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What is nose-to-tail cooking?

The practice of ‘nose-to-tail’ cooking or eating means ensuring that every edible part of an animal is prepared and consumed, as opposed to using only the high-value cuts. This includes cuts that are less popular in modern Western cuisine, such as offal, also known as the ‘fifth quarter’ and still valued in many cultures. The cousins of nose-to-tail cooking are ‘fin-to-gill’ — using every part of the fish — and ‘root-to-shoot’, for fruits and vegetables.

For some restaurants, the nose-to-tail ethos can include buying whole carcasses and butchering them on-site. However, not all establishments have the capacity for this, and others simply purchase pre-butchered meat. While every part is used, not everything becomes a hero menu item; for example, bones and cartilage are fantastic for making rich, silky stocks and sauces.

Doing nose-to-tail cooking right — in a manner that will ultimately appeal to the customer — requires an understanding of traditional cooking skills on the part of the chef, as well as a degree of creativity.

Why is it relevant now?

This approach to food saw a resurgence in many Western countries during and immediately following the last recession. With the current disruption of food routes, rising costs and another recession predicted, nose-to-tail cooking offers a waste-free and cost-effective way to keep affordable meat on your menu. Read on for five good reasons why it’s worth considering this approach in your kitchen.

5 benefits of introducing nose-to-tail menus to your business

1. Allows cost-efficient ordering

Purchasing an entire animal is an efficient way to buy and drives down the cost of more expensive cuts of meat, meaning that you can get more bang for your buck with every order. Why not make a deal with a local butcher or farmer, guaranteeing them a certain amount of business in exchange for a good price? Nose-to-tail cooking can also prove highly profitable, with the potential for a significant mark-up on finished dishes made from traditionally cheaper cuts.

2. Minimises waste

Every business across the hospitality and foodservice sector has a responsibility to operate in a more environmentally-conscious manner. Not only is this demanded from the HaFS in an ethical sense, but from a legal and business perspective, too: with the Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive coming into effect from January 2024 and the likelihood of further legislation down the line, those companies who aren’t actively measuring and reducing their carbon emissions, water use and waste generation will soon be dealing with significant legislative and financial repercussions.

The production of any food carries an inherent environmental cost, demanding energy and water, contributing carbon to our atmosphere and imposing a strain on our lands, ecosystems and soil. Meat production is the harshest of all. In addition to the resources being used in the first place, a shockingly high percentage of them are going to waste; food loss and food waste are two enormous contributors to the climate crisis. Every part of the food industry needs to re-examine where waste is being created and find a purpose for every food. 

Nose-to-tail eating ensures that those parts of the animal that would otherwise go to waste instead become valuable elements of a menu. This way of cooking and eating involves a deeper respect for the animal — one that harks back to an older time, when people made sure to use every precious part of any animal killed for its meat.

3. Meets consumer needs

Today’s consumers are increasingly environmentally conscious — and they know that meat production is a big problem for our planet. While some consumers adopt a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle as a result, others focus on simply reducing their meat intake through plant-forward, flexitarian or semi-vegetarian diets. Nose-to-tail cooking and eating is an approach that reflects the attitudes of this consumer base, forming part of a wider ethos that rejects unconscious consumption and embraces a more sustainable way of living. 

The Global Sustainability Study 2021 conducted by Simon-Kucher & Partners found that 32% of Millennials around the world have significantly changed their purchase behaviour towards being more sustainable in the past five years. One-third of Millennials will choose a sustainable alternative when available — making a nose-to-tail ethos an attractive USP for your establishment. 

4. Offers a sweet spot for marketing

Many dishes in this style are revamped versions of traditional dishes: an irresistible combination of nostalgia with a fresh modern feel, perfectly poised to get those mouths watering. Think golden, deep-fried ham hock and trotter croquettes with poached eggs and pea purée; crispy chicken skin adding umami and texture to tacos; duck gizzards in garlic butter, served as bar nibbles; sticky pig’s tails glazed with Korean barbecue sauce; or roasted marrow bones with sweet caramelised onions, punchy chimichurri and toasted sourdough.

5. Boosts creativity in your kitchen

For experienced chefs, developing a nose-to-tail menu provides an exciting opportunity to flex their creative muscles and bring something truly interesting and unique to the table. The creativity encouraged by this way of cooking also results in a degree of flexibility and resilience, cultivating a kitchen team who have the skills to work with whatever cuts are available.

For more ideas about cutting costs, minimising waste and making your kitchen sustainable, drop us a line at or check out our blog.