If we eat animal brains, will we be smart?

Photo of Lamb's Brains

Yes, I would venture to assert that we are more likely to be smart.  In order to develop our human brains, we need vital nutrients that are found in organ meats, such as animal brains.  Many of the key nutrients needed for brain development: Vitamin A, Vitamin D, Choline, DHA, Zinc, Tryptophan, and Cholesterol are found in organ meats.

I visited with my family in Southern California this past weekend.  My mother was born in Marrakech, Morocco and raised on their traditional diet, which included organ meats.  Yesterday, she shared with me and my siblings that she fed us lamb’s brains as soon as we were eating solid foods.  She simply sauteed them in a skillet because the brains didn’t need any additional fat.  They already had the “good kind of fat”, she explained.  I read today in the Cook’s Thesaurus that:

“Even adventurous eaters often draw the line at brains, and it’s just as well, since they’re loaded with cholesterol [which my mother's culture didn't fear].  Those who do eat them often scramble them with eggs.  It’s very important that brains be fresh, so either cook them or freeze them the day you buy them. Substitutes:  sweetbreads. Brains and sweetbreads can be used interchangeably in most recipes, but brains aren’t as well regarded.”

My mother explained that organ meats are routinely served in Morocco with onion, garlic and parsley. As the Weston A. Price Foundation states, “Organ meats are the most nutrient-dense part of the animal—from ten to 100 times richer in vitamins and minerals than muscle meats—and traditional cultures always consumed them, usually in rich dishes that included cream and plenty of butter. Such fare is truly food for the body and soul!”

Why Organ Meats?  Sally Fallon Morell explains,

“Compared with muscle meats, organ meats are richer in just about every nutrient, including minerals like phosphorus, iron, copper, magnesium and iodine, and in B vitamins including B1, B2, B6, folic acid and especially vitamin B12. Organ meats provide high levels of the all-important fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K, especially if the animals live outside in the sunlight and eat green grass. Organ meats are also rich in beneficial fatty acids such as arachidonic acid, EPA and DHA. Organ meats even contain vitamin C—liver is richer in vitamin C than apples or carrots! Even if you add only small amounts of organ meats to your ground meat dishes, you are providing your family with super nutrition  . . .  in ways that everyone likes and are easy to consume.” Sally explains how to hide organ meats for those who are not amenable in her article: Cooking with Mystery Meat

My mother told me that she fed us all the organ meats …  kidney and liver as well but, brain was my favorite. She said that organ meats were highly valued in Morocco and France, where I was born and raised my first five years. When we migrated to America, she discovered that organ meats were not embraced by the predominate culture. She could eat very economically going to an Iranian grocer and buying organ meats for a fraction of the cost because no one wanted them. It has been reported that human children who grow up eating the brains of animals have healthier brains and nervous systems than those who didn’t.

My mother also told me that one of the culinary traditions she was taught was to soak kidneys and liver in lemon juice or vinegar in order to purify them. Interestingly, Sally Fallon Morell offers the same instructions in her book Nourishing Traditions, available via our Amazon affiliation.

I found this recipe for brains that I have yet to try but, it is similar to what my mother described, without the flour:

3 eggs
1 tbsp. flour
1/4 c. minced parsley
1/2 c. butter
1 tbsp. white vinegar such as Spectrum Naturals
1 1/2 lbs. beef, lamb, pork or veal brains
Juice of 1/2 lemon

Rinse brains well under cold running water. Combine 1 quart water, the vinegar and 1 teaspoon salt in saucepan and bring to boil. Add brains, and boil briskly, uncovered, 10 minutes. Drain and plunge into very cold water. When cool, drain well on paper towels. With small sharp knife remove any membrane and veins. Cut and sprinkle flour, add seasoning with salt and pepper to taste, add eggs, saute in butter in large skillet until eggs are done, or until lightly brown.

While brain is one of the most nutritionally-dense organs found in any animal, unfortunately it is also an organ that can carry a concentrated amount of disease. Mad cow disease refers to the degenerative and fatal condition that occurs in cows, which essentially creates holes in an infected cow’s brain. Cattle can become infected with the disease by eating feed that contains infected tissue. We recommend that one consume the flesh and organ meats of cows eating grass, yet most cows Americans eat are fed grain fortified with finely ground-up meat for protein. The chickens that were ground up as protein for the cows were probably themselves fed grain fortified with ground-up cow, and so on. If disease enters this feed-and-be-fed-to system, it’s suddenly everywhere.  So to ensure safety and nutrient density, we recommend that one eat organ meats that are from animals that were out on pasture, eating their natural diet exclusively.

