Can you compost meat


You Can’t Compost Meat (And Other Ridiculous Myths)

You’ve probably heard how the Indians taught the Pilgrims to bury fish carcasses beneath corn plants. That’s composting. I followed their lead and buried organ meat, humanure (we had a great composting toilet system going at one point) and rotten leftovers in 2 – 3′ deep holes and then covered them with a mound of dirt. A month or two later, I planted squash and sunflower seeds on the hills. I’ll tell you what – the plants didn’t need any additional fertilizing. We’ve done this multiple times and those areas remain fertile for years. (I call them “Melon Pits… you can read more about the process here and here).

The ground consumes anything dangerous and the plant roots then take what they want. Easy.

Of course, if you want compost for your garden, you do need to follow a few more rules – but they’re not tough. The reason extension agents don’t recommend adding certain ingredients to your pile is because they can attract vermin, create odors and fail to break down quickly or safely in a typical backyard pile. It’s not because they’re useless as soil amendments.

I confess: I’m not neurotic about creating “perfect” compost. I create a few large piles a year to feed my wife’s raised beds and my collection of fruit trees. I just mix a collection of green and brown things together and let nature take its course. If you’ve got some coffee grounds (some coffee shops give them away for free), grass clippings, garden thinnings, kitchen scraps and that sort of thing, mix them together in a pile and wet it as you go. It WILL rot, even if it isn’t as fast as you’d like. Turn it when you remember and it will break down faster. Get the mix of carbon and nitrogen correct and it will convert much faster – but even if you’re totally lazy, it will eventually become beautiful compost.

Every time I drive through town, I see piles of leaves, branches, grass clippings, tree trunks, pine needles and other rich organic matter lying by the road, waiting to be picked up by waste management. WHY? Because people don’t realize what they’re doing! By sending all that organic material off their property – they’re exporting their soil’s fertility… only to later purchase some back in plastic bags marked with numbers like “10-10-10.”

Think about it: a plant or a tree pulls up nutrients from deep in the soil and uses them, along with solar energy and water, to grow. All parts of that plant are useful! Don’t chuck it by the side of the road! You’re leaving your piece of earth less fertile than it was before.


Logs and sticks can be piled into corners to rot – or even buried as long-term moisture reservoirs for the soil (look up “hugelkultur” online – it’ll blow your mind). Leaves and grass clippings can be used as mulch or put in a compost pile. Pine needles are good mulch for acid-loving plants such as roses, azaleas and blueberries. Over time, all that plant material will break down and become part of the soil again, whether or not you make a nice, neat, highly managed system.

God designed things in nature to constantly cycle. Grab a piece of that cycle today and your plants will thank you tomorrow.

Now quick – go pull that banana peel out of the trash!

For daily gardening madness, visit David’s blog at

Traditional compost piles work well for garden waste. With some experience, patience and effort fruit and vegetables peelings can also be added. Care has to be taken to get the nitrogen:carbon balance correct, the centre of the pile sufficiently hot and the pile turned regularly to stop the process from becoming anaerobic. However, even the most competent composter will often shy away from adding meat, bones, dairy and cooked food to their compost bin.

Problems of putting meat, bones and cooked food in a traditional compost pile

There are a few people who are able to successfully compost everything in their backyard composter but the majority of us will have experienced some (or all) of the following effects when sneaking some meat or cooked food into our traditional composter:

  • Meat, bones and cooked food are all known attractants to pests in your compost pile. Rats, mice, flies, raccoons, bears and other local visitors will soon sniff out the free food and make your compost bin a regular dinner stop. Egg shells, dairy, bread and even potato peelings can attract unwelcome guests to your compost bin and garden.

  • Decomposing meat may contain harmful pathogens. High temperatures are needed to destroy these pathogens. Whilst these temperatures can be reached in a commercial compost facility, it can be difficult, to achieve in a small compost pile at home. These pathogens can be harmful to humans and you really don’t want to introduce them into your garden.
  • The smell! Rotting meat and dairy is not pleasant. The smell will attract flies, maggots and other wildlife to your compost pile. Not something that most people want sat at the end of their garden or in their neighbor’s garden.

Composting meat, bones and cooked food in your bokashi kitchen composter

However meat, bones and cooked food can all be composted simply and easily using your bokashi kitchen composter.

