Nose-to-Tail Eating: Everything You Need to Know

By Liam McAuliffe M.T.S. Updated on

If crispy sweetbreads, kidney pie, and sesos (beef brain) tacos wet your chops, you’re on-trend with Nose-to-Tail eating– one of the hottest and healthiest culinary movements.

Though a revival of sorts in America, nose-to-tail eating is the standard in many countries around the world.  At meat markets from South America to the Middle East and Asia, it’s common to see entire animals skillfully butchered and displayed to the delight of enterprising chefs and wise grandmothers alike. 

Nose-to-tail is also the way our ancestors ate for nearly two million years. 

In fact, eating the whole animal including bone marrow and animal brains gave early humans the nutrient dense food they needed to feed the rapid growth of their own brains. 

So we can thank nose-to-tail eating for our evolution into the modern humans we are today!

In this article, we’ll take a closer look at what nose-to-tail eating is, and the benefits it offers our health and the environment. 

Table of Contents

What is Nose-to-Tail Eating?

nose to tail meats

Eating only the muscle meat of animals is a recent dietary trend–and it’s confined to industrialized nations. Nose-to-tail eating means not only consuming the muscle, but every other edible part of an animal. 

Nose-to-tail eating: 

  • leaves nothing to waste
  • maximizes nutrition 
  • respects the sources of our food

Nose-to-tail eating is traditional eating. And therefore it constitutes a dietary revival. It’s flag bearers are curious chefs, artisan butchers, and carnivore dieters

Going Nose-to-Tail is Eating Like Our Ancestors

Recent research tells us that for nearly 2 million year our hunter-gatherer ancestors were hyper-carnivorous apex predators.2 

It wasn’t until the last few thousand years that some groups of humans began eating plants with regularity. 

Contemporary research on the diets of existent hunter gatherers shows that they still get on average between 50-70% of their calories from animal sources. With some societies getting up to 99%!  This is a lot considering that there are fewer and smaller animals available to hunt than during the Pleistocene when giant mammals like mastodons roamed the earth. 

When we talk about “animal sources” we’re not mean lean cuts like filet mignon and chicken breast. We’re talking parts like organs, cheeks, skin, and bone marrow

In fact, traditional peoples would often discard lean muscle meat in order to focus on the organs–the most nutrient-dense parts of the animal.

Seminal researcher Weston A. Price made the following observation of Indians living in the Northern Canadian Rockies:

“I found the Indians putting great emphasis upon the eating of the organs of the animals, including parts of the digestive tract. Much of the muscle meat of the animals was fed to the dogs. … The skeletal remains are found as piles of finely broken bone chips or splinters that have been cracked up to obtain as much as possible of the marrow and nutritive qualities of the bones.” Nutrition and Physical Degeneration, 6th Edition, page 260.

Dr. Price discovered that traditional culture’s who ate the whole animal (and who didn’t eat processed foods), were free of what is known as “the diseases of civilization. These include: 

  • Obesity
  • heart disease
  • hypertension
  • type 2 diabetes 
  • epithelial cell cancers
  • inflammatory diseases (including autoimmune diseases, bowel disorders, osteoporosis, infertility, and more)

The phrase “diseases of civilization” refers to how in first-world, wealthy countries, the way we eat and live causes us to die from these chronic diseases. 

Top 8 Benefits of Nose-to-Tail Eating

So if most humans have always eaten nose-to-tail for most of history, and if the diseases that are killing more people around the globe are new and have to do with not eating this way, then all signs point to “Go!”

But for those of you who are still feeling squeamish, let’s take a look at a few top benefits that nose-to-tail eating has to offer. 

1. Like-Supports-Like

The organ meats in a nose-to-tail diet contain very specific compounds that positively affect the corresponding organs in our own bodies. 

For example, beef brain provides several newly discovered nutrients like phosphatidylserine, and sphingomyelin, brain cell activators, brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), and various other brain-boosting peptides.  

Beef kidney contains rare amino acids that can make it easier for our own kidneys to do their jobs. 

Beef heart offers an abundance of B vitamins that have a cardioprotective effect. Intake of these B vitamins supports healthy blood pressure and cholesterol levels, both keys to heart health.

Hepcidin, a peptide found in beef liver, helps the body absorb and process iron while offering antibacterial properties. Together these factors inhibit the ability of pathogens to adapt to our immune responses. It also fends off bacterial infections.

Naturopathic doctor Ron Schmid points out how modern science is confirming these like-supports-like properties of organ meats on a nose-to-tail diet:

 “Radioisotope labeling studies in animals have shown conclusively that, when eaten, organs and glands selectively travel to the corresponding organs and glands in high concentrations. This research, done at the University of Scotland in Edinburgh, lends credence to the ancient practice of eating animal organs to help ensure health in one’s corresponding organs…” 

2. Increased Energy 

The kidneys, liver,heart, and spleen are loaded with heme iron. This is iron in its most bioavailable form, meaning it’s easily absorbed and used by the body.

This makes nose-to-tail eating especially beneficial for the 10 million Americans struggling with iron deficiency. 

