Rumen, digestive system

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“Rumen, digestive system”

The dish, titled “Rumen, digestive system”, was served to the 40 guests of “The Soft Protest, re-chewing & Digest” dinner in October 2019 at Corridor project space in Amsterdam.

Designed in collaboration with chef’s duo Axe&Porridge[1], this vegetarian dish consisted of a large Polish type ravioli called “Pierogi”, filled with mushrooms, celeriac and dill. Served in its vegetable broth, the dish could be topped with gravy and onions.

Mimicking a cow’s stomach, the ravioli could also be eaten with real cooked veal stomach and tongue — the amount of meat relative to the production of the milk used in the production of the starter.

Introduction to the dish

Explanation of the cow's digestive system as an introduction to the main dish
The presentation of the tongue to the guests

“The cow’s digestive system is a wonderful machine: it allows cows to get energy from an undisputed resource that humans can’t digest: grass — 1/4 of Earth’s land area is grasslands. This unique evolutionary aptitude allowed herds of ruminants to thrive across the Old World, even before mankind domesticated them.

Grazing consists on wrapping the tongue around plants and pulling to tear it — this is the entry point which allows us to access grass energy in the form of milk and meat. Once the tongue swallowed the grass, it ends up in the rumen, the first stomach compartiment, field with the precious microbial fauna allowing recalcitrant plants fibres to be processed through fermentation. While the liquid part of the food moves from the reticulum to the other compartiments, the solid part stays in the rumen. It may then be propelled up by the oesophagus to be chewed again, before to be swallowed again: this is what we call: ‘rumination’. After the grass has passed through the 4 compartiments, all the nutrients therefore obtained are absorbed through the intestine.

This process unfortunately produces a greenhouse gas called methane, resulting from fermentation in the rumen. If we combine feed production, grass digestion, animal waste, and land transformation, livestock farming accounts for 14,5% of global man-made greenhouse gas. But methane being more potent than carbone dioxyde, cattle is considered to be responsible for 30% of global methane emission. With 1 billion animals worldwide, cattle farming is an over-size industry, relying on huge amounts of exported feed, resulting on an excessive production of manure and methane per hectare of land.

If we were to reduce the world’s herd for the good of the environment, it is safe to say that smaller quantities of meat would be available for consumption. One solution could be therefore to re-introduce parts of the animal which are, in countries like the Netherlands, considered like bi-products: e.g. intestins, stomach, tongue, etc… In many neighboring countries, such parts are still eaten, making use of the cow in its entirety as well as of the veal (which has to be slaughtered every year, to allow the cow to produce milk).”

Take a sneek peak at the dinner

🎞Behind the scenes — mini video documentary (2 minutes)

Exhibition of the cow's digestive system

To illustrate our talk on the cow's digestive's system as well as the use in cooking of what is often considered as “by-products” (ergo: tongue, tripes, stomach, etc.) of the meat and dairy industry, ceramist Denise Aimee Rijnen (Darc matter ceramics) produced two custom platters for a veal tongue and its digestive system. These plates were exhibited during the following week as part of the exhibition and transformed again into raw clay.[2]


  1. Sander Uitdehaag & Veniamin Kazachenko
  2. The platters had not been fired on purpose to allow them to be recycled.