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Whole Hog: Five reasons to try nose to tail eating

A pig butchering demonstration at the Meat Hook in Brooklyn. (Photo Credit: Rustik Magazine)

A pig butchering demonstration at the Meat Hook in Brooklyn, New York. (Photo Credit: Rustik Magazine)

16 October is World Food Day, a global day for action to end hunger. According to a recent United Nations report more than 20 per cent of the meat produced globally is lost or wasted. In North America, the largest share is lost during consumption, simply wasted and not eaten.

Nose to tail eating is one strategy to curtail that waste. Essentially it means using as much of each animal killed for food as possible. The practice is extremely important for the ethical consumption of meat and for the sustainability of our food and farming industries.

The idea of eating every part of an animal came to the attention of many foodies with the 2004 release of ‘The Whole Beast’ by Fergus Henderson, in which the legendary British chef famously said, “If you’re going to kill the animal, it seems only polite to use the whole thing.” The book was heralded as an icon of the Slow Food movement, and taught a new generation of cooks how to butcher, cook and serve up the “neglected bits” of an animal.

Here are our top five reasons for trying Nose to Tail eating:

  1. Pay Respect: It may seem contradictory, but it is possible to simultaneously be an animal lover and a meat eater. Nose to tail eating comes from a desire to waste as little as possible of the animals killed for food, taking as much nutrition and other benefits as possible. This means each animal has more purpose, and fewer animals need to be killed.
  2. Sense of Adventure: Why eat the same thing every day when there are so many other possibilities? Butchering a side of pork from nose to tail provides a wide selection of eating options: think not just ribs, tenderloin, chops and sausages, but headcheese (made with the meat off the head, not the insides of the head) and other pates, bacon, ham, roasts and bones for stock. And the list doesn’t end there – anything you can do with a chicken wing, you can do with a pig tail!
  3. Health Check: Besides making dinner more interesting, eating different cuts of meat in different recipes is healthier for us than eating the same cuts of muscle meats. Eating offal and other parts of the animal ensures we get a balanced intake of the nutrients that are found in animal protein.
  4. Ways to Save: It’s a simple equation: when more meals come from the same animal, each meal costs less. It is the same idea as buying and breaking down a whole chicken instead of buying packaged chicken breasts. The whole animal costs less because it’s priced by weight as one item, so less expensive cuts (like chicken thighs) average out with more expensive cuts (like chicken breasts). Nose to tail also allows the option of homemade stocks and broths, which saves on having to buy those items in stores.
  5. Eating Local: An interest in nose to tail eating means local farmers, butchers and other meat suppliers can sell less popular cuts, rather than see them go to waste. It also helps keep meat costs down in general because the sale of certain cuts doesn’t have to compensate for the loss of others. Suppliers make more, shoppers save more, and everyone has more to spend in the local community.

Eating more diversely is a way to improve health, watch the budget and support the local meat industry. And it’s a fitting way to celebrate sustainable food systems, the theme of this year’s World Food Day.

Joseph Crocker, chef and owner of Peasant’s Pantry, uses his culinary training and fine dining restaurant experience to create charcuterie and other specialty meats using 100% local pork, beef, lamb and poultry. He is a strong believer in “nose to tail” eating, getting the best use of the whole animal. 

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