The What and Why of Organ Meat

The What and Why of Organ Meat

Posted By: Ockert Cameron Published: 21/06/2018 Times Read: 629 Comments: 0

When we think of organ meat, most of us scoff at the thought of offal and / or meat by-products. In today's’ convenience society, traditional dishes are no longer served such as tripe, and as a result, pet parents no longer consume organ meat as part of our primary diet. However, for our pets, organ meat is not only good, but it also very beneficial to their health.

With today’s farming methods, meat and bone can be lacking in many important nutrients as well. Therefore, it is important to food your mutts, pups and nobles all the organs and all the parts of an animal that they would eat had they tracked and killed that animal in the wild when you make your own meals. Or alternatively, use herbs as a natural substitute. Dogs are after all facultative carnivores. Organs are also good as treats and top-ups with full meals.

Of course, today’s dogs no longer hunt, however, as facultative carnivores, it means they eat meat (or should be!). Dogs are also opportunistic scavengers and have been since the beginning of their species. If not hunting, a dog in the wild could find a dead animal carcass and will scavenge all sorts of things including meat, bone, stomach contents, and organ (offal). In fact, the dog often goes for the soft meaty bits and organs first. They may do this because they are easily accessible, but it could also be because the organ meat provides some of highest levels of essential nutrients for the dog.

Organ meat provides several essential B vitamins including B12, B1, B2, B5, B6, as well as biotin and choline. It also contains Vitamin A, C, D, E, and K as well as omega fatty acids and minerals. All these vitamins offer the optimal nutrition for mutts, pups and nobles. Perhaps most importantly, organ meat is a wonderful source of protein.

Some raw fooding philosophies call for 5% of the diet to be liver and 5% of the diet to be other secreting organ(s). However, balance over time is the driving principle when considering real food diets, and as such, organ does not have to form part of the daily allowance. Our observation and recommendation are that the 5% / 5% rule is not foolproof, and just because you feed 5% liver, 5% other organ does not mean you are not feeding an excess or deficiency of certain nutrients. Balance over time.

As a reminder, food as organ:

  • Liver
  • Kidney
  • Spleen
  • Brain and Sweetbreads
  • Testicles

Food as meat (muscle):

  • Heart
  • Gizzards
  • Tongue
  • Lung and Trachea
  • Green Tripe

Let’s look at the different organ meats and what they can provide as part of the diet.

  • Heart – selenium, zinc, thiamine, co-enzyme Q10, phosphorus, folate and B vitamins;
  • Liver – vitamin A, iron, copper, co-enzyme Q10, B vitamins and folic acid;
  • Brain – DHA, vitamin B12, vitamin A, phosphorus, potassium, selenium and calcium;
  • Kidneys – Vitamin B12, B6, iron, riboflavin, niacin and folate;
  • Pancreas – Vitamin C, thiamine, folate, niacin, calcium, iron, magnesium and selenium;
  • Thymus – Vitamin C, B vitamins, magnesium, calcium, phosphorus and selenium;
  • Tripe – folate, choline, potassium, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus and selenium;
  • Tongue – B vitamins, vitamin C, potassium, phosphorus, selenium, zinc, calcium and iron;
  • Lungs – vitamin A, C and B, potassium, phosphorus, selenium, magnesium, iron and calcium;
  • Testicles – potassium and iron.

Liver as part of the diet

Liver is rich in many different vitamins and fatty acids. One of the most notable differences between liver and other organs is the vitamin A content. Liver is jam packed with vitamin A, while other organs are not. Vitamin A is one of only two vitamins which are possible to overdose on if given in excessive quantities, and vitamin A toxicosis can cause severe health issues [Ref].

However, before sparking a panic, the toxicity level of vitamin A is extremely high [Ref], and you would need to feed excessive liver for months or even years before the dog began to show symptoms of vitamin A toxicity. Still, it is very easy to end up with an extremely high amount of vitamin A when feeding liver as the entire 10% organ content.

Occasionally including liver in the diet promotes health for the digestive system and the coat, as well as essential vitamin content needed to sustain health overall.

Kidney as part of the diet

Like liver, kidneys provider a wide range of vitamins:

  • Vitamin A
  • Vitamin E
  • Vitamin K
  • Vitamin B12
  • Iron
  • Zinc

Kidney provides some similar benefits as liver, but with the added benefit of vitamins like zinc and iron. Kidney is also a great source of essential fatty acids which can help maintain a healthy skin and coat, and digestive system.