Iron deficiency is often the root cause of chronic fatigue and low energy. Nose-to-tail eating can reverse iron deficiency and restore your energy levels. 

Organ meats are all a fantastic source of coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) which has been shown to boost energy levels.

3. Boosts the Immune System

Nose-to-tail eating provides your body with bioavailable forms of vitamins A, C, D, and K2–all critical vitamins for healthy immune function. 

If your N-to-T diet includes spleen, you’re doing your immune system a particular service. 

In fact, spleen is so potent when it comes to immune support that it’s often offered in extract to people suffering from low white blood cell counts and cancer.

It’s worth noting that if you’re on a carnivore diet  organ meats are one of the only animal based sources of vitamin C. 

4. Promotes Weight Loss 

When you eat nose-to-tail you’re getting significant helpings of the fats found in organ meats. 

These nose-to-tail fats are especially high in the saturated fatty acid called stearic acid. 

Research on stearic acid reveals that it’s associated with improved mitochondrial function, reduced body fat, and increased weight loss.

Nose-to-tail eating also provides your body with a rare compound called Liver Expressed Antimicrobial Peptide (LEAP-2).  LEAP-2 can reduce hunger and weight gain. It also balances blood sugar, especially during periods when your calories are restricted.2 

This makes nose-to-tail eating a fantastic combination with intermittent fasting practices. 

5. Replaces Depleted Nutrients

Most people rely on fruits and vegetables to get their vitamins and minerals. 

What most people don’t know is that plants contain hundreds of plant toxins that can cause inflammation and disease, along with antinutrients that can leach nutrients from your body. 

At the same time, over the last 50 years, the nutrient contents of most fruits and vegetables are in sharp decline.

And if you think multivitamins will fill the void, think again. 

As Dr. Eliseo Guallar, from Johns Hopkins School of Public Health explains that the likelihood that multivitamins have tangible health benefits is “very small — and also we have no clear proof yet of such benefit.”

All these findings confirm what traditional cultures have known since time immemorial: Nose-to-tail eating is the key to providing our bodies with the most bioavailable nutrients in perfect proportions for our health and longevity.  

6. Eating Nose to Tail Helps Balance Out Amino Acids

Muscle meats are high in an essential amino acid called methionine, which can raise homocysteine levels. Homocysteine has been associated with heart disease and cancer.

As an example of nature’s wisdom, the amino acid glycine found in connective tissue is protective against methionine imbalance. At the same time, organ meats are loaded with vitamin B6, vitamin B12, choline, folate, and betaine which support your body’s ability to break down homocysteine.  

One of the best ways to get more glycine is from bone broth. It’s also a great “doorway” nose-to-tail food–providing maximum whole-animal benefits with the least amount of preparation and taste adaptation. 

7. Lower Food Cost

Organ meats are some of the lowest cost meats available. In fact, there’s such a small market for organ meats in America that most of them get exported to other countries or are simply wasted. 

For instance, most pasture-raised ribeye steak comes in at around $17 per pound. But organ meats can range from less than $2 a pound to $10 on the high-end. 

One of the most cost-effective ways to eat nose-to-tail is to buy a share of an animal from a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program. 

Another highly cost-effective way to support nose to tail practices, get its nutrition benefits, and save on time, is by taking organ meat supplements.

8. Less Food Waste

Nearly ⅓ of all the food we produce is trashed before it’s eaten. Not only are the nutrients wasted, but so too are the water and fossil fuels that go into their production. 

Recent research has found that if we increase our consumption of organ meats to only two meals a week, we would reduce global greenhouse gases from livestock from 14.5% to 12.5%.

A couple of percentage points might not sound like a lot. But on a global level, this is huge! It’s a reduction of 994 million metric tonnes of carbon dioxide per year or the equivalent of taking 214 million cars off the road every year. 

These numbers could be even more profound if we choose to source our meat from regenerative farms. In regenerative practices, animals eat grass instead of grain and fertilize the fields with their poop. 

A great example of this is White Oak Pastures in Georgia. For each kilogram of meat the farm produces, they sequester 3.5kg of carbon dioxide in the soil. 

Nose-to-tail For Keto and Carnivore

When going keto and carnivore there’s a tendency to focus on the meats we’re familiar with. These tend to be lean muscle. 

However, the key to a well-formulated keto and carnivore diet is to get enough fat and micronutrients. 

Keep in mind that keto and carnivore are both extremely low-carb diets that switch your body from using carbs for fuel to breaking down fatty acids into energy molecules called ketones. 

This means you’ll need to get around 80% of your total calories from fat! 

Excellent nose-to-tail keto fats include tallow, and lard. While organ meats like liver, kidney, sweetbreads, and beef heart will give your body an abundance of vitamins and minerals. 

And you won’t have to eat much of them to get their benefits. You can treat organ meats like a true multivitamin, consuming only a few ounces each week. 

