed within a day or two. Example of glandular meats are Liver, Kidney, Sweetbreads, Brain, marrow, etc.
  • (b) Muscle Offal’s – these are the external body parts which are attached to the carcass of the body but are not included in the major cuts of the animal or the birds. These are made from the same muscle tissue as the main body and have better shelf life than glandular offal’s. Examples of muscle offal’s are Oxtail, Tongue, Tripe, Testicles, Ears, Head, etc.

Edibles include:

CutDescriptionCutDescription
AmouretteFrench term used for marrow from the spine of animals which is part of the nervous system, especially from calf, cow, ox, bison.AnimellesFrench term for testicles of animals, even termed as Fries or Oysters, example Lamb’s Fry, Calf’s Fry, etc.
Bath ChapIt is a particular cut from the cheeks of the pig, chap is a variation of “chop”.BloodOf the animal is used to make blood pudding, soup, etc. Sometimes blood is reduced to make pie.
BrainNO you are not zombie if you eat brain, so chill and enjoy this delicacy.CaulInternal folded membrane inside of pig’s intestine, packed with fat, gives a look of netted lace. It is used as a wrap, which helps to keep the food moist due to its fat content.
ChitterlingsAlso known as Chitlins, it is the large Intestine of Pig, it is used as the sausage skin.Cocks CombThe flowery part above the head of birds like Rooster, Turkey, Quail, Pheasant, Grouse, etc. It is made of muscle and is used for making sauce, garnish.
EarsOf animals like Pig, calf and goat is preferred, the skin is gelatinous and the cartilage is crunchy when cooked. Oreilles is the French term for Ear.EyesOf certain birds and animal is eaten, eyes of fish is preferred among all, best is to fry and eat, popular in Russia and Arab.
FeetGelatin content is rich in feet especially in young animals, used for making for stock and soup. Feet of Pig is known as Trotter.Foie GrasFrench term for “Fatty Liver”. Liver of a goose and sometimes duck is termed as foie gras. Used in making pate.
GizzardAn organ found in stomach of any bird, animals is known as gizzard.HeadOf animals or birds is used as they cannot be included in the main carcass. Calf, Pig, Goat, Fish, Chicken are common. This include the face, cheek and forehead.
HeartTough offal, full of fibers and veins, heart of beef, veal is preferred.Hogs Maw or Saw’s MawStomach of pig is known as hog’s maw or Saw’s Maw
IntestineOf animals especially pig’s is used as an outer covering of the sausage, also used in making silver foil.KernelsSmall kidney like gland, found inside of veal’s shoulder, it is beside the blade bone of shoulder and is covered in fat.
KidneyFinest of all kidney is obtained from goat, lamb, chicken and pig.LiverFinest of all the offal’s, delicious, smooth and buttery texture.
LungsMainly used sausage making, soft and spongy texture and have red color when raw. Also known as Lights.Marrow (Bone Marrow)Soft fillings of the bone, has muddy taste and texture, brown in color. Used in making of soup, also used as spread.
MeltSpleen of the animal is known as melt, not very popular, used in sausage making. Pig, Calf, veal if preferred. Beef spleen is known as Miltz.MesenteryFound inside the stomach of the animal, it is a membrane that joins the small intestine to the abdominal wall also acts as a supporting system.
OxName given to less preferred cuts of beef like oxtail, nothing to do with the animal “OX”.Ox PalateThe roof of the cow’s mouth is termed as ox palate.
OxtailTails of beef is called oxtail, not included in main carcass. Tails of other animal is also termed under offal’s.PluckAnother term for Offal’s.
SkinAnimal skin is used as offal’s, fried pig skin is known as chicharrones.SnoutNose of the pig.
SweetbreadsThymus gland and pancreas found only in young animals like calf, lamb, veal. Neck sweetbread is thymus gland and heart & belly sweetbread is pancreas.TongueCured tongue is very popular calf, beef and pigs tongue is very popular.
TripeInternal layer of animal stomach, the first layer which is smooth is called Blanket Tripe and the second layer which has appearance like honeycomb or net is called Honeycomb Tripe.UdderMammary gland of female cattle.
VessieBladder of the animal is called vessie.

