Why you’ll find brains, tongue, and other organs at Swiss restaurants and stores
If they wanted to, the Swiss could afford to eat only the best cuts of meat. But a lot of them make a conscious decision not to. Here’s why.
Switzerland is an exceedingly rich country. According to the 2016 Global Wealth Report, Swiss adults accounted for just 0.1% of the world’s population – but that tiny group of people owned 1.4% of the global wealth.
Nose to tail eating at restaurants
In a country where people have that much money, it might surprise you that restaurants offer anything but the best cuts of meat. However, many Swiss chefs believe in nose to tail eating, i.e. using the entire animal – organs, bones, and all.
Some of the best-known Swiss restaurants that try to use as much of the animal as possible are:
- Osteria Castello Sasso Corbaro in Bellinzona, speciality: goat
- Café Boy in Zurich, specialty: veal
- Güggeli Sternen in Bözberg, specialty: chicken
- Gasthof zum Brunnen in Fraubrunnen, specialty: beef
- Restaurant Camino in Zurich, specialty: lamb
- Landgasthof Hirsernbad in Ursenbach, specialty: pork
At these restaurants, you will find things on the menu like calf’s brains with lemon vinaigrette or beef tongue with caper sauce. If you’re thinking ‘gross,’ consider this: it’s grosser to cut off all the ‘good’ bits and let the rest go to waste. Think of the millions of people on this earth who would gladly eat the not-so-fancy parts of a pig, cow, or goat.
Nose to tail eating at home
In Switzerland, nose to tail eating is popular outside of haute cuisine, too. Many Swiss families regularly eat organ meat, e.g. tongue and heart, and use blood to make sauces, especially for game dishes.
Whole animals and so-called ‘inferior’ parts of animals are common, too.
Isn’t organ meat bad for you?
The short answer is: no. Healthy adults can eat organ meat without worrying about it affecting them negatively. In fact, hearts are pure muscle, i.e. meat without any fat. And liver contains a lot of iron and folic acid.
That said, organ meat isn’t for everyone: pregnant women, for instance, should avoid liver because the high vitamin A content could harm the fetus. And people suffering from arthritis or gout should steer clear of innards which contain high levels of purines and arachidonic acid.
All or nothing
Personally, as a privileged person living in a first-world country, I don’t believe in eating any meat at all. However, nothing annoys me more than meat eaters judging other meat eaters for eating parts of animals (like tongue) or types of animals (like horses) they consider ‘too gross to eat,’ ‘too cute to eat,’ or in some other way unsuitable for consumption.
Nose to tail eating is the single most respectful way to eat meat. Nothing goes to waste. And, at least in Switzerland, you needn’t even buy an entire animal to practice nose to tail eating: simply ask a local butcher for any parts you’d like. Ears, udders, bones, blood, you name it – they’ve got it.