One of the most common questions/comments that we come across is the actual color of tripe. It’s an expected, and quite valid, question given the that the name is Green Tripe. But is it really green?
The answer is actually NO.
Green Tripe, the smelliest of the smelly foods, actually comes in a variety of colors ranging from a beige/light brown, to grey, to browns, and even black. The term ‘green’ actually comes from a reference to it’s undigested stomach content that can be left, and when in the earliest stage of digestion can still appear ‘green’. However, seldom does this actually hold true for a few different reasons.
Prior to collection of the whole tripe at the abattoir, the contents are empties and the stomach is turned inside out. At this point 99% of the undigested solids are removed, but the gastric juices still largely remain trapped within the stomach structure – which is where many of the broken down nutrients from the vegetation are found. Cattle eat LOTS of weird things when they forage – they are basically consuming machines that just inhale whatever is in their path (and why the first chamber is sometimes referred to as the ‘hardware stomach’) . It is quite common to find many objects that you would find in a pasture or field – including small stones, parts of a fence, and other debris. Due to the composition of a cow’s digestive system, the are largely unable to pass such items and those items will remain there until removed.
In Canada, due to our seasons, cattle are often fed baled grass/hay that has been harvested during our relatively short growing seasons and stored for feeding throughout the fall/winter. Baled grass/hay loses it’s dark green appearance that we see on our lawns, and transitions to a light green/light brown coloring. By the time that grass has moved from the rumen (the first chamber) to the reticulum (the second chamber) the grass has been partially digested and most of the green coloring is gone.
Since most of the undigested material is removed, the color that we actually see is the color of the actual stomach itself (as seen in the photo above), and not that of it’s contents. And, believe it or not, the cattle stomachs actually have different colors regardless of what they are fed. And here is the answer as to what actually determines the color of tripe: <insert drum roll > it actually is in relation to the pigment of the cattle’s hair/skin. Few people outside of the production process would actually know that, given that few will ever see the process ‘before and after’. However, it is 100% true that the color of the tripe is in direct relation to the outside appearance of the animal. Black colored cows will produce tripe with a black surface color. Reddish colored cattle will produce tripe with a beige/light brown color. And brown cattle will produce brown colored tripe. Within the same herd, from the same farm and feeding the same diet, these color variants will be seen.
So there you have it. Next time you see tripe and it perhaps doesn’t have the same coloring as the last batch, one of the largest contributors is the fact that different colored cows have different colored stomachs – and that few of them will ever be green 😉