Liver

Liver contains only 116 calories but has more than double the daily recommended value for vitamin A and vitamin B12. In addition, folate and riboflavin in chicken liver equal out to over 100 percent of what the average pet parent needs each day. Chicken liver also contains high amounts of vitamin B6, niacin, pantothenic acid, iron, phosphorus, selenium and copper.

Heart

While it may not have as much of each nutrient as liver, the heart (especially beef) provides you with the most CoQ10 of any of the offal meats. And it still has a ton of great nutrients — over 100 percent daily value of the vitamin B12 pet parents need and over half the riboflavin (not to mention significant amounts of niacin, iron, phosphorus, copper and selenium).

Kidneys

Eating kidneys is a concept you may need a bit of time to wrap your head around. But beef kidney has over five times the amount of B12 pet parents need each day, as well as almost two times your value for riboflavin. Beef kidney also contains 228 percent of the daily value recommended for selenium intake for pet parents. This trace mineral has a huge number of benefits attributed to it, including the prevention of certain cancer types, lowering risk of cancer, defense against oxidative stress and boosting immune responses.

Tongue

As variety meats in the offal family go, tongue is a popular but slightly less nutritious option than other organ meats. This tough-surfaced organ contains about ¾ daily value of vitamin B12, along with a quarter of the niacin, riboflavin and zinc. Another factor making this offal less of a home run is that it has over 250 calories in one relatively small serving – but only as far as pet parents concerned. For mutts, pups, nobles, masters and muggles, this is a must-try.

Sweetbreads

This deceptive name refers to the organ meat found in two separate areas of the body: the thymus and pancreas. While they aren’t sweet, nor made from bread, these meats are not high on the human nutrient winner list. These do, however, contain a large amount of dietary cholesterol and fat. We’re slowly learning that eating foods high in fat is not that bad for you at all, but it’s worth noting. This is also the first offal meat in which vitamin C wins the top spot for nutrient loads, making it ideal for those wishing to boost immunity and decrease cancer risk.

Brain

Surprisingly, brain may not be the smartest choice when selecting offal. While it has somewhat significant amounts of several nutrients, it also contains over 800 percent of the average human’s daily recommended value for cholesterol intake. Not that cholesterol is a problem in fur kids, still …

Tripe

Tripe is another common organ meat that’s popular without much nutritional science to back up its popularity. While it does contain almost 14 grams of protein, the other nutrients it offers aren’t found in very high amounts in a serving. But we love tripe, and so does our fur kids – and that’s what is most important!

Gizzard

Ranking above tripe for a few nutrients and carrying an astounding 44 grams of protein per serving, gizzard is a fairly worthwhile offal meat to keep in mind. It does contain quite a bit of cholesterol in a serving but also includes 85 percent of the selenium pet parents need each day.

Our final thoughts on offal

  • While they’re often considered “lesser” meats or perceived as dangerous, many of the organ and variety meats known as “offal” are densely packed with nutrients;
  • Liver, one of the most popular types of offal, contrary to popular belief, is not laden with toxins, but a superfood one would equate on the same lines as kale and spinach;
  • Because farming standards greatly impact the quality of organ meats, it’s important to only use meats raised ethically, meaning free-range animals fed species-appropriate diets (not grain-fed);
  • Several types of offal are extremely high in vitamin A, an antioxidant that’s linked to decreasing cancer risk, protecting eyes and reducing chronic inflammation;
  • Offal generally contains significant amounts of B-complex vitamins, known for their roles in helping prevent cancer, reduce the risk of heart disease and help the brain function at peak levels;
  • Offal is also known to often contain minerals that aid in fertility and pregnancy, as well as those that may help treat anemia;
  • Liver, heart, kidneys, sweetbreads and gizzard are some of the types of offal with the best nutritional profiles.

One day, when we have some time on our hands, we will map their nutritional values into the National Research Council Profiles for Canine and Feline Nutrition for reference.

Nutritional Values

What is Offal?
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