If you had told me a year ago I’d be trying—let alone snacking on—pork rinds, I’d think you were crazy! But these days, I’m appreciating the concept of “nose to tail” eating. Not only does it limit food waste and ensure we’re using more of each animal that is sacrificed for our nourishment, but eating these odds and ends (like skin and organ meats) is actually good for us.

First, a little background: In the US, we focus mainly on eating muscle meats, shunning these “gross” parts of the animal that traditional cultures (and in the US, until somewhat recently) eat regularly and liberally. Turns out, there’s wisdom in those practices. The organ meats and other unpopular parts of the animals  work in concert with the muscle meats to balance each other out and better meet our nutrient needs. Organ meats and bones are rich in the amino acid glycine, for instance, and muscle meats are high in another amino acid, methionine. Too much methionine can reduce insulin sensitivity, increase blood lipid levels and raise the risk of cardiovascular disease. We’ve long blamed heart disease on meat, but maybe it’s not meat that’s the problem, but the fact that we’re restricting our intake to certain parts of the animal and shunning the rest. And trust me, I get it: the thought of eating liver, heart or pancreas makes me gag a little. Luckily, you can order dessicated supplements instead of eating these food bits: drrons.com sells glandulars and organ-based supplements from grass-fed New Zealand cows.and other animals.

Images courtesy of EPIC

Images courtesy of EPIC

Now, back to the pork rinds: EPIC is a food company that creates animal-based food products like bars, jerkies, bone broth, animal fats and snacks—and I just learned they make an organ meat jerky! I plan to try that next. They source from farms that allow animals to freely range and eat what they’re meant to. Their products give a nod to hunter/gatherer diets and as a result, are nutrient-dense and rich in protein and healthy fats. Their artisanal pork rinds are fried, so I’d still recommend eating them as an occasional treat—but they pack 8 grams of protein in a half-ounce serving, with just 1 gram of carbs. And, they have small amounts of vitamin A, iron and calcium. What is a rind, you ask? Fried pork skin from the belly or back. According to the EPIC website, “this skin is softer in texture and has more subcutaneous fat when compared to the shoulder. As a result, when cooked, these parts of the hog have a fluffy texture.” I tried the sea salt and pepper—they’re light and flavorful. Ready to give them a try (or another EPIC product? Their bars also make great alternatives to some of the sugar-laden options lining the grocery stores shelves)? Visit epicbar.com or buy in one of their retail locations like Whole Foods.

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