Fancy an ar­ti­sanal pâté, crispy pigs’ ears or sautéed sweet­breads? If so, you’re tak­ing part in one of this sea­son’s hottest trends: nose-to-tail eat­ing.


From cod cheeks to char­cu­terie, the nose-to-tail phi­los­o­phy en­cour­ages sa­vor­ing the whole an­i­mal, leav­ing noth­ing to waste.

If you’re like me, you prob­a­bly didn’t grow up crav­ing cuts like tripe or pigs’ feet. Liver? Maybe. But if you’ve ever wan­dered through food mar­kets in other coun­tries, chances are you’ve seen some­thing dif­fer­ent: whole an­i­mals butchered and on dis­play, wait­ing to be trans­formed into some­thing de­li­cious. For those of us raised in the era of gleam­ing butcher counter dis­plays, filled with per­fectly por­tioned, glossy wrapped cuts of meat (that seem far re­moved from where they came from), the no­tion of dig­ging into a dish fea­tur­ing or­gans or other “un­sa­vory bits” can feel a bit jar­ring. But a new move­ment led by chefs, ar­ti­san butch­ers, food­ies and en­vi­ron­men­tally con­scious eaters aims to change that. Bet­ter still, it’s chang­ing how we shop, cook and eat.

What is nose-to-tail eat­ing?

A top trend of 2018, nose-to-tail eat­ing is a phi­los­o­phy of us­ing ev­ery part of the an­i­mal in food prepa­ra­tion, let­ting noth­ing go to waste. Aside from its ap­peal as a more tra­di­tional diet, it’s also one of the most eco­nom­i­cally and en­vi­ron­men­tally friendly ways to ap­proach work­ing with meat. Plus, it aims to squash our squeamish­ness: from char­cu­terie to cod cheeks, nose to tail cel­e­brates tra­di­tion­ally pre­pared dishes that fea­ture over­looked or lesser-known parts.

It’s green and mean (on the bot­tom line).

Of course, slash­ing food costs is one big rea­son for its pop­u­lar­ity. Buy­ing a whole or half share of an an­i­mal through a Com­mu­nity Sup­ported Agri­cul­ture (CSA), for in­stance, means you’ll get the pop­u­lar cuts for a frac­tion of the gro­cery store price. And as your grand­mother knew, mak­ing use of ev­ery part – from bones to tis­sue to or­gans – is an af­ford­able way to boost your nu­tri­tion.

Less food waste is an­other ben­e­fit: With roughly one-third of all food pro­duced to­day be­ing tossed be­fore it’s eaten, nose to tail en­sures that all the re­sources that went into cre­at­ing that prod­uct (in­clud­ing wa­ter and fos­sil fuel) is sa­vored, not thrown out.

For many chefs and butch­ers who are help­ing this an­cient prac­tice gain mod­ern fans, it’s also about re­turn­ing to and em­brac­ing the nat­u­ral cy­cles of the farm. This is be­cause, tra­di­tion­ally, farm­ers would raise a pig or a cow over the spring and sum­mer, butcher it in the fall, and then make use of ev­ery part over the win­ter. Put more sim­ply: farm­ers can’t raise just a pork chop; they have to raise the whole pig.

An­cient nu­tri­tion meets mod­ern su­per­food.

While ex­act nu­tri­ent value varies de­pend­ing on the part in ques­tion, a “whole an­i­mal” ap­proach de­liv­ers a wider, more di­verse set of nu­tri­ents than sim­ply stick­ing to tra­di­tional cuts of mus­cle. For ex­am­ple, beef liver is a rich source of vi­sion-sup­port­ive vi­ta­min A and im­mune-boost­ing zinc. It’s also high in iron, which is nec­es­sary for the pro­duc­tion of he­mo­glo­bin, a pro­tein found in red blood cells that helps carry oxy­gen through­out the body. Slow-sim­mered broth made us­ing beef bones boasts eight times the pro­tein of tra­di­tional broth per 8-ounce cup, is full of nour­ish­ing min­er­als and can help re­duce in­flam­ma­tion. Or­ganic beef heart is a pow­er­house source of CoQ10, a nu­tri­ent shown to com­bat ox­ida­tive stress, im­prove en­ergy and slow many mark­ers as­so­ci­ated with ag­ing.

For those who want to try the trend, it’s now be­com­ing eas­ier to find than ever.

Kate Geagan, MS, RD, is an award-win­ning di­eti­tian and in­ter­na­tion­ally rec­og­nized leader in sus­tain­able eat­ing and nu­tri­tion. She is the au­thor of Go Green, Get Lean: Trim Your Waist­line with the Ul­ti­mate Low Car­bon Foot­print Diet, and she’s reg­u­larly ap­peared on The Dr. Oz Show and Katie Couric’s show Katie.

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