Nose-to-Tail Shopping List

nose to tail

Nose-to-tail eating means incorporating organ meats and less-common animal parts like liver, bone marrow, and salmon roe

Example Nose-To-Tail Food List

RuminantsPorkPoultryfishseafoodOrgan meatsWild meatsFatEggsDairyFruits and Veggies
Beef 

Bison

Goat

Lamb

All typesChicken

Duck

Goose

Game hen

Turkey

Qual

Pheasant

Salmon

Halibut

Mahi mahi

Trout

Tuna

Cod

Arctic Char

Sardines

Anchovies

Mackerel

Herring

swordfish

Snapper

Walleye

Salmon Roe

Oysters

Shrimp

Prawns

Lobster

Mussels

Scallops

Crab 

Clams

Beef Liver

Chicken liver

Heart

Brain

Kidney

Sweet-

Breads

Pancreas

Tongue

Tripe

Bone Marrow

Testicals

Elk

Venison

Antelope

Bear

Rabbit

Boar

Rattlesnake

Kangaroo

Tallow

Lard

Butter

Ghee

Chicken eggs

Duck eggs

Goose Eggs

Ostrich eggs

Quail Eggs

Butter

Ghee

Cream

Creme Fraiche

Cheese

Full-fat

yogurt

Roots & fruits:

Low-carb berries: blackberries raspberries

strawberries

 

Low-toxin veggies: sweet potatoes potatoes

zucchini

squash

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nose-to-Tail Shopping List 

Food# of MealsLbs per MealTotal lbs to buy
Ribeye Steak212
Pork Belly212
Beef short ribs212
Creme FraichePart of 32 tablespoons per meal1 container
80/20 Ground Bison1.75.75
LiverPart of 2100g per meal200g
Bone MarrowPart of 2100g per meal200g
EggsPart of 3(3 eggs per meal)9 eggs total
Wild Salmon2.51
Oysters2 meals (Part of)3 oysters per meal6

Nose-to-tail 1 Week Sample Meal Plan: 

Day 1Day 2Day 3Day 4Day 5Day 6Day 7
LunchRibeye Steak and EggsEggs and Salmon pan-fried with tallowPork Belly

3 Eggs

8 oz. Pork bellyGround bison with butter and 2 eggs4 scrambled eggs with  tallow and creme fraiche8 oz 

Pork belly 

Dinner3 oz. Beef liver fried in tallow

3 oz Wild salmon baked with creme fraiche

Ground bison fried in tallow

With 3 oz bone marrow

Beef bone marrow and short ribsBeef burger with tallow and raw

Oysters (3)

8 oz wild salmon baked with creme fraicheBeef short ribs with tallow8 oz

Salmon baked with creme fraiche

3 oz liver friend in tallow

Nutrient Analysis of 1 Day of Nose-to-tail Eating

Let’s take a look at the nutrient analysis of all food you’d eat on day #7 of our nose-to-tail menu:

8 oz. Pork Belly8 oz Wild Salmon1 tbsp tallow3 oz Liver2 tbsp 

Creme Fraiche

total% Daily Value
Calories1168422.6115.21691101984.8
Fat120g27.1g12.8g5g11g175.9g
Carbs0005g.5g6g
Protein20.8g45.2g027g.5g93.5g
Vitamins
Vitamin C.8mg00.7mg12mg13.5mg18%
Vitamin A24IU1024IU016899IU125IU18072IU602%%
Vitamin D003.6IU49IU052.6IU6.5%
Vitamin E.8mg3.4mg.3mg.5mg05mg33%
Vitamin K0.7µg03.9µg.4µg5µg5%
Vitamin B1.8mg.4mg0.2mg01.4mg107%
Vitamin B2.8mg.4mg03.4mg04.6mg353%
Vitamin B39.9mg20mg017.5mg047.4mg296%
Vitamin B5.8mg2.3mg06.9mg.2mg10.2mg204%
Vitamin B6.4%.7mg01.0mg02.1mg177%
Choline0010mg418.2mg4.9mg433.1mg86%
Vitamin B121.6µg17µg083.1µg0101.7µg4237%
Minerals
Calcium11mg95mg06mg25mg137mg13.7%
Magnesium8.854mg022mg2.5mg87.3mg22%
Sodium72mg109mg077mg8.1mg266.1mg11.5%
Potassium424mg836mg0351mg32mg1643mg41%
Iron.8mg1.8mg06.2mg08.8mg110%
Copper.6mg0014.6mg015.2mg1013%
Phosphorus248mg470mg0485mg19mg1222mg175%
Selenium18µg70µg032.8µg0.8µg121.6µg221%
Zinc2.4mg1.1mg05.2mg08.7mg87%

Nose-to-Tail Eating: The Bottom Line

Nose-to-tail eating is a nutritional and environmental reckoning. 

It takes into account how our Standard American Diet of processed junk is the root cause of most of our diseases and a key factor in the degradation of our environment. 

Eating nose-to-tail is a way to align ourselves with ancestral ways of eating. It’s no coincidence that whole animals provide all the essential nutrients we need at perfect proportions and in the most bioavailable forms. 

Bon appetit! 

 

 

 

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