Kitchen Carbon

Picking Bones

Saving bones in the freezer

Bones from your table are a waste stream that can be respected. Save your bones, and your pets and your soil will benefit!

I read an amazing article recently about the element phosphorous, which is one of the big three nutrients plants need from the soil. Phosphorous has historically been a limiting factor for all terrestrial plants, and was a huge limiting factor for human agriculture before a process to extract phosphorous from rocks was invented. In the near future, phosphorus will again become scarce (and expensive) as phosphorous rock that is easily mined runs out. (Read the fascinating Atlantic article, Humanity is Flushing Away One of Life’s Essential Elements by Julia Rosen:

Which brings me to the bones left over from your table and stew pot – that’s right, chewed on bones. You should stop throwing them away. For one thing, they are a free source of phosphorous for your garden.

Here is what I do with them (and my process has evolved and is open to further evolution).

First, I throw them into a gallon ziplock bag in the freezer. Chicken bones from a roasted chicken, rib bones from a take out meal, you name it. 


Saving bones in the freezer
These bones are a treasure trove of nutrients for your dogs and for your plants!

I have two dogs, and they are the first beneficiaries of this former waste stream. As needed, I throw a bunch of bones in my instant pot (a slow cooker would work fine, though slower), cover them in water, and pressure cook them for 4 hours. I often add a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar to help extract more minerals. Then I strain and cool the broth, and refrigerate or freeze it. A few ounces per day, heated in a cup in the microwave and poured over dry dog food, makes the pickiest canine pal happy, and boosts the quality of the nutrition they are getting.

The bones that are left over are super soft. I have a wooden pounder that I use for sauerkraut and other pickling, and I pound the bones a few times in the stainless steel instant pot to break them up.

Here is where I may decide to add a step and dry these bones for a while in the oven. This would be to prevent my dogs from digging for them in the garden, since they smell nice! Before I go to all that trouble, I am doing a few more field tests: I just buried some bones in a hole about 18″ deep. My dogs don’t get to roam at will  in the front yard, so it’s not a huge problem, but I am curious as to how deep the bones need to go to remain undiscovered.

Finally, I dig a hole and throw the bones in – a little treasure trove of phosphorus for my plants to send roots to for years to come! 

A deeper hole may foil my dogs’ noses!

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