What About the ‘Weird’ Cuts?

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What About the ‘Weird’ Cuts?

A chorus line of free-range chickens, straight off the pasture and freshly cleaned, await twist ties, labels and a trip to the freezer.

A witty (and wise) farmer once told me, “Forrest, if I could raise a cow that was made entirely out of filet mignon, I’d be a millionaire by now.” Of course, everyone knows that’s simply not the case; filet mignon is so expensive as a direct result of its anatomical scarcity. From my experience, an 1,100 lb (liveweight) steer only yields about 3 lbs of filet mignon, while a whopping 200 lbs is destined for ground beef. Its little wonder that we’ve become a nation built on hamburgers.

As an organic grass-fed livestock farmer, I learned many years ago to focus on selling ground beef first and foremost; if I didn’t, our farm would quickly be overwhelmed by the sheer volume of ground that comes from each of our cattle. Regardless of species, roughly 40% of our meat (beef, pork or lamb) returns from the butcher shop in some form of ground meat: hamburger patties, sausages, or ground chuck. Fortunately, these items have always been very popular amongst our customers, and despite the scant amount of N.Y. strip, ribeye and filet mignon we receive, the cuts sell fairly evenly.

That is, until we get to the ‘weird’ cuts. You know the ones I mean… the cuts I won’t list on my inventory board at farmers market, because I choose not to deal with the “Eww, yuck!” responses from casual passersby.  Tongue, heart, kidneys, liver and ox tail top the chart, but it’s a long and eclectic list. People marvel at the fact that we offer chicken feet (yes, real chicken feet; bundled ten to a pound, they look like a very strange floral bouquet), scrapple, and tubs of pork lard. To further confound the people who balk at our beautiful free-range lard, I jokingly tell them that each tub comes with a complimentary drinking straw.  Even our pasture-raised chickens, packaged whole (see above) are a real conundrum to most shoppers. When they learn we don’t offer boneless-skinless chicken breasts, they roll their eyes at the mere suggestion of cooking a 3 pound bird (enough for two servings and some scrumptious leftovers).

Replaced by our appetite for steaks and hamburgers, these cuts have largely disappeared from our cultural culinary consciousness, and are mostly found as props on shows like Fear Factor, fostering the negative stereotype. Even short ribs, those succulent-sweet mouthwatering slabs of grass-fed perfection, frequently languish at my market stall. When people ask me what to do with them, I tell them in a conspiratorial tone, “short ribs are our ‘stealth cut’… if you cook them just right, they’re the best piece of beef you’ll ever eat.”

In a spirit of discovery, adventure, and sustainable eating, listed below is a tasty list of recipes that Nancy, our resident farm chef, assembled. Please let us know what you think of these selections, and share your own family recipes and culinary discoveries with us!


Varietal Meats Preparation and Recipes
Varietal meats are delicate and require some handling. They have a high nutritional value, especially when they are sourced from pasture based, chemical-free farms like Smith Meadows. They include organ meats like kidney and liver; muscle meats like heart and tongue; bony meats like oxtail, ribs, soup and marrow bones. Many people have a built-in, cultural aversion to these lesser known cuts; however, when properly prepared and cooked, the flavor is an intense experience for the soul as well as the taste buds. With ever-increasing detachment from the source of nourishment in a busy lifestyle that plagues most of us, it is easy to not think of the animal from which the meat comes. We offer these recipes for reconnecting with the source. Animals are amazing in design. The extra care required in preparing varietal meat will remind you that to be an animal is to be a living work of sculpture.



kidneys with sauce

kidneys with sauce, from http://bordeaux-undiscovered.co.uk

Kidney Recipes







liver with butter & sage from www.tylerflorence.com

liver with butter & sage from www.tylerflorence.com

Liver Recipes











beef heart beef-kabobs

beef heart beef-kabobs

Heart Recipes








braise beef tongue

braised beef tongue

Beef Tongue Recipes








Braised short ribs from foodietots

Braised short ribs from foodietots

Oxtail & Short Rib Recipes



Check out my books!

Gaining Ground Growing Tomorrow Start Your Farm

By | 2018-08-04T09:45:12-04:00 August 28th, 2012|Farm, Kitchen|14 Comments

About the Author:

Forrest Pritchard and Nancy Polo began Smith Meadows in 1996 and have been collaborating ever since. Forrest's book Gaining Ground: A Story of Farmer Markets, Local Food and Saving the Family Farm will be published by Lyons Press in Spring of 2013.