Here are some Gourmet Organ Meat Recipes provided by the Weston A. Price Foundation, including one for sweetbreads, which I’ve read are interchangeable with brains:

Pan Broiled Sweetbreads Alpine Style

Sweetbreads are the name given to the thymus gland of the calf. The best quality sweetbreads come from milk-fed calves. They are delicious and have the consistency of chicken, but they must be very fresh.

Serves 6

Ingredients, some of which we recommend through our Amazon affiliation:

3 pairs of sweetbreads
2 quarts salted water for blanching
1 lemon, sliced
1 1/2 cups or more salted butter
3/4 cup sourdough bread crumbs
1 teaspoon sea salt, such as The Spice Lab, Celtic Sea Salt and Real salt.
1/2 teaspoon cracked black pepper
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 cup unbleached flour
6 thin slices Italian prosciutto ham
6 Portobello mushroom caps, sliced (save the stems for mushroom soup)
Juice of 2 lemons, strained
1 cup dry white wine
1 cup homemade beef stock
2 tablespoons parsley, freshly chopped
6 slices toasted sourdough bread
fried parsley for garnish


  1. To pre-prepare the sweetbreads, wash them and trim off all connective tissue.
  2. Meanwhile, bring the salted water to boil with the lemon slices.
  3. Drop the sweetbreads into the boiling water and blanch until the meat turns whitish, about 15 minutes.
  4. Remove to a colander, rinse with cold water and pat dry.
  5. Place a weight on the sweetbreads to flatten and chill well.
  6. Peel off the membrane and divide into 6 portions.
  7. Dredge the sweetbreads in a mixture of bread crumbs, salt, pepper, thyme and unbleached flour.
  8. Melt the butter or coconut oil in a cast iron skillet and sauté the sweetbreads on both sides until brown.
  9. Remove to a heated platter and keep warm in the oven.
  10. In the same pan, sauté the sliced mushrooms, adding additional butter if necessary.
  11. Remove the mushrooms and add more butter.
  12. When butter foams, deglaze with white wine and beef stock.
  13. Reduce until the sauce thickens.
  14. Stir the chopped parsley into the sauce.
  15. To serve, arrange the slices of toast on heated plates. Top each with a slice of ham and place the sweet breads on the ham. Arrange the mushrooms around the toast and drizzle sauce over the sweetbreads. Garnish with fried parsley. (Note: to fry parsley, drop in a fryer basket into hot fat, preferably tallow, for about 10 seconds until crisp.)

More ways to prepare organ meats

  • Jessica Prentice of Three Stone Hearth, who supported my efforts to establish Nourishing Our Children during our first year, has supplied us with a Swedish Meatball Recipe that includes liver.  I have made it successfully without bread while on GAPS™.  One of our supporters, Tandy Batt, made the recipe and photographed the dish.
  • Angie Needles of MamaKai, one of our former volunteer presenters, has supplied us with this recipe for meatloaf which includes organ meats.  I served this meatloaf to Solis McGruther, Jenny McGruther‘s son, who was 5 at the time, and he ate it without hesitation!
  • Sherry Rothwell, one of our supporters, has supplied us with the “Best Liver Recipe Ever for those afraid to try or convinced they don’t like it but wish they did”!
  • Here are more reasons to eat liver and recipes from around the world from Lynn Razaitis.

I’d love to hear your experience of organ meats and any helpful hints you have for our readers on how to prepare them so that your family will enjoy them!


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Filed under Nourishing Our Children, Nutrient Dense Foods, Recipes

21 responses to “If we eat animal brains, will we be smart?

