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Cheap meats and eating offal

The vegan and vegetarian movements are without doubt increasing in pace and volume. But there is still a large proportion of us who include animals in our diet in some form or another. And whether you are a proud carnivore, morally conflicted, or an occasional steak dabbler, it’s time to broaden our approach and open our minds to eating some of the lesser-known cuts.  

In the UK, we have become increasingly detached from what we eat, and often don’t make the connection between a nice, clean packet of meat, and the live animal it came from. Conversely, when we see animals in real life, it’s hard to imagine that living and breathing thing as something we’re going to have killed to cook and eat. 

This is not the case for much of the world. For communities that are still heavily involved in farming, especially in poorer regions where choice is less of an option, animals are definitely seen as food, and not only the popular cuts – the entire animal. 

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Use a carcass to make a spicy Asian soup. 

Most meat eaters do eat offal, but in a disguised form such as sausages. We know this, and yet most of us are still very reluctant to buy and cook offal in its raw form. Maybe it’s because eating offal, which is hard to disguise as anything else, makes that link between animal and food a little too graphic for us to stomach. The simple fact is if we eat every bit of the animal, less will be wasted. And not only that, but buying all parts of an animal gives more value to it, which makes rearing them via slower, less-intensive methods more commercially viable. 

Due to its relative unpopularity, offal is also a much more affordable way of eating meat. Creating meals out of offcuts and carcasses is a seriously efficient and economical way of managing your food budget. And it’s a brilliant chance to get to know your local butcher. You can ask questions directly about where the animals were raised and give your own feedback on what you buy – ask them for carcasses or recommendations for offal and they should be more than happy to help.

Eating the entire animal is a no-brainer (ironically also a yes-brainer). Not only are the cheaper cuts of meat delicious when cooked correctly, offal is also full of really good and healthy stuff. Liver in particular is full of vitamins and nutrients that can complement an otherwise plant-led diet excellently. 

From nose to tail

Try cooking liver with onion and wild mushrooms, blitzing in a food processor and serving as homemade pâté on toast. 

Kidney, as well as liver, can be simply fried and eaten exactly as it is. Kidneys are quite intense in flavour, so if this is a bit much for you, why not try sweetbreads (the thymus glands or occasionally the pancreas of young cattle or lamb). Cooked to be crispy on the outside, they are absolutely delicious. 

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Turn livers into homemade pâtés.

Bone broths are super simple to make and are a brilliant way of extracting nutrients from carcasses. Next time you have a roast chicken, try boiling the carcass and bones with vegetable scraps and loads of dried herbs to make a delicious and low-cost soup. Get really creative and make a ramen broth, with pork bones and a few ingredients, such as miso pastes and spice blends, and you’ll have something that is ten times tastier than shop bought. 

For some reason we don’t mind buying whole fish, but few of us actually use the whole thing. Make a simple fish stock with the heads and bones and use as the base for soups, chowders and sauces. Roasted crab and lobster shells make absolutely beautiful bisques – roast in the oven, then combine with gently sauteed onion, garlic and celery, tomatoes, white wine, tabasco and cream. 

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Bone broths are a good way to extract nutrients. 

There is so much flavour and nutrition locked up in bones and offal that we would normally discard. By addressing this, we not only become better cooks and create less waste, but we also begin to become more thoughtful and conscientious consumers.

This article was initially published in the latest print issue of Wicked Leeks. You can read the full magazine online and for free via Issuu.

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Comments

Gareth Lawrence

7 Months 2 Weeks

This is a very good article. My problem is the apart from selling chicken caresses, chicken livers and sausages. Riverford does not offer for sale other offal. What about lamb's liver, Carves' liver, pigs' kidneys or ( my breakfast favourite) Black Pudding)?

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Comments Editor

7 Months 2 Weeks

Hi Gareth, Riverford do stock other organic offal at intervals throughout the year, so please do keep checking in on their website for availability https://www.riverford.co.uk/recipes/meat-and-poultry

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Jacqueline@jhillassociates.co.uk

7 Months 2 Weeks

... and meat from older and 'retired' animals such as mutton and retired dairy beef. :)

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Katharine

7 Months 1 Week

Couldn't agree more with the article and the comments of the two posters above.

We buy carcass and livers whenever possible from Riverford along with your fantastic sausages and venison and get tremendous value out of them – we would really like to see more variety of offal and frugal cuts such as mutton neck and oxtail which are cheap and delicious and much missed. Black pudding yes! Also haggis!

Coombe Farm have superb variety – chicken feet, pigs' ears, hearts, necks, cheeks, trotters – and sell retired dairy beef, goat and game too, but they are often pricy, and the packaging and delivery are not too sustainable which gives real pause for thought. Peelham Farm have a good solid range at good prices but, again, the packaging isn't reclaimed or reused and it piles up. Sorry to talk about competitors on your page but the fact is if we want offal, cheap cuts and meat from older/retired animals, which are at the heart (ha, ha) of sustainable meat-eating, we have to go searching for it elsewhere at the mo, and it seems just a real pity it's not available from Riverford.

Appreciated though it's hard to predict the offal market and you're already working wonders.

Please, when possible, could you/would you consider introducing a small £40–£55 frozen offal-and-offcuts box? Our household at least will take whatever you offer and try anything at least three times before dismissing it. I'm looking forward to our dimsum-style chicken feet (not alas from Riverford) and will take pride in prepping them for a weekend treat.

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Comments Editor

7 Months 1 Week

Hi Katharine, thanks for all your feedback. We checked in with the team at Riverford, who unfortunately aren't able to add the type of box suggested to their product range, but asked us to thank you for the suggestion.

1 Reply

Katharine

7 Months 1 Week

See my reply below – not sure what happened, but it has started a new comment instead of attaching here.

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Katharine

7 Months 1 Week

Thanks for your reply. Funny: I think of 'Wicked Leeks' as Riverford, but your answer suggests that the two are quite different organisations.

It's a pity not to have the offal, when there is so much other good meat available through Riverford, but I'll keep an eye open for any super-sustainable cuts they may decide to offer in future. Meanwhile, as the article says, eating offal and less popular animal parts is "a brilliant chance to get to know your local butcher" ... ours doesn't stock organic or guaranteed free-range meat so this is my wake-up call to buy more offal online and put what pressure on I can to ask for more recyclable packaging options.

As that will take a few trial orders from here and there, I'll also ask Riverford whether they would like a boxful or two of the same kind of sheeps' wool insulation material that they use, sent along with my empty vegboxes!

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Comments Editor

7 Months

Hi Katharine, Wicked Leeks is the magazine for sustainable food and ethical business, published by Riverford, but editorially independent so we can cover a broad range of voices and topics. if you have queries, suggestions or feedback you'd like to share directly with Riverford, you are welcome to email the team at help@riverford.co.uk

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