Thursday, March 24, 2011

What Does Organ Meat Have That A Good Ol' Steak Does Not?

Liver, kidneys, heart, lungs … how do you feel about these things? Yuck, right?

Well, where I come from, nothing got wasted. Very little of a slaughtered animal didn't make it onto the plate. Lung chowder, stewed brains, kidney stew, tripe soup, boiled tongue (smoked or plain), can't even count liver dishes … are you hungry yet? :-)

To you, of course, this probably sounds like menu from the Fear Factor.

How does it sound to your dog? Yummy!

Beef kidney
Even the picky eater that Jasmine is, she loves her organ meats. 

Tongue is her favorite, followed by kidneys. Heart and liver she likes best as jerky. And I can't forget the special treat – green tripe.

Because I ate them all, I can tell you that organ meats offer a broad range of flavors. But how about nutritional value?

Organ meats are actually highly nutritious. 

They are an affordable source of quality protein and they are rich vitamins.

Compared with muscle meats, organ meats are richer in just about every nutrient, including vitamin A, B vitamins (B1, B2, B6, folic acid and especially vitamin B12), minerals such as iron, phosphorus, copper, magnesium and more.

Check out this comparison of ground beef, beef liver and beef kidney. 
(values for 1oz of raw product, source: SELF Nutrition Data)

Ground Beef
5.4 g
5.7 g
4.9 g
Vit A
4732 IU
395 IU
Vit D
4.5 IU
9 IU
Vit E
0.1 mg
0.1 mg
0.05 mg
0.1 mg
0.1 mg
0.8 mg
0.8 mg
1.3 mg
3.7 mg
2.3 mg
Pantothenic acid
0.2 mg
2.0 mg
1.12 mg
0.1 mg
0.3 mg
0.2 mg
Folic Acid
1.7 mcg
81.2 mcg
27.75 mcg
18.9 mg
93.3 mg
0.6 mcg
16.6 mcg
7.8 mcg
3.4 mg
1.4 mg
3.8 mg
49.0 mg
108 mg
72.5 mg
80.9 mg
87.6 mg
73.5 mg
19.0 mg
19.3 mg
51.5 mg
5.3 mg
5.0 mg
4.8 mg
0.6 mg
1.4 mg
1.3 mg
2.7 mg
0.1 mg
0.1 mg
0.05 mg
1.3 mg
1.1 mg
0.55 mg
4.0 mcg
11.1 mcg
38.8 mcg

Liver is not just an excellent source of protein but also a source of Vitamin A, several B vitamins, iron, folic acid, copper and even CoQ10.
(source: The skinny on organ meats)

Heart is high in vitamin B12, iron and potassium and is a source of selenium, phosphorus and zinc. Heart is also a concentrated source of  CoQ10.

Kidneys are  rich in vitamin B12, riboflavin and iron, and a source of B6, folic acid and niacin.

Tongue is a good source of B-complex vitamins, particularly B12.

Would a dog in a wild eat organ meats? You betcha!

Be aware of nutritional values when incorporating organ meats into your dog's diet.  It is easy to create an imbalanced diet if you rely too heavily on any one organ meat.

Take a look at liver, for example. It is extremely high is phosphorous but quite a poor source of calcium. Given enough time, a diet that is too rich in liver will cause significant health problems in part because of this unhealthy calcium to phosphorous ratio, in part because of the high levels of vitamin A.

Does your dog get to feast on organ meats?

It's your dog's health,

Related articles:
Feeding Your Dog: Commercial or Home-cooked?
Dog Nutrition And Proteins: The Building Blocks of Life
Dog Nutrition and Carbohydrates: The Essential Non-Essentials 
I Want Some Bacon! Fat In Dog Nutrition
Nothing Fishy About Omega-3 Fatty Acids 
Do I Have To Eat My Vegetables? Vitamins In Dog Nutrition 
Rock Foundation: Minerals In Dog Nutrition
Nutrition and Dog Arthritis


  1. Good to know. Hart, liver and kidneys are easy to get your hands on in "human quality". And they are cheap too.

  2. Yes, these things are quite affordable. Our farmer gives those free with order of meat. He gives hearts, kidneys, liver, tongues, soup bones ...

