Is Nose to Tail Eating Sustainable?

nose to tail
Photo: CC0 Public Domain / Pixabay - Platus

The idea behind nose-to-tail eating is to show respect and gratitude to an animal killed for food by making use of as many body parts as possible, instead of letting them go to waste. We’ll look at how this works and why even this approach remains ecologically problematic.

What Does Nose-to-Tail Mean?

Supporters of the nose-to-tail concept emphasize that we should use as many parts of an animal as possible — preferably from “head to tail”. However, many American meat-eaters are conditioned to only want the noble parts of animals such as loin, leg, or back. 

According to David Beriss, President of the Society for the Anthropology of Food and Nutrition, steak has become the symbol of American success. Unlike earlier generations, Americans today don’t typically think of offal as something you have to eat if you can afford better, and many don’t even know that certain organs are edible at all.

Nowadays, it’s difficult to find animal parts such as head, feet or offal in commercial stores at all. If you want it, you’ll have to go directly to the source like a farmer or butcher. The animal parts are either made into dog food or exported to countries like Mexico and China, where nose-to-tail eating is nothing new or special.

Recipes for Nose-to-Tail Eating

liver sausage
Many countries around the world each have their own versions of blood sausage.

In many countries, using the whole animal is second nature, and there is no stigma or taboo attached to it. For Americans, eating things like offal, tongue, heads, and tails was much more common in the past. That’s why they’re mainly found as ingredients in old, traditional recipes, when nose-to-tail eating was a normal way of life. However, there has been an ‘offal revival’ of sorts, and less popular animal parts are starting to show up on menus again, such as:  

  • Blood Sausage 
  • Rocky Mountain Oysters
  • Liver & Onions 
  • Oxtail Soup 
  • Chicken Liver Pâté 
  • Grilled Bone Marrow 

A Problematic Dining Trend

nose to tail dining
Approximately 14.5% of all greenhouse gas emissions come from livestock farming. (Photo: CC0 Public Domain / Pexels - Pixabay)

The idea of nose-to-tail eating certainly has sustainable aspects. However, it doesn’t negate the problematic carbon footprint of animal products. The production of animal products such as meat, milk, and cheese waste valuable resources: according to the WWF, it takes 144 gallons of water to produce 1 gallon of milk, and one US dairy cow eats 100 pounds of feed per day.

Animal feed is usually imported, which means it must be transported over long distances, leading to high levels of CO2 emissions. On top of that, cattle also produce methane, a greenhouse gas that traps roughly 30 times the amount of heat as carbon dioxide, making them particularly harmful to the environment.

Conventional animal husbandry doesn’t have a good reputation, and with reason: it suppresses the basic needs of the animals. They suffer from lack of space, diseases, injuries and often even have to endure torturous transports before slaughter.

If you aren’t ready to go vegan or vegetarian, you can still support species-appropriate animal husbandry by eating meat less frequently and buying only from sustainable, high-quality sources. If you want to try nose-to-tail eating, be sure to buy only local and organic animals.

This article has been translated from German by Karen Stankiewicz. You can find the original here: Nose-to-Tail: Das bedeutet das Konzept der Ganztiernutzung

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