Slice of pig's liver and onions
Slice of pig's liver and onions
Nutritional value per 100 g (3.5 oz)
Energy561 kJ (134 kcal)
2.5 g
3.7 g
21 g
Vitamin A equiv.
6500 μg
Riboflavin (B2)
3 mg
Niacin (B3)
15 mg
Vitamin B6
0.7 mg
Folate (B9)
212 μg
Vitamin B12
26 μg
Vitamin C
23 mg
23 mg
87 mg

This nutritional data is from 1992 and refers to raw pork liver only. Liver nutrients vary among species.
Percentages are roughly approximated using US recommendations for adults.
Source: USDA FoodData Central
Mămăligă (cornmeal mush) with chicken liver, cuisine of Moldova
Mămăligă (cornmeal mush) with chicken liver, cuisine of Moldova
Canned cod liver (see also: cod liver oil)
Canned cod liver (see also: cod liver oil)

The liver of mammals, fowl, and fish is commonly eaten as food by humans (see offal). Pork, lamb, veal, beef, chicken, goose, and cod livers are widely available from butchers and supermarkets while stingray and burbot livers are common in some European countries.

Animal livers are rich in iron, copper, the B vitamins and preformed vitamin A. Daily consumption of liver can be harmful; for instance, vitamin A toxicity has been proven to cause medical issues to babies born of pregnant mothers who consumed too much vitamin A.[1] A single serving of beef liver exceeds the tolerable upper intake level of vitamin A.[2] 100 g cod liver contains 5 mg of vitamin A and 100 µg of vitamin D.[3] Liver contains large amounts of vitamin B12, and this was one of the factors that led to the discovery of the vitamin.[4]


From Middle English liver, from Old English lifer, from Proto-Germanic *librō, from Proto-Indo-European *leyp- "to smear, smudge, stick", from Proto-Indo-European *ley- "to be slimy, be sticky, glide". Cognate with Saterland Frisian Lieuwer "liver", West Frisian lever "liver", Dutch lever "liver", German Leber "liver", Danish , Norwegian and Swedish language lever "liver" the last three from Old Norse lifr "liver".

In the Romance languages, the anatomical word for "liver" (French foie, Italian fegato, Spanish hígado, etc.) derives not from the Latin anatomical term, jecur, but from the culinary term ficatum, literally "stuffed with figs," referring to the livers of geese that had been fattened on figs (foie gras).[5]


Liver can be baked, boiled, broiled, fried, stir-fried, or eaten raw (asbeh nayeh or sawda naye in Lebanese cuisine, liver sashimi). In many preparations, pieces of liver are combined with pieces of meat or kidneys, like in the various forms of Middle Eastern mixed grill (e.g. meurav Yerushalmi). Spreads or pâtés made from liver have various names, including liver pâté, pâté de foie gras, chopped liver, liverwurst, liver spread, and Braunschweiger. Other liver sausages include mazzafegato or salsiccia matta. A traditional South African delicacy, namely skilpadjies, is made of minced lamb's liver wrapped in netvet (caul fat), and grilled over an open fire.

There has been a growing popularity of consuming liver as jerky or as supplements in capsules due to its nutritious density.[citation needed]

Fish liver

Some fish livers are valued as food, especially the stingray liver. It is used to prepare delicacies, such as poached skate liver on toast in England,[6] as well as the beignets de foie de raie and foie de raie en croute in French cuisine.[7] Cod liver (usually tinned in its oil and served seasoned) is a popular spread for bread or toast in several European countries. In Russia, it is served with potatoes. Cod liver oil is commonly used as a dietary supplement. Liver of burbot is eaten in Finland: it is common for fish vendors and supermarket fish aisles to sell these fish with liver and roe sacks still attached. These parts are often eaten boiled or added to burbot soup. Burbot and its liver are a traditional winter food.[8]

Human livers

Eating human livers of enemies was a part of many culture across the world and it was believed where the courage and soul of a person resided. The pagan Arab Hind bint Utbah ate the liver of Hamza.[9]

French Catholics ate livers of Huguenots at the St. Bartholomew's Day massacre while French Protestant Huguenots cooked and ate the relics (bodily remains) of Catholic saints.[10][11][12][13][14][15][16][17][18][19]

Jean de Léry mentioned in his "History of a Voyage to the Land of Brazil" that Italians also ate the livers of each other during mob violence at the same time as the French.[20][21][22][23][24][25][26][27][28][29][30][31][32][33][34][35][36][37][38][39][40][41][42]

Japanese ate livers of Americans in the Chichijima incident.

