What Defines a NUTRITIONAL organ meat?
This is a very important question, and something that causes a lot of confusion. Many structures that are considered “organs” anatomically are NOT considered Organ Meat nutritionally.
Nutritional Organs are Major Metabolic and Hormone-Secreting Tissues:
- Major glands (thymus, thyroid, parathyroid)
Stomach and Intestines: these are organs, but are much lower in nutrients than the others listed so is best kept as a smaller portion of the organ content. Additionally, it has been observed that many ferrets and polecats remove the intestinal tract of their prey rather than ingesting it, so this is likely not a major or consistent part of their diet even in the wild.
Tripe is the stomach of ruminating animals (usually beef). White tripe has all of the nutrients bleached out of it and is inappropriate to feed to pets. Green tripe is high in nutrients but smells horrid and usually ferrets won’t go near it so it’s really not worth the bother. If your ferrets will eat it, more power to you.
Chitterlings (pork small intestine): similar to stomach this is an organ but is low in nutrients compared to the others and usually picked out of whole prey so there isn’t much benefit to feeding it. See above.
Gizzards – gizzards are comprised of primarily muscle tissue and tendon, nutritionally they are a muscle meat source. Great for cleaning teeth.
Tongue – the tongue is comprised of muscle and mucous/salivary glands. These glands secrete mucous and digestive enzymes but NO hormones. The sublingual tonsils are at the very back of the tongue and are a lymphoid tissue (immune system). These tonsils are way at the back, so IF they are included on your purchased tongue, they are included in the whole tongue piece.
Lungs– lungs are comprised primarily of connective tissue and endothelium, with very little hormone-secreting or metabolic activity. They are in a bit of a gray area and are often not considered a true “organ” as far as raw diet is concerned. They are, however, a GREAT part of a raw diet and are very high in Iron and Vitamin B12, as well as other B Vitamins. Definitely a good thing to feed if you have access! When feeding lung, they should be offered as either a small portion of the organ content (be careful to not reduce the amount of other yummy organs you feed too much), or even as a portion of the boneless muscle content.