  • The bokashi EM bacteria will help to destroy any harmful pathogens in the meats.
  • The bokashi composting process pickles (or ferments) the food scraps in a sealed anaerobic environment. The pickling process does not produce any foul odours or attract pests, flies, maggots or other unwelcome visitors.
  • Meat, bones, cooked food, dairy food, and all other food scraps can be added to your bokashi kitchen composter easily to produce homemade compost. We recommend being more generous when adding bokashi bran if you are adding bones and meat to your kitchen composter; just to make sure there are enough healthy EM bacteria to ferment all of your food scraps. Note that large bones will take longer than the standard 4 to 6 weeks to be broken down in your soil.

Order now! Find all your bokashi composting supplies in our online shop.

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Composting bones with bokashi

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Straight Talk on Meat and Dairy in the Compost

Compost: in many ways, it’s totally magical. You dump food waste, lawn clippings, paper, and other things into your compost pile; care for it; and wait for the pile to generate rich, dark, nutrient-laden soil that your garden will love. But there are a lot of questions surrounding compost, what you can put in it, and what you shouldn’t toss in the compost bin.

Are Animal Products OK to Compost?

One of the most common questions about compost care is whether it’s okay to add animal products like meat, dairy, and bones — most people know eggshells and seafood shells can be great for compost (if you didn’t know, they enrich the soil immensely and deter slugs and snails), but what about sour cream? Chicken bones?

Some people say you should absolutely never put animal products in the compost, ever. Others say it’s totally fine, and in fact good for the soil; after all, in nature, animals decay right along with everything else. Others suggest getting around the problem entirely by going vegan.

So, what’s the deal? Can you or can’t you?

The short answer is: yes, you can. The longer version of that answer starts with a but…

Issues with Meat and Dairy in Your Compost

Here’s why many people suggest not putting meat in your compost: It can attract pests. Rats, flies, dogs, and other visitors may come and rifle through your compost, making a big stinky mess. There are also some concerns about pathogens and whether compost piles get hot enough to kill them off. This isn’t a big problem if you’re growing ornamentals, but could be one if you’re applying compost to food plants. (Yet another reason to wash fruits and veggies before consumption.)

Another potential issue is that meat and dairy tend to decompose anaerobically, which doesn’t result in great compost, takes longer, and smells bad. The solution? Aerate your compost. Make sure to turn it regularly, and add substances like straw, paper, or sawdust to maintain aeration in the compost pile, encouraging even breakdown and the flourishing of microorganisms that rely on air to survive. High carbon additions (sometimes called browns) are important for balance in your compost anyway!

Manage the Compost Pile

Animal products aren’t harmful to compost, but they do require more careful management. You’ll need to commit to a well-enclosed composting area (you may want to hire a carpenter to build an enclosure or elevated compost platform) to ensure that pests can’t get to it, and you will need to aerate regularly in addition to adding plenty of browns to maintain a healthy balance. Worms can help your compost break down even more quickly, which will cut down on odor.

Bokashi Composting

If you’re worried about smell and pests, consider Bokashi composting. This intensive method of composting, developed in Japan, uses specialized microorganisms to quickly break down all food waste, including animal products, into compost. It’s low-odor enough to be kept indoors, and the process of fermentation works so quickly that once a compost bucket is full, the contents will be totally broken down in a week to ten days!

You can add soil from a Bokashi composting setup to a regular compost bin or put it directly in the garden. Either way, your animal products will be well processed before heading outdoors, and they’ll add rich nutrients to the soil so your landscaping service will have beautiful soil conditions to work with.

Katie Marks writes for

Updated July 30, 2018.

How to Dispose of Raw Meat

The last thing you ever want to do is throw spoiled, raw meat into the garbage can all willy nilly! And not only that, you don’t want to throw any type of raw meat into the trash during the summertime.

Just imagine all of the smells!

When you’re disposing of raw meat, there are a few things you want to keep in mind.

  • Protect Your Hands – Before handling raw meat (especially meat that has spoiled), make sure you protect your hands with latex gloves. Raw meat that needs to be thrown away can contain a LOT of bacteria that can cause you to become sick if ingested. Not protecting your hands could cause the spread of this bacteria if you don’t take the time to wash your hands thoroughly with antibacterial soap.
  • Keep It Together – When throwing raw meat away, leave it in its packaging. You want to minimize the amount of handling so you reduce the risk of spreading any harmful bacteria.
  • Throw Away ASAP – When you place meat and its packaging in the garbage, immediately tie up the garbage bag and take it outside. Leaving the garbage inside can cause your home to smell as the meat continues to spoil. Place the bag inside of your outdoor garbage bin and ensure the lid is completely closed. Failing to do so can attract wild animals to come check out their next meal.
  • Freeze During Summer – When raw meat is placed in a garbage can outside during the summer, you’re just asking for trouble. It’s going to create the most putrid smell you probably have ever smelled. To avoid this (and luring a pest infestation toward your home), place all of your spoiled meat into a large food storage bag. Seal this bag and place it in the freezer until the morning of your normal garbage pickup.
  • Wash Everything – Once the meat has been disposed of, make sure you wash everything that handled it with the proper cleaner. Throw out the gloves you used, wash any surfaces the meat came in contact with, and even double check where you walked to ensure no juices or blood spilled or splattered anywhere. Finish off by washing your hand thoroughly.

