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Nose-to-tail humane movement gains traction in Ithaca

Steam rose from inside a pig-pen on Saturday as Karma Glos, co-owner of Kingbird Farm in Berkshire, identified half a dozen of the squealing pigs by name. “Annie, Becky, Emily, Brenda and this is Aloysius,” she said, rubbing the head of a boar that was pushing it’s snout against the fence.

These pigs are not pets; once they’re past their breeding prime they’ll be slaughtered and sold in the area. But unlike conventional farms that sell only the commonly eaten parts and scrap the rest, Kingbird, a small-scale organic farm that raises heritage beef, pork, chickens and ducks, uses every part of the animal, like chicken feet, neck bones, and other cuts not found in the supermarket.

This aligns with the values of the “nose-to-tail movement.” which was first introduced by Fergus Henderson in his 2004 cookbook The Whole Beast: Nose to Tail Eating. The movement encourages eating and using the whole animal — including the organs and bones — as a way to respect the sacrifice.

As a British chef, Henderson is noted for using the neglected parts of animals in his restaurants. Since then, more than 50 books have been published in response to the movement. As the recent New York Times article After crispy pig ears, 10 trends for 2013 describes, in 2012 “food lovers everywhere [were] embracing new interpretations of…nose-to-tail as fast as they came along.”

“The movement seeks to alter our conventional thinking that only certain parts of the animal are worthy of consumption,” said Scott Bridges, food critic and Huffington Post columnist. “[It] attempts to remove the stigma that some cuts or portions are for an ‘inferior’ class of people.”.

Nose-to-tail is gaining ground in Ithaca. In the past two weekends, Cornell Cooperative Extensions and TwoWolves, an organization that educates “earth living skills” to the community, put on workshops that aimed to teach people the skill of using the whole animal –– including skinning, butchering, drying and smoking meat –– using internal organs and other skills. However, Tim Drake, event coordinator, declined to have media presence at the workshops.

During the past 50 years, Americans’ dietary habits have changed from eating the whole animal to only consuming the leanest parts. The reason, said Tara Lambert, nutritionist and co-founder of Nutritional Wellness Center at Ithaca, is the concern of heart diseases and diabetes, which are linked to a high-fat diet. Although internal organs are high in fat, Lambert said that the health benefits of eating them often aren’t taken into consideration.

“When you are eating an [animal] organ, you are getting all of the nutrients,” she said.

Organs like kidneys, hearts and livers, said Lambert, contain important vitamins, minerals and amino acids like ascorbic acid and Vitamin C.

Glos said she has seen an increase in people purchasing kidneys and livers. The most recently sought-after cut has been pork neck bones, which Glos used to feed her dogs with until foodies in the area became interested in them.

“All of a sudden, people are like, ‘pork neck bones, oh my god, there’s this recipe that makes great soup,’ so now this cut that we were basically just feeding to the pups…is now something that we can sell,” she said.

Nothing goes to waste in the nose-to-tail movement; parts of the animal that Kingbird can’t sell, like chicken feathers, blood and bones, Glos will grind into potting mix for her garden.

“Capturing those really rich nitrogen sources and then being able to use them to grow plants is important to me—that keeps those nutrients on the farm, and it completes the circle,” she said.


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