97% of the Japanese soldiers occupying Jolo were slaughtered by Moro Muslim Tausug guerillas according to Japanese soldier Fujioka Akiyoshi, who was one of the few who remained alive by the end of the war.[43][44] Fujioka described the Moros as brutal and recalled how the Moros sliced the livers and gold teeth off Japanaese soldiers who in one month slaughtered 1,000 Japanese after they came to the island.[45][46] Fujioka and his fellow Japanese soldiers were overjoyed when they finally reached an American base to surrender to since they knew their only other fate was being butchered by Moro Muslims or starvation.[47][48] Injured Japanese were slaughtered by Moros with their kris daggers as the Moros constantly attacked and charged and butchered Japanese soldiers.[49][50] Fujioka Akiyoshi (藤岡 明義) wrote a published diary of his war experiences on Jolo called (Haisen no ki ~ gyokusai chi Horo tō no kiroku )(敗戦の記~玉砕地ホロ島の記録 or 敗残の記: 玉砕地ホロ島の記錄) and a private account "Uijin no ki" (初陣の記).[51][48] His diary mentioned the majority of Japanese on Jolo were slaughtered, succumbing to malaria and to Moro attacks. Japanese corpses littered the ground, decaying, infested with maggots and smelling horrendous. Fukao and other Japanese survivors surrendered to the Americans to avoid being slaughtered by the Moro Muslims and after they were in American custody a group of Moros grasping their daggers saw them and wanted to slaughter them. One Moro mentioned how his 12 year old son was eaten by Japanese soldiers at a mountain and he was slaughtering all Japanese soldiers from that area and Fujioka saw he was wearing the wristwatch of Japanese Sergeant Fukao.[52][53][54][55][56]

During slaughter of Madurese settlers in the Indonesian ruled part of Borneo island, Dayaks and Malay Indonesians consumed livers of Madurese.[57][58][59][60][61][62][63][64][65][66][67][68]

A mob of Dutch Orangists ate the organs of their Prime Minister Johan de Witt including his liver.[69][70]

Western Europeans also ate organs and body parts of humans as medicine during the 16th-18th centuries.[71][72][73]

Syrian rebel Abu Sakkar during the Syrian civil war ate an organ of a Syrian government soldier as he declared to a video camera recording him that "We will eat your hearts and your livers you soldiers of Bashar the dog." and said it was either a lung or liver.[74]


Main article: hypervitaminosis A

The livers of polar bears, walruses, bearded seals, moose, and huskies can contain very high levels of preformed vitamin A,[75] and their consumption has led to vitamin A poisoning (hypervitaminosis A) according to several anecdotal reports. The Inuit will not eat the liver of polar bears or bearded seals. It has been estimated that consumption of 500 grams of polar bear liver would result in a toxic dose for a human.[75] Russian sailor Alexander Konrad, who accompanied explorer Valerian Albanov in a tragic ordeal over the Arctic ice in 1912, wrote about the awful effects of consuming polar bear liver.[76] Also, in 1913, Antarctic explorers on the Far Eastern Party Douglas Mawson and Xavier Mertz were believed to have been poisoned, the latter fatally, from eating husky liver, though this has been contested recently.[77]

Mercury content in some species can also be an issue. In 2012, the Government of Nunavut warned pregnant women to lower their intake of ringed seal liver due to elevated levels of mercury.[78]

The neurotoxin in the liver of the pufferfish (which is consumed in Japanese cuisine as fugu, tightly regulated by Japanese law) contains the highest concentration of the tetrodotoxin, which characterizes the species. Consequently, the liver has been illegal to serve since 1984.


Pig liver is a traditional food of immigrant Okinawans in Hawaii. It used to be eaten on New Year's Eve.[79]


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