Raw meat should be handled delicately and in a very specific way.

When you have questions regarding your garbage or recycling, be sure to give us a call and we’d be happy to assist you!

Protect Food and Water During Storms Main Page

A Notice from the FDA to Growers, Food Manufacturers, Food Warehouse Managers, and Transporters of Food Products

Grain and vegetable crops, and food manufacturing facilities, food warehouses, and food transporters may be flooded or lose power as a result of hurricanes or other severe weather events, so the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is providing important tips on how to properly dispose of contaminated or spoiled food. For food products that should be destroyed see Notice to Food Industry and food products that may, under certain circumstances, be reconditioned for future use, see the FDA Investigations Operations Manual, Subchapter 8.5.

Disposing of Contaminated or Spoiled Food

Decisions about disposing of food products are usually made by the owner of the product, along with the appropriate state agency and local authorities. In determining which contaminated food products should be disposed of, reconditioned or salvaged, the owners of the products must assess each product’s quality, safety and condition.

Depending on the applicable local, state, and Federal regulations, owners may be able to dispose of contaminated food products in a landfill, by incineration, or rendering.

Key questions to consider when disposing of contaminated food include:

  • What is (are) the contaminant(s)?
  • How the contaminated food is categorized (e.g. hazardous waste, municipal waste, radiological waste, non-hazardous waste requiring special handling, or unknown)?
  • What is the quantity of the contaminated product for disposal?
  • Where is the final disposal facility?
  • What are the logistics for moving the contaminated products from the site to the disposal facility?
  • Is transportation required for the transfer of waste to the final disposal site?
  • What are the required permits associated with the disposal process and how are they procured? Is assistance from state, local, and Federal government agencies required?
  • Is there a health and safety protection plan for the workers who will be involved in the disposal process? If so, what is the plan?
  • Who and what organizations will be involved in overseeing the disposal process?
  • What organizations must be involved and concur with re-introducing the reconditioned product into the marketplace?


FDA oversight ensures proper disposal so that contaminated products cannot be introduced into the food supply. Likewise, oversight by the Environmental Protection Agency or environmental quality authorities ensures that the contaminated products are disposed of in a manner that protects against further contamination of air, groundwater, or soil.

Vehicles Used in Transporting Contaminated Food Products

For vehicles, equipment, or localized contamination in facilities, the state (with FDA consultation and oversight) makes a determination as to when and whether the decontaminated vehicles, equipment, or facilities may be used for their original food-related purposes or for other purposes. And importantly, food producers will require these government officials to reissue the appropriate permits for startup and operation as well as the release of impounded vehicles or equipment.

In the case where any of the contamination or cleanup may expose the workforce, then additionally food producers must consult with the Department of Labor/Occupational Safety and Health Administration

For further information about disposing of contaminated, spoiled food as well as reconditioning, contact the Office of Compliance, Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (240) 402-2359 or FDA’s Nashville District Office (615) 781-5388 or FDA’s Atlanta Regional Office (404) 253-1171.

Related Information

  • Food Defense & Emergency Response for Retail Food
  • Retail Food Protection Guidance Documents and Regulatory Information
  • Retail & Food Service HACCP
  • More Information about Retail Food Protection

Disposal of surplus food

This guidance is for England

There are laws affecting food retailers, distributors and manufacturers (and in certain circumstances caterers) that, in the course of their business, are left with food material consisting of or containing products originating from animals that are no longer intended for human consumption (for example, raw meat or fish past its use-by date, milk and milk products, and eggs and egg products).

The Animal By-Products (Enforcement) (England) Regulations 2013 lay down rules for the collection, handling, transport, storage and disposal of animal by-products. They aim to control the risks, including disease, to both animals and the public. Food material consisting of or containing products originating from animals becomes an animal by-product (ABP) when the food business manager decides that the product is no longer to be used for human consumption for whatever reason. Once this decision is made it is irreversible. The material then becomes a low risk (category 3) ABP, and the origin and nature of this food material determines how it can be disposed of or used – for example, as animal feed.

The Animal Feed (Hygiene, Sampling etc and Enforcement) (England) Regulations 2015 put strict hygiene and safety controls in place in relation to animal feed so surplus food destined for use as animal feed must never be regarded as waste.

