Want to get all of the benefits of organ meats without the “interesting” flavors? Welcome to PLUCK, an organ-based seasoning and functional food. James Barry joins Dr. Jack Wolfson to talk about his efforts in revolutionizing everyday dishes and incorporating animal organs in the most innovative and delicious ways. James also discusses why consuming organs is not very popular in the US and how that came to pass. Listen in and enjoy the show!
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PLUCK: Revolutionizing Access To Essential Nutrients With James Barry
I’ve got a wonderful guest now with a very interesting product that we are going to be telling you about. His name is James Barry. James, welcome to the show.
Thank you for having me.
James has been in the culinary field for many years as a private chef. Certainly, he has worked with some superstar A-list celebrities in the bio that I’ve got, people like Tom Cruise, George Clooney, Gerard Butler, Puffy Combs, and Barbra Streisand, one of my old-time favorites. When I was a kid, my parents used to always listen to Barbra Streisand and John Cusack, a fellow Chicago.
James launched his first functional food product, and it’s called Pluck. We are going to be talking about Pluck. It’s an organ-based liver, heart, kidneys, all this stuff. It’s a seasoning, as he said, it’s not a supplement, it’s a functional food. It’s fantastic to be able to get this into our diet and also into our kids. We will talk about that. James also co-authored some recipes in a cookbook with Margaret Floyd’s Eat Naked and The Naked Foods Cookbook.
He co-authored some recipes with Dr. Alejandro Junger, who’s a very famous physician. His book is Clean 7. All this experience that you have working with all these different famous A-List celebrities and stuff like that, do me a favor, give me a little backstory of how you’ve got interested in becoming a chef and how did you fall in love with the idea of eating organ meats?
I always loved cooking from age seven on. I fell in love with it. For me, it was how I conveyed and felt my feelings towards people. For my parents, I always tried to convey my love for them. My first time, when I was in junior high, I took a culinary class that they were offering, and it was the first class I’ve got an A in. I wasn’t an A-student. That one clearly hit for me with that. I remember I was such a picky eater, though. I was not adventurous. I didn’t grow up eating organ meats. I didn’t eat much of anything that was adventurous at all.
I had my first taco in college if that puts perspective on it. I learned to make a tostada salad in this culinary class, and I was so excited to make that recipe for my parents. That’s when I realized, for me, I didn’t eat the tostada salad because I was too picky but I loved making it for them and putting that love into the food. That’s where it hit me. However, I never saw it as a career. I thought it was something to do as a hobby. I don’t know exactly why. I think because in the past, most chefs had to own restaurants that worked late nights, and I didn’t want to do that.
9/11 happened, and it changed how I looked at my life. I audited what I was doing and said, “I only want to do things that have heart, and I’m fully invested in.” None of this makes a payday to do the other thing I love, so I shifted gears. I went to culinary school in New York, and I’ve immediately got out of that. I started private cheffing.
I knew I didn’t want to work in a restaurant but I’m in the field now, private cheffing. Working with, as you mentioned, some big names, and it didn’t feel like enough. I was getting an incredible response from how I was making food. People that had baby weight couldn’t lose for years suddenly started losing it when I was cooking for them.
All I was doing was cooking real whole foods. I was properly preparing stuff. I was soaking grains and nuts because I wasn’t eating or cooking the way I am now. I did a lot of food. I properly prepared them. People’s bodies responded, and I wanted to help more people. I dropped out of the private cheffing world and started a meal delivery service company.
That was in LA, and I did that for a couple of years. It killed me because I didn’t know how to run a business. I was a technician, not a business owner. It was hard. I left that and three years of being a stay-at-home dad, which was probably the hardest work I have ever done in that time. That’s when I came up with a Pluck seasoning, and I knew that this was something I had to do.
Certainly, for those people that are out there that are business owners and stuff like that, we can all attest to the fact that it can be very difficult and have lots of different moving parts. As a business owner, oftentimes, it’s difficult to stay healthy. You are so engrossed in your day-to-day life that choosing the right foods can be difficult.
One of the most spectacular things about your product that we will discuss is it’s such a convenience for what it is, and yet the nutritional benefits of what you are providing are outstanding. Take me to your love for organs and how you came to embrace how important it is to eat these foods. Let me also preface this by telling the readers again that everything we are talking about pertains to heart health.
We may not directly say, “Organs are great for people with high blood pressure, cholesterol, coronary artery disease, atrial fibrillation, cardiomyopathy, stroke, recovery, whatever it may be.” Please always understand that every guest that I have on the show always goes back to the heart and certainly total body wellness. If you would, James, tell us about your love for organs.