  1. Casin Whitehead August 29, 2012 at 5:34 pm - Reply

    I have personally converted many to the wonders of cow tongue. Anyone who doesn’t like it, hasn’t tried it.

    • Forrest Pritchard August 30, 2012 at 8:09 am

      Hey Casin,

      I’ll start sending people down to Sperryville. What time is dinner?

  2. Marybeth Mills September 1, 2012 at 2:28 pm - Reply

    Great writing! We love championing the weird cuts at our restaurant, buying most of our livestock, with the exception of beef, in whole form. We fabricate (butcher) on site and go snout -to-tail, using all parts.

    Most of our guests claim to want to “eat local” or sustainable foods, yet raise their eyebrows at wood grilled goat. Hey, it’s locally grown!

    On a side note, I totally appreciate the offered straw with every purchase of a tub of lard. Very funny 🙂

    • Forrest Pritchard September 1, 2012 at 4:54 pm

      Thank you, Marybeth. I bet the goat will eventually be a big hit for your restaurant! The next time I’m in Big Indian, N.Y. I’ll enjoy dinner at Peekamoose 🙂

  3. Ann Carranza September 1, 2012 at 2:49 pm - Reply

    Beef tongue and oxtails are delicious. I had to ask my local CSA to offer the tongues to us. While I’m not at all fond of other organ meat, someone in our family will eat it.

    My family’s favorite way to eat beef tongue is in tacos–fresh corn tortillas, diced onion, salsa and cilantro. Yum, yum, yum!

    Thank you for posting, Forrest and Nancy! New recipes are always welcome.

    • Forrest Pritchard September 1, 2012 at 4:49 pm


      Mmm… beef tongue tacos… will definitely have to try that. We’ll try to do a recipe-themed blog once a month or so, especially now that our spring lambs have grown into plump fall lambs!

  4. Lanette September 1, 2012 at 4:41 pm - Reply

    I was raised eating weird cuts, with the exception of kidneys. What about sweetbreads. The best thing ever, but almost impossible to find. Sauteed in butter with garlic and white wine. Sublime. Chicken liver the same way. My mother would simmer tongue with bay leaves, garlic, onion, salt & pepper. Skin it and slice it. Mild and tasty. Short ribs braised in beer, onion and garlic. I can’t wait for winter to serve short ribs.

    • Forrest Pritchard September 1, 2012 at 4:45 pm


      How could I forget the sweet breads? At some of the farmers markets I attend, they are actually more popular than many of our ‘normal’ cuts!

  5. Michelle Dudley September 3, 2012 at 5:09 pm - Reply

    I just learned from a farmers market customer that oxtail is the base for Vietnamese “pho” (noodle soup)! Who knew? Other customers rave about the excellent baked goods they make with lard (a clean, healthy source of ESSENTIAL fats your body AND brain require for proper function). And as bone broths can help remedy thousands of health issues, we’ve got another reason to purchase a WHOLE chicken! Even though the “wierd cuts” may shock you at first, when it comes down to it, they’re really just another way for your body to get necessary minerals it needs anyway. Better to eat the wierd stuff than have your body sift the minerals it needs out of your own bones, eh?

  6. Amy September 4, 2012 at 10:24 am - Reply

    Don’t forget tallow candles and lye-tallow soap! Our steers eat mainly alfalfa and have a lot of fat on them. It is a challenge to use it up, but I’m trying…

    • Forrest Pritchard September 7, 2012 at 10:42 am


      Very true… some of my customers buy tallow to render for making homemade french fries and potato chips, and even pemmican.

  7. Mara September 4, 2012 at 10:15 pm - Reply

    Those are my favorite cuts. For me my local farmer doesn’t have enough of them. Thanks for the recipes.

    • Forrest Pritchard September 7, 2012 at 10:41 am

      Mara, it sounds like your farmer is lucky to have a customer like you!

  8. Sylvie in Rappahannock September 26, 2012 at 9:40 am - Reply

    “Weird” is a matter of perception… I prefer to call them the “flavorful forgotten” cuts. Oxtail is definitively a favorite — hands-on: I personally would take it over filet-mignon any time for texture and depth of flavor. Granted it takes longer to cook …. but the chance of ruining if by overcooking is nil. Chicken feet makes the most wonderful soup base, and as far as beef tongue: best value!. and ha.. kidneys, with a little port in the sauce…. How about head cheese? so scrumptious… But I have to admit, I have managed to steer some of my clients to shanls (osso-boco and the likes)… and while Pate de Campagne has met with some success, liver and tongues are not huge sellers…

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