Benefits of Adding Organ Meats to the diet

Adding organ meats to your own and your pets’ diet has several benefits:

  • Excellent source of iron: Meat contains heme iron, which is highly bioavailable, so it's better absorbed by the body than non-heme iron from plant foods [Ref].
  • Keeps you fuller for longer: Many studies have shown that high-protein diets can reduce appetite and increase feelings of fullness. They may also promote weight loss by increasing your metabolic rate [Ref].
  • May help retain muscle mass: Organ meats are a source of high-quality protein, which is important for building and retaining muscle mass [Ref].
  • Great source of choline: Organ meats are among the world's best sources of choline, which is an essential nutrient for brain, muscle and liver health that many people don't get enough of [Ref].

When not to feed organ meat?

There are some medical conditions that require a specific diet, and organ meat would not be appropriate for mutts, pups and nobles with those conditions.

If your dog is not eating organ meat, you must supplement the diet to make up for the nutrients that organ meat would otherwise provide in a raw diet – otherwise, the diet will be severely deficient in many important vitamins and minerals. The nutrients you will have to supplement and in what quantities will depend on your dog’s condition and what the rest of the diet consists of. We supply two herbal and one commercial supplement for this purpose.

Kidney disease

Organ meat is very high in phosphorus, which means it is not appropriate for dogs with kidney disease because damaged kidneys don’t efficiently metabolize phosphorus. This will result in high phosphorus in the blood, which can cause calcium to be pulled from the bones.

Hyperuricosuria

Dalmatians with hyperuricosuria, a genetic condition that affects the metabolism of protein waste products, should avoid foods high in purines. This is because their condition prohibits the body from properly breaking down purines into uric acid and then into allantoin, resulting in a build-up of uric acid waste products, which can cause urate stones. Urate stones can form urinary blockages; they are very painful and can even result in death if not treated. Since organ meat is high in purines, Dalmatians with this condition should generally not be fed organ meats.

Copper storage hepatopathy

Liver is also high in copper, thus dogs with copper storage liver disease should not be fed liver because of their accumulation of copper in the liver. However, there are low copper organ meat choices which may be able to be fed sparingly (and careful measurement), such as chicken liver, turkey liver, or pork liver. Beef liver, duck liver, and lamb liver all contain high levels of copper and should be avoided completely.

I don’t want to use organs, what about herbs?

Not to stress. Unlike synthetic vitamins and minerals, whole foods and herbs provide essential nutrients complete with the cofactors and phytonutrients they need to make a healthy change in your dog. We discuss some of the herbal options available to you. Now, key to remember that vitamins are divided into two categories: water soluble and fat soluble.

The fat-soluble vitamins include vitamins A, D, E and K. Fat soluble vitamins are stored in the body tissues, and if your dog’s gets too much of a fat-soluble vitamin, a vitamin excess can accumulate over time.

The water-soluble vitamins are the B vitamins and vitamin C. These vitamins aren’t stored in the body like the fat-soluble vitamins, so they should typically be in the diet every day. If excess water-soluble vitamins are fed, the body will take what it needs, and the kidneys will excrete the rest in the urine. This doesn’t mean excesses will never happen, but they are much less likely in water soluble vitamins.

Vitamin A

Vitamin A is fat soluble and can accumulate in the body over time (our discussion about excess liver in the diet). It’s hard to get vitamin A toxicity from food, but don’t add a lot of foods rich in vitamin A if you are fooding a pre-made raw food that has added vitamin A.

Herbal sources include alfalfa, borage leaves, burdock root, cayenne, chickweed, eyebright, fennel seed, hops, horsetail, kelp, lemongrass, mullein, nettle, oat straw, paprika, parsley, peppermint, plantain, raspberry leaves, red clover, rose hips, sage, uva ursi, violet leaves, watercress, yellow dock (list not exhaustive).

Vitamin B1 (Thiamine)

Herbal sources include alfalfa, bladder wrack, burdock root, catnip, cayenne, chamomile, chickweed, eyebright, fennel seed, fenugreek, hops, nettle, oat straw, parsley, peppermint, raspberry leaves, red clover, rose hips, sage, yarrow, and yellow dock (list not exhaustive).

Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin)

Herbal sources include alfalfa, bladder wrack, burdock root, catnip, cayenne, chamomile, chickweed, eyebright, fennel seed, fenugreek, ginseng, hops, horsetail, mullein, nettle, oat straw, parsley, peppermint, raspberry leaves, red clover, rose hips, sage, yellow dock (list not exhaustive).

Vitamin B3 (Niacin)

Herbal sources include alfalfa, burdock root, catnip, cayenne, chamomile, chickweed, eyebright, fennel seed, hops, licorice, mullein, nettle, oat straw, parsley, peppermint, raspberry leaf, red clover, rose hips, slippery elm, yellow dock (list not exhaustive).

Vitamin B5 (Pantothenic Acid)

Herbal sources include alfalfa, burdock root, nettle, yellow dock (list not exhaustive).

Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine)

Herbal sources include alfalfa, catnip, oat straw (list not exhaustive).

