What is Offal

by John Staughton (BASc, BFA) last updated -

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Eating offal is a common practice in many cultures, but is considered taboo in others, yet it does possess a number of impressive health benefits.

What is Offal?

Offal is one of the names of the entrails and internal organs of an animal. While the common forms of meat include the muscle tissue of animals, such as chickens, cows, and pigs, this term refers to the liver, heart, brain, head, and a variety of other parts of the animal. Other common terms for this food include variety meats and organ meats.

In some parts of the world, and in different culinary traditions, it is considered as essential, or even as a delicacy, while other cultures refuse to eat any of the organs of an animal. There is no firm definition or list of offal, and the term is loosely applied to many food parts that are considered extra or left over, including in the agricultural context. However, as some cultures around the world understand, these extra parts can have an impressive range of health benefits, when prepared safely and properly.

Offal on a wooden board, with peppercorns, halved onion, and herbs

Offal is probably the most overlooked cut of meat. Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Types of Offal

The most common types of offal include the following:

  • Brains
  • Heart
  • Kidney
  • Liver
  • Sweetbreads
  • Tripe
  • Tongue
  • Liverwurst
  • Heart
  • Kidney
  • Testicles

Offal Health Benefits

The most impressive health benefits of this food include its ability to do the following:

  • Reduce inflammation
  • Boost fertility
  • Protect against anemia
  • Increase metabolic function
  • Boost bone health
  • Improve heart health

There is a high level of minerals and vitamins including vitamin A in certain types of organs, which can help to prevent iron deficiency and will improve overall bone health. The B vitamins found in these discarded animal parts will also help to regulate your metabolism and optimize bodily processes.

Some organs, such as the heart, may have very high levels of CoQ10, which is a naturally occurring antioxidant that protects heart health in a variety of ways. Finally, eating offal is known to boost circulation and fertility, and protect against neural tube defects when eaten by pregnant women.

Offal Side Effects

There are precautions that should be taken with this kind of meat, such as eating it in moderation and knowing the source of all offal.

  • Vitamin A Toxicity: Depending on the type of variety meat you are eating, it may have incredibly high levels of vitamin A, which can lead to vitamin A toxicity, and a range of unwanted side effects. Eating in moderation is very important when it comes to this.
  • Heavy Metals: Eating certain organs, particularly the liver of some animals, could expose you to high levels of heavy metals. These can be very dangerous in the body, so be sure you know the source and reputation of any offal you choose to prepare.
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About the Author

John Staughton is a traveling writer, editor, publisher and photographer with English and Integrative Biology degrees from the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana (USA). He co-founded the literary journal, Sheriff Nottingham, and now serves as the Content Director for Stain’d Arts, a non-profit based in Denver, Colorado. On a perpetual journey towards the idea of home, he uses words to educate, inspire, uplift and evolve.

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