  1. Hmmmm. I was thinking about adding organ meats to my diet, but that picture of the brains has me thinking twice! lol! Maybe I can convince someone else to prepare them for me??? (o:

  2. It’s hard to get the brains because of restrictions put into place because of mad cow disease. It wasn’t proven but some people are believed to have gotten the human form of this disease after eating infected beef. Even when purchasing a whole animal from a farmer, if you have it processed at an abbotoir they may not want to or be able to give you the brain. The best way to try to get the brain though is just ask for the whole head. It will probably come skinned leaving all the fleshy parts which I can verify personally on pork is a delicacy. You can also ask for pork heads at some butchers. Many people stun kill their animals so the brain may not look as nice as the ones in the picture but it should still be as useful cooking if it is fresh.

    • When I cut up the half pig I got a couple of weeks ago there were some pieces of the spinal cord still left in the back. Realizing how much better a visual is than trying to describe things like this I took it into the house to show everybody. It insides look like the squishiest softest fat you have ever seen and the tube that held that together looked like the same material just a little more organized. My question to the family was “would you rather try to grow one of these and your brain with corn or some of the most high qaulity fat of this kind you could find?”. It was pretty unanimous. No one would choose to build something that important with second rate materials if they could see it for themselves.

      • Thank you for sharing your first hand experience, Tom! I would love to see photos if you have any — or next time?!

        • That will have to be next time. It’s the first time I’ve seen it but very impressive. Usually they clean all that stuff off the carcass. If more people actually saw what the animals looked like that they were eating they wouldn’t be so cavalier about throwing the “nasty bits” away and they would be better educated about what makes animals including us healthy.

  3. Don Radina

    From experience I can say yes. Not “smart” but I can think better after eating pork brains. My brain is getting all the vital nutrients that it is, so it takes off in Ecstasy. It is much easier to become smart eating brains. Brains are mostly lipids of a particular type.

    I think if you eat brains from a happy naturally raised animal you will be much better off than from a confinement factory animal. All of my grass fed sources say they can not deliver. We had this issue some time back with mad cow disease and there are federal regulations clouding up the waters now.

    In the killing process, bone fragments in the brain may be an issue. When I buy pork brains at the grocery story there are always bone fragments.

    Last week one of my meat suppliers provided me with three lambs heads, but he said the brains were removed because of bone fragments. I asked him to inform the processor that the heads will be used in a bone broth stock pot and are not a problem.

    I’m having trouble finding all grass-fed. This is important. If anyone has a source please post it. Thanks.

  4. As is often the case, my post produced some controversy on our Facebook page:
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  5. Bert Grosman

    Yup, before there were vitamins, people ate organ meats for their vitamins.

  6. Rob Crampton

    Isn’t Mad Cow caused by Warble fly pesticides? Anyone read any of Mark Purdey’s research?

    On a side note, I made a delicious fermented organ meats salad. A mixture of buffalo heart, lamb kidneys, veal brains and sweetbreads, beef liver, and one sheep testicle. On the veggie side, some celery, radishes, one garlic clove, carrots. Fermented the same way one would ferment kraut or beet kvass. Was yummers!!

  7. unsocial

    Oh, yes! I love brains, and all organ meats!

  8. Deborah

    What a beautiful photo! I have never seen or eaten brains but would like to try them. I remember my grandmother ordered brains in a restaurant once and my father loves sweetbreads. I have eaten and cooked those, they are delish! When I was little my favorite food was lamb chops. We’d have those on special occasions. I would suck every last bit of meat off of them, including what I now know to be the spinal cord, so guess I got a bit of nerve tissue that way! Good to know the sweetbreads are interchangeable with the brains in recipes, as those are a bit easier to come by. Seems with the concern about mad cow disease the brains are not available for human consumption. I always wonder where all the parts go. When I purchase meat from local ranchers I always ask for all the glands and organs but it is hard to get the whole animal. This year I made a special request with the lamb I ordered (Stemple Creek) to get as much as possible, even the lungs and tripe. Will see what I actually get!

  9. elisir80

    My grandmother in Italy used to feed me fried brains, liver with lemon, tongue, testicles, and sometimes a mix of different type of organs cooked with eggs. Used to think it was a poor diet due to her poor family background, now I realize how rich it is!

  10. RE

    Wonder where I could even get brains from- grassfed organic brains. Hmm. I live grassfed organ meat and rely on us wellness for that.

  11. Pingback: I don’t have children, so what do I care? | Nourishing Our Children

  12. I have heard that when humans ate more organ meat we had better dental health! So not that I understand this, I have set to rexamine organ meats as food. I may start with Mondongo and ease myself into brains.

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