Even when I was a private chef, I wasn’t necessarily making organs for those clients but it came from being a father. When I had my first daughter, I started thinking about what are the most nutrient-dense foods in the world. In organ meats, hands down. You can compare them to anything in the world. They are incredibly abundant in nutrients. I call them Mother Nature’s multivitamin.
When I think about chronic disease and issues we face in society, we are a nutrient-deficient society but, yet we are not calorie deficient. That’s an important distinction people need to understand. If we have focused on the US, we are an obese nation but, yet we are nutrient deficient. If you think about that for a moment, that is insane. We are eating lots of food but the food is not nutrient-rich. That tells me something is wrong. Something is wrong with the system, whether it’s the standard American diet, or in general, how food is marketed to us?
When I think about that from my experience, “What are the foods that we are not eating?” It’s nose to tail. Hands down, there are not enough people eating nose to tail anymore. That was my mission. It’s like, “How do I get the most nutrient-dense food on the planet, this nose-to-tail eating into people’s diets?” When we talk to anyone about organ meats, what are the hurdles that you hear?
It tastes icky. I don’t know how to cook it or I don’t want to touch it. It’s slimy or I know I need it but I don’t know where to get it. Maybe the fourth is I know I need it. I’m getting supplements but I sometimes forget to take the supplements or they are expensive. Those are pretty much the things I hear. What is that in congruence with what you hear?
Organ meat is Mother Nature’s multivitamin. It is so full of nutrients that you cannot compare them to anything in the world.
Number one, as you put it, is that finding a good source of those particular products, and then the fact that we are not used to preparing, cooking, eating these foods, and then even if we can accomplish all that stuff for ourselves, how do we get our family and our love ones onboard with that? It provides a lot of different hurdles, which you seem to have solved, which is fantastic.
I love for people to eat those organs. As you said, “The most nutrient-dense food on the planet is liver.” I’m a huge seafood promoter as well for all my readers who know me. I believe that seafood is the healthiest food on the planet. People who are in the carnivores space or the heavy meat space neglect seafood, and it’s detrimental to people’s health.
People with the highest levels of Omega-3, DHA, EPA, for example, have the lowest risk of every illness, including the one that people discuss, which is COVID-19. With that being said, with these organs and now getting the quality, the finding, the source, cooking it, preparing it, and getting into our diets and those of our loved ones still represents a problem.
I love that you have mentioned seafood. Organs of the fish, I would love to be able to utilize those as well. You see those cod liver oil, you see that those products out there but when I refer to organ, my product uses bovine, I am referring to all species except maybe human. There is an ancestral concept of supports like. I’m sure you are familiar with it. That idea of like, “If you eat spleen, it’s going to support your spleen. If you eat liver, it’s going to support your liver.”
That’s what motivates me and why I specify nose to tail. As you said, “Liver is the most nutrient-dense.” I’m for all the other parts as well. Testicles, there are a lot of influencers that are out there that are eating those. The tongue is a great one as well. What’s interesting about the tongue and some of these other organs is they are cheaper than the muscle meats.
When people say, “I want to get this pasture 100% grass-fed animal but it’s so expensive.” I said, “Get these other cuts. If you can’t find them, go to your local farmer’s market or local ranch.” Ask one because I guarantee you they have them. They don’t bring them to the market because they don’t know if anyone is going to buy them but if you go and you say to them, “I will buy it.” They will bring it. They will give it to you.
What about chicken, turkey or fowl as a source of organs?
Chickens are interesting species. If you look at it historically, chickens were not eaten all the time. They were a specialty. Chickens take on what they are eating more so than even other animals. That you can quickly change the nutrition of the meat by feeding the chicken differently. It’s quick but the issue is the poultry industry in the US is atrocious. It’s really bad.
Even when you go to smaller markets, now there are small farms that are doing it better but even they are beholden to some of these species that aren’t that nutrient-dense. Ninety-eight percent of poultry is all one breed at this point, and it’s the broad-breasted chicken where the white meat that’s bigger, and cooks venture is an organization that’s not trying to bring that more heritage bird to market.
If you look historically, what a chicken would look like, they are not as robust around the white meat. They are more dark meat. It’s a different flavor. My concern with it is when I recommend it to people when you are eating organ meats, I always say start with chicken hearts because chicken hearts are so mild. They are so easy to incorporate into anything. Chop them up great but the key is, can you find a good source?
If it’s conventional chicken, I wouldn’t eat it personally. I wouldn’t do it but if you can pull on a good source of chicken hearts, I would start with chicken hearts. They are mild, easy to do, and you won’t deal with the hurdles that we brought up earlier than any tastes hurdles or cooking hurdle because they cooked so fast. It’s like an easy stir fry chicken hearts.
