Calf's liver as an item on a restaurant menu is certainly correct, but one also sees calves liver written down.

What certainly is wrong is calves' liver, except if one assumes that many calves were part of the contribution to what is being cooked and served (hardly the case, and even if correct, not worth mentioning).

What is the correct way of writing this?

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    calves' liver could be the case if the restaraunt is not a very good one and they just serve a whole bunch of bits and pieces, rather than a single, distinct liver. – FrustratedWithFormsDesigner Sep 20 '11 at 17:08
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    (In general, menus are usually badly written in the restaurants I eat at, even the expensive ones: they often flout established rules of spelling and style. But it may be different with certain restaurants you frequent.) – Cerberus_Reinstate_Monica Sep 20 '11 at 19:00
  • We all agree that the third alternative is not valid, or at least (if treated as such) suggestive. Which of the first two alternatives is the correct usage? Going strictly by grammar - that would make it the first alternative? – restaurateur Sep 20 '11 at 21:56
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    I'm not convinced 'we all agree' is correct; I don't, for one. I think calves' liver is likely to be correct quite often. – Jonathan Leffler Sep 20 '11 at 23:10

The pattern seems to be [animal] + apostrophe + organ, as in, for example, ‘pig’s trotters’, so ‘calf’s liver’ would be consistent with that. There are, however, other possibilities: ‘chicken liver’.

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  • I think "chicken liver" is used because the dish is usually made with the livers of many chicken. So I guess "chickens' livers" would also be OK. – FrustratedWithFormsDesigner Sep 20 '11 at 18:29
  • "Chicken" can be a mass noun like "fish," "rice," "water," and therefore can imply the plural even without an "s." But as I mention below in my answer, "chicken liver" can also mean "liver from chickens" and not some other animal. – Mark Sep 21 '11 at 9:21

What exactly is the question here? Just because restaurants write something doesn't mean it's correct.
If you're asking whether or not "calves liver" is okay, then in my opinion it is because it can mean "the liver of calves," and no, it does not have to mean "a single liver portion made up of multiple livers," but rather it's liver from calves as opposed to liver from adult cows.

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