Can surplus food be fed to livestock?

In some instances former foodstuffs may be used for feeding to livestock as long as the material does not contain (and there is no risk whatsoever that it can have been in contact with) materials of animal origin – for example, raw meat, fish, eggs or products derived from or incorporating meat or fish. Products that may be fed to farmed animals may include eligible bakery, biscuit and confectionery products, and fruit and vegetables, subject to very strict controls.

Food businesses handling ABPs and former foodstuffs that wish to send eligible material for feeding to livestock must have a Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) plan in place to effectively control the separation, identification and storage of this feed material in order to prevent any cross-contamination and unsafe feed materials from entering the feed chain. An unsafe feed is one that could have an adverse effect on human / animal health or the environment, or make the food from food-producing animals unsafe for human consumption.

All former foodstuffs to be used as animal feed must be safe and wholesome for the intended species and must not be mouldy or contaminated with foreign bodies etc.

All stages in the chain need to be registered with their local authority under EU Regulation (EC) No 183/2005 laying down requirements for feed hygiene, including the food business, the livestock producer and the haulier.

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Surplus food originating from retailers, distributors, wholesalers & manufacturers

The following two types of food products fall into the lowest category of animal by-product material (category 3) and so must be disposed of in accordance with the Animal By-Products (Enforcement) (England) Regulations 2013; they are not eligible to be fed to livestock under any circumstances.

Raw meat & fish

Products that require cooking before consumption, including meat and fish off-cuts – for example, scampi, fish fingers, raw sausages, chicken kiev, bacon. These products must be disposed of at approved premises by one of the prescribed methods – for example, by rendering, incineration, or disposal at an approved biogas or composting plant, or as prescribed by EU Regulation (EC) No 1069/2009 laying down health rules as regards animal by-products and derived products not intended for human consumption.

Former foodstuffs

Uncooked and lightly cooked meat, poultry and fish products that are no longer intended for human consumption (for example, due to commercial reasons or manufacturing / packaging defects, and also out-of-date foods). This includes rare cooked meat (pink meat), beef jerky, Parma and Serrano ham, raw eggs and smoked salmon. These products must also be disposed of by one of the prescribed methods.

However, small quantities of category 3 ABP from retailers’, distributors’ or manufacturers’ premises (up to 20 kg) may be disposed of to landfill as normal business waste, with no requirement for commercial documentation or labelling. This derogation applies to businesses generating no more than 20 kg of category 3 ABP a week. This does not mean that a business generating 50 kg a week can put 20 kg in landfill and then treat the remaining 30 kg as ABP. The 20 kg derogation is a weekly limit, not an average limit over a number of weeks.

Any small business taking advantage of this derogation will need to keep detailed records to show the type and total weight of each batch of category 3 material sent to landfill each week – for example, ’17 June 2019: five bags of raw mince weighing in total 15 kg’.

Two flow charts are attached to help you decide how to dispose of your surplus food :
Animal by-products regulations flow chart
Disposal of waste foods containing animal by-products flowchart

For additional information see disposing of ABPs and how food businesses must dispose of food and former foodstuffs on the GOV.UK website.

In certain, strictly controlled, circumstances ABPs can be used to make pet food. For more information see using animal by-products to make pet foods on the GOV.UK website and pet food on the Food Standards Agency website.

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What must I do with surplus food that cannot go to landfill?


Store all category 3 animal by-product material covered in a safe place, separately from other material and away from vermin, wild birds or livestock.


Category 3 animal by-product material must be stored in a clean, lidded, leakproof container and must be labelled ‘Not for human consumption’.

Storage should not pose a risk of contamination to other foodstuffs, nor be left exposed to animals or wild birds.


Must be by a licensed carrier (see below for how to find one) and be taken to approved premises for the correct method of disposal. The carrier must give you a commercial document specifying as a minimum:

  • date of transport*
  • description of the material and the category description*
  • quantity
  • name and address of origin of material
  • name and address of transporter*
  • name and address of destination and approval / registration number (if applicable)*
  • signature of responsible person (generally the person producing the document)

A commercial document template is attached for your use.


As a consignor of animal by-product material you must keep a record showing the bullet points asterisked* above. In most cases, the copy of the commercial document can serve as your record. However, it is advisable to have additional records in book form or on computer, as appropriate. Both the commercial documents and records are required to be kept for two years and must be available for inspection by an authorised inspector.

Cleansing & disinfection

After each collection you must thoroughly clean and disinfect the container.


You are advised to make plans in case of an emergency – for example, a freezer breakdown or product recall – when you may have to destroy large amounts of ABP material at short notice.