    With liver it is important to keep in mind the high content of vitamin A and feed liver in moderation.

  3. Good for your dog and inexpensive, almost down right free in some cases - what more to love! How about some holistic vets suggest feeding certain organs to help support the organs of the body? Such as, if your dog has liver dysfunction then it should eat more liver. Not sure of the scientific validity in this but it does go with the homeopathic philosophy of like treats like.

    Good article Jana!

  4. Jersey get a lot of organ meat when I run out of venison. Mostly chicken hearts and livers with the odd batch of gizzards thrown in.

  5. I give the boys organ meat sometimes, I really should do it more, but it kind of grosses me out.
    After reading your article and the nutritional value in them, I will get over the gross factor!

  6. In a whole-prey-model raw diet, organs are 10%, with liver comprising about half of that, so 5% of total diet. I feed 1-2 oz of organs per day, more or less.

    I find the easiest way to do it is to cube the fresh organs in 1-2 oz chunks, flash freeze them, and then bag 'em. I then pull a frozen organ-sicle out for each pup once a day, rinse it to get the ice-stickyness off, and put it in their dinner.

    Some organs have STRONG, unpleasant scents (kidney, I'm looking at you) and only dealing with the full strength fresh scent every few months is nice.

    Heart is supposed to be fed as a "meaty meat," not as organ specifically. Same with tongue. (And gizzards. And tripe. And lung.) Knowing the nutritive facts about them is valuable, but just mentioning this to keep it in perspective. I like to feed heart as often as I can; it's lovely, isn't it?

    Oh, and also, just FYI, anytime you buy chicken where the back has been split, you will also usually get at least a portion of the kidneys, squashed up into the spine. Other organs to feed as organs, besides liver, are the pancreas, thymus, spleen, and if you can get 'em, eyeballs, testicles, uterus, and brains too. Plus kidneys--any gland/organ you can get your hands on that isn't liver or a muscle-organ. ("Sweetbreads" are usually pancreas and/or thymus. I only buy this on sale.)

    Liver seems to be a popular treat when dried, but liver needs to be fed sparingly! Especially dogs who get food with vitamins added--they already get the recommended vitamin A! When you dry liver, 1 oz of dried liver is MUCH more vitamin A than 1 oz of fresh liver! I think that dried muscle meat, even if it's a meaty organ like heart, is a much better idea than dried liver.

    Another "food group" of note is the stuff that isn't bone, isn't meat, and isn't organ. Cartilage! Trachea/esophagus, tendons, ears, snouts, and lower legs (of SOME animals--others have bones too dense, like large grazing herbivores.) Chicken or duck feet are good, as are beef penises, although I can't find those fresh, only dried ("pizzles.") Pig trotters are also good, although I wouldn't feed legs of animals bigger than pigs, lamb, or goat. Also beware of sawed bones--sharp edges.

    Anyways, Jana, I know I'm not telling you much you don't know, as always, but I do enjoy writing once I get going. I could write a huge essay on what I feed and why *G*

    Oh and also, you lucky duck! Free organs?? I'm so jealous.

  7. all the reading Mom has done tells her the Heart is actually fed as a muscle meat...not organ meat. Is that incorrect?

    wags, wiggles & slobbers

  8. Hi Murphy.

    Well, it is arguable, since the heart for example is both an organ and a muscle. The nutritional value of these also is different from muscle meat.

    Here is a definition from The Free Medical Dictionary:

    "nonmeat edible products from animal slaughter. Includes brains, thymus, pancreas, liver, heart, kidney, tripes, sausage casings, chitterlings, crackling rind."

  9. Dear Dr. Dan

    Yes, I read about that, feeding specific organs for therapeutic purposes.

