On Composting Meat

September 16th, 2015

In many places, probably even older blog posts here, you will find advice on composting that say do not do meat, or meat and dairy, or meat and dairy and bread.

I followed this advice for awhile, but I’ve stopped, there isn’t really any good reason not to compost these things.

First of all, composting is really hard to mess up. All it is is managed decay of organic material, and guess what? Stuff rots with or without your help. Meat rots, cheese rots, even twinkies will rot (eventually). So why the concerns?

Well some people claim that meat can harbor diseases. Yes, possibly, you’re right. Uncooked meat can, which is why we cook it. Of course other things can harbor diseases too, like organic fertilizer (manure) often used in gardening that has been linked to e coli outbreaks. So how would you avoid this? Don’t spray raw meat on your lettuce. Compost it well, long term, or mix it in with the soil, don’t use it as a top dressing. Simple enough.

Meat... composted it makes great fertilizer

Meat… composted it makes great fertilizer

Others claim that meat can attract more pests than just rotting vegetation, and worse pests. They are right, though they often forget that regular old rotting apples will attract plenty of vermin, there are certain other pests that are attracted to meat, maggots and the like. If you have chickens though that can be a good thing, chickens love maggots. Generally though, I agree, compost can attract pests. If you have a fully enclosed compost tumbler, like the one I have (see link), you’re pretty safe, that model can even stand up to a small bear. Otherwise, again, you can bury it, either directly into the garden or deep into your compost pile.

We buy fish meal as a garden fertilizer, blood meal, bone meal, what do you think these things are? Dead animals are in fact some of the best fertilizers you’ll find, especially aquatic animals, especially ocean aquatic animals (all those minerals!). If you burn or roast your bones first you can make the phosphorous inside more available, otherwise I see no reason not to toss any and all food scraps into your composter.

Some are also concerned about salt in cooked food, but really, its not a big deal. Several studies show a little salt would actually improve our soils, and if you were eating the food the salt level is probably not high enough to hurt the plants or the composting microbes. Don’t dump a whole bag of salt into it and you’ll be fine.

Yes, fats and animal products do produce far worse odors when decomposing, you can try to mitigate that by adding more dry browns, but that is just a fact of life as different bacteria tend to eat those products. Still, I don’t think that is a strong enough reason not to compost those products, considering all the nutrients in them.

I now compost almost everything that comes out of my kitchen or fridge, though I might end up feeding some scraps to the animals once I get some livestock. As I see it, why waste good potential fertilizer? I’ve even composted some whole dead animals. Dead birds I’ve found lying around generally (or in one case, one that hit the car). Some people I know will compost roadkill, I can see that, or I can see just burying it by a tree you want to get some nitrogen too). Kinda gross, but that is the circle of life. What is the weirdest thing you’ve composted?

9 Responses to “On Composting Meat”

  1. Vy  Says:

    I have composted hair after haircuts, if it’s dye free. Also we still use paper towels at times, those absolutely go in there.

  2. Administrator  Says:

    Hair is great, it is slow to decompose but almost pure nitrogen.

  3. Jim Bertolino  Says:

    I agree and the turkey buzzards are delightful as they soar overhead.

  4. Bill  Says:

    I think you’re right about this, though there is some (gentle) disagreement about it on the homestead. My reasons (in addition to yours) are that we don’t have a lot of meat waste here, so it wouldn’t be a major part of our compost. We feed the animals most meat waste. If I clean a fish or process a chicken, I bury the remains deep in the pile. I have at times tossed a dead varmint into the pile to cook down along with everything else.

  5. Angie  Says:

    I agree with you. Everything decays and ends up the same in the end, so what difference does it make whether it’s a banana peel or a piece of chicken?

  6. Rob  Says:

    Hmm, I’ve learned a couple things from this post, but the one that I may actually try out fairly soon is adding fish meal to the soil as fertilizer, I haven’t heard/thought of this before!

  7. Fire Fancy  Says:

    I’ve composted the leathery skin of Avocado, the shell of a hazel nut which is still can be found in my compost (even after I added it at some point in 2013) and I’ve recently added a small handful of shredded, compostable plastic bag material… just to see if it’s really compostable. I think that was back in September or October, and they still look like they’re not composting.
    I’ll try adding baked fish bones next summer, my uncle and aunt catch wild salmon each year. 🙂

  8. Wafa the Gardener  Says:

    I see no problem with adding meat to your compost. Through experience, I have found Fish meal to have more nutrition value. Everything decays afterall.

  9. Mike  Says:

    You can compost anything organic, if you don’t mind the stink and critters going after meat.

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