Anatomy of a beef tongue

This cow’s tongue seems incredibly long. Unfortunately, she did not tell us why she is letting it hang out. (Photo: Mathias Gerber)

A cow’s tongue is long, up to 30 centimetres! No wonder it is easy for a cow to even clean its nose with its tongue. But the rough tongue is also used in other ways for body and coat care. The suckler cow licks her newborn calf to stimulate its circulation. Cows and cattle lick each other for grooming and at the same time as an expression of friendship.

A cow licks her calf with her tongue in places where the calf’s own tongue can’t reach. A labour of love. (Photo: provided) 

The tongue is a strong, extremely mobile muscle covered with a mucous membrane and equipped with numerous sensory organs. Animals use it to feel or to tear off tufts of grass. They wrap their rough tongue around a tuft of grass then tear it off with a sweep of their head. Like us, cattle also taste with their tongues. And of course the organ plays a role in mooing, just as it is extremely important for us to speak.

Cows don’t need a handkerchief – their long tongue does the trick! (Photo: provided)
Cows don’t need a handkerchief – their long tongue does the trick! (Photo: provided)

The lean muscle meat of the tongue without mucous membrane, salivary glands and epiglottis is used as food. A whole beef tongue weighs up to 1.5 kilograms. In Central Europe, tongue is rarely served as a whole, but is mostly processed into sausages. In the past, it was considered a delicacy. If you want to try your hand at tongue in the spirit of the "from nose to tail "1 movement, you usually have to order it in advance from the farm shop or the butcher. A recipe for preparing it can be found here or also in the Tiptopf.

Sources: www.die-fruchtbare-kuh.ch , www.hoio.ch 

1 “from nose to tail” refers to a movement that once again emphasises cooking the whole animal and not just using selected prime cuts. In the past, this went without saying.