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What about ‘sale or return’ foods?

You can continue your normal practices with your supplier. However, you cannot use them to dispose of other former foodstuffs – for example, out of date / damaged canned or dried meat products. If the decision is made that they are an ABP, they should be collected / disposed of as detailed above.

Special care and provisions should be taken with ‘sale or return’ items if you are intending to supply any material into the feed chain. Strict feed safety and hygiene provisions apply to material destined for the animal feed chain and consequently you should contact your local authority animal health / trading standards service for further advice if you are considering doing this.

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Do I have to empty food from its packaging before it is collected?

Any raw meat or raw fish still in packaging or packaging contaminated with such material cannot be disposed of to landfill.

You should check whether your collector will accept animal by-products in their packaging. If not, then packaging must be properly emptied before the carrier collects the category 3 materials and the empty and clean packaging is then sent to landfill or recycling, as appropriate. Many processing companies (such as renderers and incinerators) can take, and deal with, packaging.

Any packaging that is significantly contaminated with category 3 material cannot go to landfill and must be disposed of as per category 3 material.

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Catering waste

Catering waste means all surplus food (including used cooking oils) originating in restaurants, catering facilities and kitchens, including domestic kitchens. Catering waste is classified as category 3 ABP, except in the case of international catering waste (ICW), when it is classified as category 1 ABP.

The disposal of catering waste is only controlled by the Regulations under limited circumstances – for example, if you are sending it for any of the following:

  • animal consumption (it is illegal to feed catering waste to livestock). More information on the disease risk that catering waste presents to livestock can be found on the GOV.UK website
  • use in a biogas plant for composting (international catering waste is classified as high-risk category 1 ABP and as such cannot be used for biogas or composting)
  • use in pet food (it is illegal to use catering waste in the manufacture of pet food)

All other catering waste can continue to be disposed of to landfill in the normal way. However, you must ensure that the material is stored in covered leakproof containers to which wild animals, birds and livestock cannot gain access.

If the catering operation shares premises with another food activity such as retail, bakery or butchery then the non-catering waste must be disposed of as set out earlier.

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Where can I get a list of approved carriers?

Details of licensed carriers and approved premises to transport and dispose of animal by-product material can be provided by contacting the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) on 03000 200301. Further details on animal by-product operating plants can also be found on the GOV.UK website.

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Failure to comply with trading standards law can lead to enforcement action and to sanctions, which may include a fine and/or imprisonment. For more information please see ‘Trading standards: powers, enforcement & penalties’.

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Can you compost meat and bones?

It’s still possible to compost animal products, and here’s a quick guide on how to compost meat, bones, fat, egg shells, and other unsavory kitchen scraps.

The bacteria that do most of the work in a compost pile are aerobic bacteria, but the bacteria that thrive on meat scraps are anaerobic.

Can chicken bones go in food waste?

Yes, if you already compost at home, please keep composting all your fruit and vegetable peelings, tea bags and garden waste. However not all food waste can go into your home compost bin, such as meat and cooked food, these can go in your food waste collection instead.

Can you put chicken bones in the green bin?

As long as all the items placed in the Green Bin are organic and bio-degrade, they can be processed into compost. Please note, you would never put dairy, meat or bones in a backyard compost bin. If you are not sure what you can put in your Green Bin, contact your local recycling coordinator.

Can chicken bones be recycled?

Garbage can basically go two places: into a landfill, or to some sort of recycling or composting center. If it’s organic, like a chicken bone (or a pineapple), it can be composted. They don’t get that they can avoid stuffing a landfill with trash that stays there forever by composting instead.

How do you compost bones?

Cooked bones are ok to hot compost – just ensure that larger bones are chopped into smaller pieces with secateurs. Carefully break shells into fragments with a hammer. Carefully break shells into fragments with a hammer. Chop it into small chunks (<4cm) – make sure there are no large bones.

What can bones be used for?

Bones from slaughtered animals have a number of uses. Ground bones are used as an organic phosphorus-nitrogen fertilizer and as additive in animal feed. Bones, in particular after calcination to bone ash, are used as source of calcium phosphate for the production of bone china and previously also phosphorus chemicals.

How can I speed up my compost?

If you want to get compost in a hurry, there are a few things you can do to speed the process along.

  1. Size it right. Compost piles that are about 1 cubic yard (3 ft square by 3 ft high) get hotter quicker.
  2. Turn it over. Microbes need oxygen to do their work.
  3. Keep the combo right.
  4. Keep it moist.
  5. Shred it.

Can you put food waste in green bin?