It hit home on that point as far as we are always talking about free-range, grass-fed, pasture-raised animal products, ethically raised chicken if we raise cattle, so on and so forth. I agree in that sense. Back to that seafood, I do want to reiterate that. I talk to people when I say seafood is the healthiest and certainly, wild salmon, sardines, anchovies, and shellfish but I love to be able to get the whole anchovy.
I don’t know if you have ever enjoyed that before, and I’m able to get them frozen from our local whole foods. They get it in pretty much for me because nobody else eats them but we get these 5-pound boxes of frozen whole sardine, and we eat the whole thing. It contains the brain, eyeballs, heart, and bones, a great source of calcium and stuff like that.
The United States consumes a lot of food every year, but it continues to be an obese nation. Nutrient deficiency remains one of its major problems.
How can you beat that? As you said, the concept of supports and the point in a lot of those ways is that if you eat liver and all the nutrients well, then, of course, that would support your liver. If you eat testes, ovaries, pancreas or whatever it may be, you are going to get all of those vitamins, minerals, fats, and proteins that go to support that organ.
If you look at every other country, pretty much every other country incorporates these parts of the animals in their national food, whether it’s Menudo in Mexico that’s utilizing organ meats. If I remember correctly, that’s a stomach lining. Sometimes some other parts of the animal. You have blood sausage in Ireland. You have kidney steak and kidney pie in the UK, which uses the kidney of the cow. Every country is utilizing it, but yet the US is not. Where I go is like, “What happened because we used to? If you go back to World War II, organ meats were eaten.
If you talk to most people’s parents, nowadays, you have to say grandparents or great-grandparents, you ask them, “Did you eat organ meats growing up?” They will say, “Liver and onion.” I talked to my mother, who grew up in Brooklyn. They used to go to a butcher shop, pick out the chicken, they wanted it because it was living. They would take that chicken and go in the back. They would get deal with it, pull off the feathers, kill it, everything, and then they would get a warm carcass later that day.
That’s how in touch they were with the food that they were eating. One of the hurdles we are facing now is that something happened. We know that it was classed a little bit with that people saw muscle meat, particularly after World War II, they saw eating muscle as more luxurious. You had more people working in the household, not only the male but also the females. They had more money coming in. People thought, “We are going to buy the more expensive cuts.” Suddenly, organ meats were not as in favor, and they were seen as poor food.
You can even trace it even further back to slavery times when the slave owners would get a pig. They would give all the organs like the intestines and stuff like that to the slaves, and they would keep the muscle meat but little did they know they were giving the slaves the more nutrient-dense foods. That’s where you get chitlins. It is Southern food, and that is pig intestine.
Organ meats were a part of our history, and yet, for some reason, the majority of us are not eating them anymore, and that’s ultimately what I’m trying to solve. When I think about food from my chef’s perspective, food is emotional for people. It’s tied to your emotions. I mentioned I was a picky eater and a lot of that as an adult, I look back at that and I go, “I was playing out other emotions.” I was looking at food because that was the one thing I could control. There are other things in my life that felt chaotic. I’ve got picky because I needed to control something. For me, where that food pickiness came from but ultimately, food equals emotion.
How do we get over that hurdle? For my money, I believe we do that when we can remove that barrier. When we make it so that it tastes delicious because, if it tastes good, people will eat it. If we make it easy because people want things that are easy, even though I don’t agree with that, people do. We want things that are easy. That is what Pluck is solving. I make it easy and delicious. You don’t even have to know you are eating organ meats.
EatPluck.com is the website, and James Barry is our guest on the show. He is the former celebrity chef now, CEO, and inventor of Eat Pluck. James, tell me about the Pluck product. Where are you getting the food from? Tell me about the quality of it and some of the blends. Let’s talk about how we get this into our diet that is going to be pretty darn simple.
We are utilizing five organs in this current blend, liver, kidney, heart, spleen, and pancreas. Every one of those organs does something different. We have talked about the liver. It is high. We know it’s the typical mineral that’s associated with iron. Its theme is iron. The heart has CoQ10. The pancreas has natural enzymes. Every organ is doing something a little similar and a little different. I take those organs. They are freeze-dried, and I’m getting them sourced in New Zealand from 100% grass-fed farms because, as we have already discussed, quality is key. I do believe the health of the animal is going to equal the health of you.
The barrier that hinders people from trying organ meat can be removed if they can be cooked deliciously, making them easier to consume.
Sourcing is important. It’s hard to get some of these items normally. We talked about sometimes you are able to get the liver from your local place. I know a lot of people sometimes have access to the liver but I don’t know many people that had access to the pancreas and spleen. I’m trying to support that notice to tell the five blends.
