A term you may have heard of, which has gained popularity amongst some meat-eater is nose to tail eating. Nose to tail eating is a zero-waste philosophy, which looks to use every part of the animal…..from nose to tail. It has its fundamentals in the traditional way of life, where everything was consumed (culinary and otherwise) when an animal was slaughtered because animals were so valuable. In modern times, it is also environmentally friendly, the more of an animal you eat, means we eat less of them. If we are eating fewer animals, we need fewer animals and conversely fewer inputs (food, fuel, medicines, pastures e.t.c) into the rearing of those animals and ultimately few emissions.
To break this down into bite-sized chunks, let’s look at the worlds most popular meat, Chicken. Breast meat is by far the most popular followed by drumsticks and legs (wings seem to occupy their unique special place), with many only eating one type and not the other. Assuming these parts are set aside, we still have the neck, gizzard, liver, heart and carcass, all very nutritious, but often going to waste. Part of this selective consumption is to do with separating eating meat with slaughtering animals.
A chicken breast fillet does not resemble the chicken in the barn, which makes it more palatable. Similar to eating battered fish, because the whole fish with skin, head and eyes that look back at us is gross. It is impossible to separate that we never separate the two, as they are intrinsically connected.
Make no mistake, nose to tail eating does not just include offal, but encompasses any ‘unfashionable cuts such as beef shin, oxtail, neck, head
meat (cheeks). It includes whole animals which are by-products such as mutton, or goats. We need mature ewes to of produce lambs, goats for our goat’s cheese, or even dairy cows. If we take anything out of the food chain, we have a responsibility to consume as much of the animal that is left over. For nose to tail eating to become more acceptable, it has also got to be embraced by the food retailers. It is great that we can walk into most major supermarkets and see beef heart, pig trotters and tripe on sale.
It has also got to be embraced by the restaurants, which is why it is fantastic to see so many restaurants creating a niche for themselves by specialising in Nose To Tail menus. Dishes such as Mapo Tofu (Calf’s Brain), Beef Tongue taco, Crispy Tenga (Pigs Ear) or Bone Marrow Broth. Granted, it is being masked with fancy names, but as long as it's ending up on forks.
Not only is nose to tail eating sustainable, but it is also relatively cheap compared to buying mainstream cuts. During austerity times, popping into the butcher to buy these unfashionable cuts gets you some much more for your money.
Chicken Liver and Mashed Potato
We are not advocating for every meat eater to start tucking into liver and tripe. However, as meat-eaters, it is important that we do not distance ourselves from the rest of the animal, try something new, you might be pleasantly surprised.