If you live in Warwickshire and have a green wheelie bin then you can recycle all your food waste. Please do not put plastic, or biodegradable bags into your green bin as they contaminate the load and will not compost.

Can I put garden waste in my green bin?

Can I put ‘green waste’ into my household bin? Yes. However, this means it won’t be recycled, and if you overfill your bin so that the lid doesn’t close or it is too heavy then it may not be emptied. It is much better for the environment to either join the garden waste service or use a home compost bin.

Can you compost bacon grease?

A few things we know: bacon grease is not compostable. (Not in a home composter, anyway.) A residential compost bin or pile doesn’t get hot enough to sufficiently break down meat, bones, oils and fats. A small amount would be fine, but a whole can of grease wouldn’t really work.

What food scraps can you compost?

100 Things You Can Compost

  1. Fruit and vegetable scraps (G)
  2. Egg shells (crushed) (B)
  3. Coffee grounds (G)
  4. Coffee filters (B)
  5. Tea bags (Make sure they are made of natural materials like hemp or cotton, and not rayon or other synthetics.
  6. Loose leaf tea (G)
  7. Spoiled soy/rice/almond/coconut milk (G)
  8. Used paper napkins and paper towels (B)

What happens to food waste collected by councils?

Food waste collected as recycling from homes in the borough is taken to Bedfordshire where it is turned into energy and fertiliser. During this process, food waste is put into an anaerobic digester where micro-organisms break down food waste in the absence of oxygen.

What bin does food waste go in?

Green bin, container or box. Things that can go in your green bin include: all food (cooked or raw, meat, fish, vegetables), bones, twigs and branches, tea bags, flowers, grass and hedge cuttings, leaves and weeds (except Japanese knotweed). Put food waste in a compostable bag first. We supply food waste bags free.

What can go in compost heap?

Put the right stuff in. Good things to compost include vegetable peelings, fruit waste, teabags, plant prunings and grass cuttings. These are fast to break down and provide important nitrogen as well as moisture. It’s also good to include things such as cardboard egg boxes, scrunched up paper and fallen leaves.

Photo in the article by Joy

Composting the SCARY Stuff—Meat, Dairy, Bones, and Human Waste!

When I tell people I compost meat, dairy, bones, bread, etc., I often get the immediate “but you CAN’T!” reaction from normal people who follow all the silly rules on composting.

It’s ridiculous how complicated we’ve made composting.

Today we’ll talk about composting the scary stuff—the stuff THEY don’t want you to compost!

Composting Meat

The reason you’re often told “NO!” on meat is because it attracts varmints when placed in bins or tumblers above ground. There’s a simple solution to this problem: bury it. Blood and bone meal are both valuable organic fertilizers. Fish emulsion is another good food for the soil. How come we buy these expensive slaughterhouse- and fishing-derived amendments while chucking bones and meat into the trash?

You’ve probably heard how the Indians taught the Pilgrims to bury fish carcasses beneath corn plants. That’s composting! I’ve followed their lead and buried organ meat, beef stew, animal carcasses, and rotten leftovers in 2-3 feet deep holes and then covered them with a mound of dirt. A month or 2 later, I planted squash and sunflower seeds on the hills. I’ll tell you what—the plants didn’t need any additional fertilizing! Plus, those areas remain fertile for years. The slow release of nutrients is just what the doctor ordered.

You can also add meat and bones to a regular compost bin. Just bury it in the middle. If you have a varmint-proof bin, that’s a big help. I had a big galvanized metal bin at one point that worked very well for throwing in everything from fish guts to lasagna.

Composting Bread, Dairy, and Oils

I’ve been told not to put these things in the compost pile. Oils gum up the decay process, bread takes a while to break down, and dairy makes things stink to high heaven. So—do we throw them away? Naw, not a chance. You can bury them in trenches or just add them to the compost pile. They’ll break down.

You can also feed them to chickens, then add the chicken manure to your compost pile. Since chickens can’t easily eat a bowl of used cooking oil, I have mixed it into the other scraps I’m feeding them and they’ll wolf it down along with everything else. In return, I get eggs and manure. If you have a lot of material and don’t have chickens, just bury the items and trust the bacteria and fungi to do their job over time.

A final note on bread: it’s good food for the fungi in your soil. If you do sheet composting, adding bread, rice, wheat, etc., can boost the soil life.

Composting Human ‘Waste’

Composting your own urine and feces is controversial. Many people view the invention of the flush toilet as a great leap forward for mankind. The idea of eating food grown with poop provokes a deep revulsion in most Westerners. However, in a survival situation—or for those who seek a closer connection to nature and are tired of wasting water and a potential source of fertilizer—it makes total sense. We use animal manures—why not human manure?