What I did was I paired it with organic spices and herbs. You’ve got some onion, garlic and parsley. It’s herbs and spices that offset that taste that’s associated with organ meat. Some people love organ meat but others have that hurdle. I was trying to reach that person who’s not eating organ meat at all.
That’s what the blend is and an all-purpose plan. You could put it on everything. I worked with the product for a year before I put it out, and I’m limited to my palette. As a chef, if I had a color, it would be a very specific color palette but I don’t do everything. I don’t try everything. Since Pluck has gone live and people have had access to purchase it, I’m getting feedback like, “I tried it on pomegranates, and it worked well. I tried it on ice cream, and we were talking about how it would probably taste great in a bloody Mary.” There are things that I never did that now people are telling me, and I’m giddy to be able to say it truly is all-purpose.
Even though it’s coming from a cow, you can put it on salmon, chicken or lamb. It works because it’s umami. For anyone reading, umami is the fifth flavor. You have bitter, sour, sweet, salty, and then they discovered a fifth one in Japan and it’s umami. You would describe umami as meaty and savory. What it does is bring out the flavors of the other four flavors. It enhances the other flavors. Umami is an amazing thing because you can add pretty much almost anything. It makes things taste better. To me, that’s a win-win. You are getting the nutrients from organs and making your food tastes better. What else do you need?
The fact that it’s all organic. That’s why we are big fans of what you are doing it. It sounds like it’s so delicious. I’m sure to anyone who’s reading when you talk about the onion, lemon peel, garlic, parsley, mustard seed, thyme. You are getting so many fantastic things in there. The fantastic sea salt that goes along with it or Redmond Real Salt. It’s wonderful stuff.
I don’t know if I can wrap my head around putting it on ice cream. We eat 100% organic grass-fed ice cream. We typically get Straus. There’s a place in Arizona near our office that serves as Straus’s soft-serve ice cream. Occasionally, we will do that for treats and stuff like that. Maybe I will have to pony up and try putting it on there and see how it tastes for the experience. Even if you don’t choose to do that, you’ve got soups, chili, and sprinkled on top of a salad. That’s the beauty of seasoning, and all these things have cardiovascular benefits.
The benefits, of course, of onions, garlic, lemon peel as a source of vitamin C, antioxidants, and anti-inflammatories as well. Food is medicine. We all know that it sounds cliché but it truly is the truth, and you are making it easy over Pluck because as much as sometimes as we want to get the organs into people and have that conversation. I talked to patients all day long and asked them, “How often do you eat seafood and organs?” The response is generally never or I did when I was a kid, and now I don’t. Bringing this back in. You are doing some fantastic work, James. I appreciate you being on now.
The question then becomes, “Do I still need organs? How much do I use? What am I getting in?” The answer is I’m not trying to take away from eating organs. I know people that put Pluck on organs, and it tastes delicious. If anything, Pluck is the gateway. Pluck is for the people that want to ensure that they are getting micro-dosing of organ meats into their diets and frequent use. That’s what it is.
Is it going to replace capsules? Maybe it depends on why you are using the capsules and how much you are taking? Is it going to replace eating liver? I don’t think it should. I think you should still eat liver. Particularly, as you mentioned, seafood organs, eating the whole anchovy, anything like that. You should keep doing that but I guarantee if you put some Pluck on your anchovy, it’s going to taste even better. There’s no reason to only do one of the many options you have of optimizing your health.
James, I know a winner here. Again, for everyone listening, EatPluck.com is the website. I’m trying to convince James now to save me some room on my new shelf at Natural Heart Doctor in Scottsdale as we open up in early February 2022. We will have a nice little Pluck section over there, so people can purchase right from us as well.
Hopefully, you are not sold out of inventory because your concept is going to take off and offer a tremendous service to all the people in the world. All of these children, as you mentioned, that are overfed but undernourished, what a phenomenal way to get this super-food into people’s lives again. James, thank you so much for being on the show. Cheers to your 100-year heart.
About James Barry
James Barry’s 16 + years in the culinary field started as a private chef. He had the good fortune of cooking for celebrities such as Tom Cruise, Mariska Hargitay, George Clooney, Gerard Butler, Sean “Puffy” Combs, Barbra Streisand, and John Cusack. Most recently, James launched his first functional food product, Pluck, an organ-based, all-purpose seasoning. It’s the first of its kind and an amazingly easy and delicious way for people to get organ meats into their diet.
James also co-authored the recipes in Margaret Floyd’s book Eat Naked and co-authored the follow-up cookbook The Naked Foods Cookbook. He most recently co-authored the recipes in Dr. Alejandro Junger’s book, Clean 7.