  10. Dear Jen.

    Yes, most people today find it gross, at least around here. For me it's normal, I grew up on that stuff. I think once you get over the prejudice, you'd find that when prepared right it can be a culinary delight for people also :-)

  11. Dear Serissime.

    Thank you for your great contribution!

    Yes, that's the formula for the whole-prey-model raw diet.

    Yes, heart, tongue etc can be fed as muscle meat, though the nutrient values are not exactly the same as muscle meat.

  12. Not only organ meats but raw bones are also good for dogs. Marrow bones are yummy to dogs and they helps cleaning your dog's teeth. Great post!!

  13. Jen, eggs, fish and many vegetables stink too :-)

  14. Good point Jana! See I never thought about that. I feed them fish all the time, even though I am not a fan of it.
    I will give this a try. Do you personally feed organ meats on a daily basis?

  15. I feed a small portion of liver on a daily basis, as it is part of Jasmine's recipe. Other organ meats over time, depending on availability. I do use heart or tongue instead of muscle meat sometimes. Kidney with moderation every now and then.

  16. I've recently started feeding chicken liver and hearts to Rufus and Georgia. Usually boiled, sometimes baked (which ends up more treat-like). Either way, they really smell to prepare! Some of the other bits you mention like tongue, lungs and brain - I never even considered. Interesting :) I wonder if my nose will be up to cooking them! Thanks for the info, Jana.

  17. Hi Georgia. The tongue and hearts smell most closely to muscle meat. The tongue, once peeled is actually really yummy. (to peel easily shock with cold water right after done cooking, peels easily)

    On the upside, I'd say that liver and kidneys are the stinkiest :-)

  18. For some strange reason, the boiled hearts really got to me last week. Especially the stock. I've been cooking them for at least 5-6 weeks, so it was quite unexpected. I actually gagged. It's not going to stop me cooking more though :p PEEL the tongue. Okay. That sounds like a new trick to learn!

  19. I love your dedication! :-) Maybe try them in the oven then, might make it easier on you.

    Well, you don't HAVE to peel the tongue, but the skin is quite tough and nasty, so I do peel it. My mom and granny always peeled it, otherwise people could not eat it :-)

  20. Thanks for the info! Can you get organ meat at a grocery store or do you have to find a butcher/farmer/rancher?

  21. Hi Lindsay, yes, they do have some of them in the grocery store. Liver - usually; kidney and hearts - sometimes. Getting it from a butcher/farmer from organically grown animals is best though. Also comes cheaper.

  22. We're lucky - our butcher too saves all these little tidbits for us and gives them to us with our regular meat orders. The boys LOVE it and start freaking out as soon as they can smell it cooking.

  23. Hi Jana,
    I just bought some beef liver and I was wondering if you have any suggestions on how to prepare it for the dogs? Raw? boiled? I will be mixing it in with their regular kibble and will be feeding it in moderation.

  24. I just cut it up into small peaces and cook quickly in a bit of water (like frying, except with water). You don't want to cook liver too much (works kind of like egg yolks, if overcooked, isn't very tasty). So just quick "stir-fried" in water instead of in oil.

  25. I am glad you posted this! This is precisely why we started Riddick's by utilizing liver from alternative protein sources for our Dog Jerky! We currently use bison, venison and beef liver as our starting point and we did it solely to use as a preservative free, filler free and highly nutritious treat.

    Thanks for the great read!

  26. Your treats sound and look yummy! We make our own jerky; we use beef, beef heart or beef liver alternatively. Such treats are very popular.

  27. can u tell me the ratio to feed ????a new mommy and have a pup for the first time ...a 4 months old irish setter i give him already ground beef liver and kidney with boiled rice or broken wheat with lentils and meat with whatever veg i have at home mostly potatoes carrots tomato potatoes n peas...i boild meat n veg together and rice/wheat n lentils together and then mix with the stock n meat n give

    1. Particularly with a new mommy and a pup I'd want to have a nutritionist or a holistic vet formulate the recipe, or you can check out Dr. Becker's Real Food for Dogs and Cats.