The answer that immediately springs to mind is, “Disease! What about E. coli? Dysentery? Tapeworms?”

Fear not. Those things can all be destroyed through composting.

The go-to guide on the subject of humanure is Joseph Jenkins’ “Humanure Handbook,” which uses a 2-year hot composting system and bucket sawdust toilets to make completely safe, rich compost. If someone wanted a setup for an off-grid cabin, this would be it. I’ve used a modified version of this method for years and was blown away by how fast a cooking compost pile can digest what would normally be a horrifying septic mess. I recently posted a video where I build one of Jenkins’ bucket toilets for a cabin I’m finishing up—you can see that here:

However, there is an even easier way. Burying raw sewage beneath plants works wonders for growth. I remember reading about a system of mobile outhouses someone designed for use in Africa. Basically, a deep pit was dug in barren land and an outhouse was placed on top of it. After a year of use, the outhouse was moved and the top of the pit was filled with dirt. Then a tree was planted on top of it. The resulting concentrated fertility allowed the sapling to take hold even under tough conditions.

I’ve done the same with a mulberry tree to great effect.

Some folks worry that somehow the fruit of such a tree will be contaminated. A little bit of scientific inquiry rapidly dispels this notion. There’s no way for E. coli, a gut bacteria made to live inside nice warm animal and human intestines, can live and travel upwards through a plant. It just doesn’t happen. The danger, as we’ve seen in contaminated spinach recalls, is in raw waste being spattered onto produce that is then consumed. Burying makes this problem no longer a problem, provided you’re not in an area that floods. In that case, compost first. Don’t take stupid risks. But … if you’re simply returning droppings to the earth, where they belong, your trees will thank you.

Using Chickens to Compost

Another great method, as mentioned before, is to send stuff that doesn’t compost well right into the chicken pen. Beyond the saving of manure for later use, if your chickens are in a small run, you can simply throw lots of stuff over the fence and let them compost it right on the ground. I pitch lots of seedy weeds, kitchen scraps, leftovers from church dinners, and other tough-to-compost items into the same spot in my chicken yard. They eat it, turn it in, poop on it, turn it again—and leave behind some really nice dirt. You can then sift that dirt through some hardware cloth and dump it into your intensive beds or throw it around your trees. Crops grow nicely in beds topped off with microbe and nutrient-rich dirt from the chicken run.

Other people build closed-in bins that chickens can access from the top. The birds love picking out insects and digging through the compost. That’s smarter—not harder.

The reasons to compost are myriad—and, as you can see, it doesn’t have to be rocket science. Using everything is key in survival situations and for frugal living. If supply lines shut down, you’re not getting any more 10-10-10—and it’s not as good for your garden as homemade compost anyhow.

Quit being afraid and quit throwing good stuff into landfills. As I titled my best-selling book on composting, “Compost Everything”!

What Do You Think?

What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever composted? What are your best tips for extreme composting? Let me know in the comments section below!

The Grow Network is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate program designed to provide a means for our team to earn fees for recommending our favorite products! We may earn a small commission, at no additional cost to you, should you purchase an item after clicking one of our links. Thanks for supporting TGN!

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David The Good is a Grow Network Change Maker, a gardening expert, and the author of five books you can find on Amazon: Compost Everything: The Good Guide to Extreme Composting, Grow or Die: The Good Guide to Survival Gardening, Totally Crazy Easy Florida Gardening, Create Your Own Florida Food Forest, and Push the Zone: The Good Guide to Growing Tropical Plants Beyond the Tropics. Find fresh gardening inspiration at his website and be sure to follow his popular YouTube channel.


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This year marks the 50th anniversary of South Side landmark Hodak’s, home to “love, peace, and chicken grease,” as they say around the corner of Gravois and McNair avenues. It’s staggering to think about all the fried chicken Hodak’s plates up — 17,000 pounds of poultry a week, according to owner Charlene Hegel (at left).

It’s just as wild to contemplate where all those chicken bones left on the plates of satisfied diners end up going. Now, we know this may sound a mite yucky, but stay with us here. Garbage can basically go two places: into a landfill, or to some sort of recycling or composting center. If it’s organic, like a chicken bone (or a pineapple), it can be composted.

Most restaurant owners have not yet seen the light. They don’t get that they can avoid stuffing a landfill with trash that stays there forever by composting instead. Maybe they don’t know how easy it is. Maybe they don’t know how inexpensive – and often, cheaper than using trash dumpsters, even – it is.

Maybe they don’t know what the affable Hegel knows, and what we learned together, when she and I followed a chicken bone from plate to fertilizer.

