With the big rise of nose-to-tail eating I became curious about the toxic load of things like beef liver, beef brain or bone meal. My first year of carnivore diet was mainly beef and lamb and occasional seafood. I might have made a liver pate here and there and ate occasional lamb brain but it definitely wasn’t very frequent. I felt pretty amazing on just steaks and water.
Fast forward to this year (2019) and post many interviews and podcast with farmers of many sorts I have realized how much organ meat is wasted. Majority of people in the USA gag on the site of liver not to mention buying it even for dogs. From what I remembered from living on a farm back in Poland we used every bit of all the animals that we killed…even their intestines. I couldn’t say no to the free organ meats that were offered to me plus I felt like I was helping those farmers out.
After experimenting with frequent raw liver consumption the question about organ meat toxicity kept lingering on the back of my head “am I nourishing my body or loading it with toxins?”. And this question was even more bothersome after I tested my blood for heavy metals and discovered that on the range of 0-14 my mercury level was at 22. By no means am I blaming organ meats for this, I definitely ate a fair share of Chilean Sea Bass, oysters and shrimps. Anyway, I finally decided to test regular calf liver, which i have purchased at Sprouts and 100% grass fed/finish, organic liver purchased from Whole Foods and below are the results and explanation of how to read them and what it means.
GRASS FED/FINISHED , ORGANIC
CONVENTIONAL BEEF LIVER
HOW TO READ THE RESULTS
One thousand parts per billion equals one part per million:
1000 ppb = 1 ppm
To derive ppm from the numbers in the report, just divide the ppb numbers by 1000 to get ppm. (It’s all
metric, which is what makes it super easy to translate units.)
Here’s a brief guide that explains each of the columns you’ll see in the report:
ELEMENT: This is the elemental symbol of the element being analyzed. A great online resource for
viewing the elements is Webelements.com. The more common elements include:
Pb = Lead
As = Arsenic
Hg = Mercury
Cd = Cadmium
Fe = Iron
Cu = Copper
Au = Gold, but please ignore gold numbers, as we are currently spiking all samples with gold in order to help retain mercury. (Gold numbers will not be accurate, therefore.)
MASS: This is the accurate atomic mass of the elemental isotope being analyzed. Some elements have more than one isotope and therefore have more than one mass that’s analyzed.
CONC: This means “concentration” and is given in ppb.
UNITS: Confirms that the units being used are ppb.
RSD(%): Relative Standard Deviations. Describes the statistical certainty of the result for that element.
Lower numbers means more data points and greater confidence. It is perfectly normal to see an element with a very low concentration have a very high RSD. This is because very few ions of the element were available to detect.
DET: (Analog/Pulse) Describes the detection mode of the ICP-MS detector. “Pulse” means digital and is used for very low concentrations. Analog is used for higher concentrations. This is not really important for you to consider, but it helps scientists understand the analysis better.
What numbers are acceptable or good?
The scope of our analysis does not include any interpretation of which results are “good” or “bad.” There are a multitude of factors in determining this, including the concentration and nature of the sample itself. In general, it is completely normal to see high strontium in well water, for example. It is also normal to see some level of aluminum in all foods. In terms of drinking water or well water safety, the EPA publishes limits (“Action levels”) of heavy metals in water, available at:
EPA guidelines for drinking water:
Lead limit = 15 ppb
Mercury limit = 2 ppb
Copper limit = 1300 ppb
Cadmium = 5 ppb
Arsenic = 10 ppb
Lead < 0.025 ppm (25 ppb)
Cadmium < 0.1 ppm (100 ppb)
Arsenic < 0.62 ppm (620 ppb)
Mercury < 0.006 ppm (6 ppb)
Lead < 0.05 ppm
Cadmium < 0.25 ppm
Arsenic < 1.25 ppm
Mercury < 0.012 ppm
Lead < 0.12 ppm
Cadmium < 0.5 ppm
Arsenic < 2.5 ppm
Mercury < 0.025 ppm
Lead < 0.25 ppm
Cadmium < 1 ppm
Arsenic < 5 ppm
Mercury < 0.050 ppm
Lead < 0.5 ppm
Cadmium < 2 ppm
Arsenic < 10.0 ppm
Mercury < 0.1 ppm
Lead < 1 ppm
Cadmium < 4 ppm
Arsenic < 20.0 ppm
Mercury < 0.2 ppm
If you don’t feel like reading through all of it I’ll summarize it for you. Looks like conventional and grass fed-finished livers qualify for A+++ verification. Some nutrients in grass fed are higher then in conventional beef liver and others are lower. What surprised me the most was how high copper was in conventional liver and how low it was in grass fed.
In summary looks like both are safe to eat from a heavy metal standpoint. Of course there are other things to worry about such as glyphosate and environmental issues associated with feedlots. Am I promoting eating conventional meat or do I lean towards one or the other? I think we should do the best we can with what we’ve got. If someone can only afford conventional liver I think they’re still going to be healthier eating those vs not eating them at all.