Community Philosphy Blog and Library

HOMEGROWN Life: Waste Not, Want Not: Asking Why Scary Bits Get a Bad Wrap






With Halloween steadily approaching, I figure now is as good a time as ever to write about our culture’s odd attitude toward offal.


Earlier this week, GOOD magazine posted a link to an informative graphic illustrating how sausage is made.  With disclaimers from GOOD of the image being “revolting” and “gross,” I clicked to view the picture closer because, already experienced in making sausage myself, I figured I could stomach the diagram (pun intended).  And true – Nary a gag reflex did it trigger.

Such is apparently not the case for the many who have retweeted and reposted links to the illustration saying such things as “disgusting” and “this is why I don’t eat meat.”

The picture depicts horrors such as [gasp] “head meat” and describes blood sausage as being nearly vampire-esque.

So, as someone who loves headcheese, I wonder: Why?  Why would an image that’s essentially a benign cartoon of a food item we’re all familiar with disgust people?  Head, feet, blood, brain, intestines… Isn’t it better to eat all the edible bits of an animal rather than to cast any aside as garbage?  Isn’t that what large populations of people in every other region of the world do?  They find the scary bits appetizing, even delicious.  Why don’t we?

If the thought of eating offal disgusts us, perhaps we Westernized carnivores should pause then and ask ourselves why we feel it is any more acceptable to eat a fast food burger, or a frozen chicken burrito, or our mother’s pork tenderloin.

The industrial food system is quick to overcrowd, torture, and otherwise deny intrinsic comforts to billions of animals – all because consumers are so accustomed to eating meat frequently, eating it cheaply, and only eating the bits that don’t freak them out. …but that doesn’t make popular animal parts any less gross.

This Halloween, I urge any of you timid carnivores to face your fears.  Order tripe soup or a cow’s head torta at your local Mexican restaurant.  Try the seared beef tongue at the town Japanese grill.  Dine-in at that fancy establishment down the block and become pleasantly surprised to learn that sweetbreads aren’t bread.  Be brave with your meals, for offal is an enjoyable edible you do not want to hide from, and we can’t afford to waste.

Yellow Tree Farm’s web site:

Danielle Leszcz, Yellowtree Farm

“I’m half of YellowTree Farm, an urban homestead that I founded with my husband in late 2008. Together, my husband and I grow vegetables and raise animals on less than 1/10 of an acre in St. Louis, Missouri. We speak publicly about urban farming, sew, and make our own toiletries.  I don’t have children. I have animals, which is kind of the same thing as being a parent, except I eat my babies.”

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4 Responses to “HOMEGROWN Life: Waste Not, Want Not: Asking Why Scary Bits Get a Bad Wrap”

  1. What a great post, thanks! I think it’s one of the triumphs of the industrial food system to get people to respond with “Gross!” when seeing a meat or animal product they are unfamiliar with. The more people think about the process of how the animal became the meat on their plate, the more likely the are to think about other aspects of the mechanized meat making machine, and the more apt they’ll be to turn away from the corporate system and towards sustainable, organic meats.

  2. To add to what John said – the more the industrial food complex gets us to think parts are gross, the more animals they sell because so much is wasted.

    I like to feed my dogs and cats raw food. Feeding them offal is the most cost effective way to do this and it amazes me just how difficult it is to source it.

  3. It’s sad that the feedlot/supermarket concept has alienated us from the tastiest bits of our domesticated friends. We’re all so used to shrink-wrapped hunks of protein product that we forget we’re eating animals.

    I’d rather eat a slice of liver than a chicken mcnugget, any day. What’s nice about living here in Portland is that I always have that option.

    Maybe not liver. Liver hasn’t really broken into the food cart culture yet. But you get the idea.

  4. Here is a great Facebook page for offal. this guy is on food channel quit a bit.
    Dave Brannen

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