Vitamin B9 (Folate, Folic Acid)

Herbal sources include rosemary, dandelion, parsley, spirulina (list not exhaustive).

Vitamin B12 (Cyanocobalamin)

Herbal sources include alfalfa, bladder wrack, hops (list not exhaustive).

Vitamin C (Ascorbic Acid)

Herbal sources include alfalfa, burdock root, cayenne, chickweed, eyebright, fennel seed, fenugreek, hops, horsetail, kelp, peppermint, mullein, nettle, oat straw, paprika, parsley, pine needle, plantain, raspberry leaf, red clover, rose hips, skullcap, violet leaves, yarrow, yellow dock (list not exhaustive).

Vitamin D

Our pets cannot manufacture vitamin D from sunshine like pet parents can, so they need to get it from their diet. If you feed home-prepared raw, unless your meat is from grass-fed animals or you feed pastured eggs, you’ll need to add fish or supplement with fish oil for your dog to get enough vitamin D. But be careful if you are fooding a pre-made raw diet as some have added vitamin D (or D3) already.

Herbal sources include alfalfa, horsetail, nettle, parsley (list not exhaustive).

Vitamin E

Vitamin E is not easily absorbed and less than half the amount in food is available to the body. Grass-fed meats are about four times higher in vitamin E than grain-fed.

Herbal sources include alfalfa, bladder wrack, dandelion, flaxseed, nettle, oat straw, raspberry leaf, rose hips (list not exhaustive).

Vitamin K

Herbal sources include alfalfa, green tea, kelp, nettle, oat straw, shepherds’ purse (list not exhaustive).

Minerals

Like vitamins, minerals can also be obtained through herbs. Minerals builds and protects bones and teeth. Minerals also helps maintain regular heartbeat and prevents muscle cramping.

Calcium

Herbal sources include alfalfa, burdock root, cayenne, chamomile, chickweed, chicory, dandelion, eyebright, fennel seed, fenugreek, flaxseed, hops, horsetail, kelp, lemongrass, mullein, nettle, oat straw, paprika, parsley, peppermint, plantain, raspberry leaf, red clover, rose hips, shepherd’s purse, violet leaves, yarrow, yellow dock. (list not exhaustive).

Copper

Herbal sources include sheep sorrel (list not exhaustive).

Iodine

Herbal sources include calendula, tarragon leaves, turkey rhubarb (list not exhaustive).

Iron

Herbal sources include alfalfa, burdock root, catnip, cayenne, chamomile, chickweed, chicory, dandelion, eyebright, fennel seed, fenugreek, horsetail, kelp, lemongrass, licorice, milk thistle seed, mullein, nettle, oat straw, paprika, parsley, peppermint, plantain, raspberry leaf, rose hips, sarsaparilla, shepherd’s purse, uva ursi, yellow dock (list not exhaustive).

Magnesium

Herbal sources include alfalfa, bladder wrack, catnip, cayenne, chamomile, chickweed, dandelion, eyebright, fennel, fenugreek, hops, horsetail, lemongrass, licorice, mullein, nettle, oat straw, paprika, parsley, peppermint, raspberry leaf, red clover, sage, shepherd’s purse, yarrow, yellow dock. (list not exhaustive).

Manganese

Manganese is a very important mineral for ligament and tendon strength because it activates the enzymes that build collagen. If your pet tends to get tendon or ligament injuries (like cruciate tears), he or she may be manganese deficient.

Herbal sources include alfalfa, burdock root, catnip, chamomile, chickweed, dandelion, eyebright, fennel seed, fenugreek, ginseng, hops, horsetail, lemongrass, mullein, parsley, peppermint, raspberry leaf, red clover, rose hip, wild yam, yarrow, yellow dock (list not exhaustive).

Phosphorus

Herbal sources include burdock root, turkey rhubarb, slippery elm bark (list not exhaustive).

Potassium

Herbal sources include catnip, hops, horsetail, nettle, plantain, red clover, sage, skullcap (list not exhaustive).

Selenium

Herbal sources include alfalfa, burdock root, catnip, cayenne, chamomile, chickweed, fennel seed, ginseng, garlic, hawthorn berry, horsetail, lemongrass, milk thistle nettle, oat straw, parsley, peppermint, raspberry leaf, rose hips, sarsaparilla, uva ursi, yarrow, yellow dock (list not exhaustive).

Zinc

Herbal sources include alfalfa, burdock root, cayenne, chamomile, chickweed, dandelion, eyebright, fennel seed, hops, milk thistle, mullein, nettle, parsley, rose hips, sage, sarsaparilla, skullcap, wild yam (list not exhaustive).

In summary, before spending money on supplements, make sure you try whole foods first for your pack. They may prove to be the solution your mutts, pups and noble’s needs. If whole foods do not provide enough support, then find the best herbal or organ supplement for your pack.

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