Harry Cohen (at right, manning the bin washer) grew up with garbage. His family business has been the waste business for 25 years. (And that’s not “waste management,” for all you Sopranos fans, by the way.) Some time ago, he moved from Buffalo, NY, to St. Louis, and moved his recycling and composting business, Blue Skies Recycling, into a 10,000-square-foot facility in the industrial zone near Grand Boulevard at Chouteau Avenue.

Cohen’s family used to manage landfills, but now he schools business owners to help them get as close as possible to “zero waste.” That may sound almost like a plane of existence in a sci-fi nether-realm, but it is a genuine goal for Cohen’s club of clients – to recycle and compost everything one possibly can, leaving nothing for the garbage collector but the curb.

Hegel said that in a single year, Hodak’s, in conjunction with Blue Skies, has reached the 85-90% recycling level. In other words, just 10-15% of the waste that the eatery produces winds up in a dumpster these days. Technically, it’s two three-yard dumpsters, down from a dozen eight-yard dumpsters a year ago. Each week, Hodak’s is composting 5,500 lbs. of crumbs from the bottom of fryers, chicken-prep trimmings, lettuce pieces, used napkins, tomato cores, and, of course, chicken bones. At a restaurant that epitomizes tradition, that’s a sea change.

Hodaks’ compostables, like those of all Blue Skies’ clients, go into happy-yellow plastic bins. The weighty bins are collected by drivers who ferry them in trucks to Blue Skies. At Blue Skies, you can open the bins, and find our lonely chicken bone, along with quite a few surprises.

The food in the bins does not always look nasty. Sometimes, it looks remarkably fresh, like there’s no good reason for it to be here. This stuff could be eaten – in fact, it could be diverted to the kitchens at homeless shelters. Cohen says that plenty of restaurants and institutions do send their edible “leftovers” to places like Operation Food Search.

Still, the yellow bins may be hinged open to reveal a veritable farmers’ market of fresh-seeming foods. Yellow, red, and green peppers (above right) look ready to be grilled and stuffed into fajitas. Watermelons cry out for a picnic that won’t happen. Stale doughnuts (above right) could become… well, actually, stale doughnuts can’t do anything except become compost, but they look unmolested and edible, anyway. (Doughnuts! Noooooo!!)

So much of this compost-to-be signifies waste. The larger the institution, generally speaking, the more waste it produces. Blue Skies handles dead food from businesses large and small, and to see tons of prepped and wasted food confers a certain hollow feeling. We’re not exactly doing this wrong, but we’re not exactly doing it right, either. What’s even better than compost? Not using food in the first place that’s only going to go to waste. Composting is the best penance for the sin of scraping pounds of uneaten food off from a buffet or a doughnut case in the first world, where we will always make so much more than we need.

Cohen trains business owners and their employees to put the compostables, recyclables, and garbage in the respective color-coded bins Blue Skies provides. It’s not a single day of training. It’s simple to learn, but, Cohen finds, businesses need occasional re-training when the bins start showing up with the wrong contents.

Restaurant owners sometimes start the process by hooking up with St. Louis Earth Day’s Green Dining Alliance program. Those curious about composting take a field trip with Cohen to a restaurant that’s already using Blue Skies.

Our chicken bone, like all the compostables at Blue Skies, is dumped into the big, yellow wet compactor (below). There, it may join organic waste generated by the likes of the Energizer corporate cafeteria, local florists, Schnucks stores, Busch Stadium, Blue Sky restaurant (appropriately), Crushed Red, Slow Food St. Louis events, Sauce Magazine’s Food Truck Fridays, the Picnic Basket Café at the Magic House, the Schlafly Tap Room, high school cafeterias, The Cakery, Cafe Provencal, the Ritz-Carlton, River City Casino, Amigos Cantina, Something Elegant Catering, Hollyberry Catering, Vin de Set, R.T. Weiler’s, Rio Syrups, and the Missouri Botanical Garden’s Sassafras Cafe.

A bunch of the St. Louis Originals restaurants number among his clients, Cohen said.

Another big client: Washington University. “At most universities, composting is a natural,” Cohen added. “This generation is demanding sustainability.”

Blue Skies is handling 80 tons of organic waste a week, said Cohen — and the business is growing crazy-fast, too. The big news is that he’s getting prepped to franchise the operation.

After being compacted, our chicken bone and its biodegradable buddies wind up on a specialized transport truck. Their funeral cortege will take them just over the River to Belleville farm country, to St. Louis Composting.

( Editor’s Note: Exactly what happens after that? The second installment of this two-part series will be published in this space tomorrow.)

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