To the heart of the matter

If there is anything that unites the vegan and the average omnivore it is a disgust of organ meats. I have told other omnis that I want to eat sweetbreads, kidneys, brains, liver, even tongue.  Their response is generally absolute horror, as if I said I was going to eat the flesh off of a still living creature.

I grew up being slightly disgusted by my mother’s fondness for chitterlings, chicken gizzards, and chicken liver. At the time I was also disgusted by asparagus, collard greens, and citrus fruits (weird, right?) Well it was easy enough to get over the vegetable disgust, but the organ was difficult before I became a vegetarian.

Then the cravings began.

Jokes about eating brains and livers and bear hearts.

I’d daydream about throwing a spear through some primal opponent who could kill me easily.

Anyway–I’m amazed by how most omnis I know refuse to consider eating even liver, which seems like the most culturally accepted organ.

It seems organs remind them that they are eating corpses, which a lot omnis don’t like to think about, and vegans always remind them of. Me, as an ex-vegan relish the corpses that make my body. I know in every sense, without obscuring it, that I’m eating a dead being.

I have an idea for omnis–if you can’t stand the idea of eating organs, maybe you shouldn’t be eating the animal in the first place. After all, they are not muscle plants, they were living beings with beating hearts, roving tongues, and thinking brains.


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9 Responses to To the heart of the matter

  1. Is it that organ meats remind one of eating corpses or that most organ meats are visually unappealing?

    I grew up in a house of offal prepared regularly and for “special occasions”.

    I attach symbolic and spiritual connotations to food.

    So, I wouldn’t eat chitterlings because, as intestines, I do not want to consume the “trash can” of the organs.

    Liver, with its high nutrition content, always worried me as it’s a filter.

    Get my drift?

    And tongue just looks crazy when it’s cooked.

    But, this makes sense. I recall experiences where my dining guests were offended by the sight of the fish’s head still on the body, or not being able to eat any part of the pig – at a pig roast.


    • Royce says:

      But is there anything any more visually appealing about a slab of muscle?

      And yeah, I never ate chitterlings because they smell like poo.

      • Yes, that reason too.

        I wonder if the other reason we shun organ meats is because those options were relegated to the lower classes? Why bother with liver when you can have a rib eye, especially now that more and more people can afford it?

  2. Chandelle says:

    I’ve wondered about this, too. I think the average relationship with meat is somewhat dysfunctional and one reason is because we’re a people of the boneless-skinless. If we could genetically-engineer a chicken made entirely of breast or a cow made entirely of prime rib I’m sure people would be all over that. As it is we waste an awful lot of food.

    As I’m just beginning to venture into meat-eating this issue hasn’t come up much for me, but I just put in an order for some freshly-slaughtered chickens from a friend and I plan to ask her to save the organs for me. I think a good argument could be made against consuming neural tissue, but I hope to find a use for everything else. And then, of course, the bones and leavings can be made into broth.

    I have chickens myself and I can attest that they will eat anything. Those boxes of “veg-fed” eggs make me crazy — chickens are NOT herbivores, unless you actively prevent them from eating bugs, snails, scraps of meat, and anything else they can reach. So if I can’t bring myself to consume the organs of other animals, I think it’s fair to pass them off to an animal who relishes entrails as my ladies do. I assume the same could be true for dogs or cats.

    • Funny, I am always having to explain this to my friends when they get all excited about their “veg-fed” chicken eggs. Even my dad, who’ll eat just about anything, made sure to point out the eggs he purchases were vegetarian.


      • Chandelle says:

        I think it’s fair to avoid inciting cannibalism in chickens — I don’t feed them chicken parts, though I doubt they’d think twice about eating them. So I assume that’s the message when boxes are labeled “veg-fed.” Still, all it really says to me is that those chickens are confined in some way, not outdoors, so they aren’t exposed to the sorts of foraging foods that would otherwise be a major part of their diet — and those aren’t eggs I’d want to buy.

      • Kate says:

        I thought “vegetarian fed” was mostly a response to concerns about mad cow disease and ground up brains and spinal cords…not that there is a “mad chicken disease”…yet. 🙂

  3. Perhaps, but it’s problematic because chickens are not vegetarians.

    At least we know the difference.

    I am going to ask my (sustainable food/good food) community about Royce’s opinion. It will be interesting to see how they respond.

  4. Rachel says:

    I know what you mean! The thing that got me off of vegetarianism for good was the idea of bison tongue – a stand had opened up at the farmer’s market. Now I’ve had beef liver, too, and all sorts of chicken organs.

    What gets me is that they’re the ‘cheap’ meats these days – the delicious and nutritious offal! Which means that there’s less demand, and they are subsequently often thrown out. It’s silly.

    My omnivorous and almost carnivorous family members barely try it. But, the same as with you, I’m not disgusted by it because all meat was once gross to me.

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