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What Do You Do With Bones?

 
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Is there a use for leftover bones after butchering? I mean any bones, whether it is a cow skull or a chicken drumstick or a fish, or whatever. If you are butchering animals on a regular basis, you probably have a big pile of bones somewhere. Does anybody have a good use for them?
 
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T S Rodriguez wrote:Is there a use for leftover bones after butchering? I mean any bones, whether it is a cow skull or a chicken drumstick or a fish, or whatever. If you are butchering animals on a regular basis, you probably have a big pile of bones somewhere. Does anybody have a good use for them?



In the first part of your question, my answer is, "it depends on what your idea for "useful purpose" consists of? Does compost count as useful?

I have always hot composted my butchered or dead animals and as such in only a few months' time all that was left was the femur bones and even that was composted within a few more months. When properly done, and the USDA has a LOT of information on this so its done right, there is nothing left of the offal and animal carcasses. So while I have composted hundreds of animals over the years, the answer may be surprising, but no, I don't have a big pile of bones lying around. It composts down to nothing.
 
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We don't have a lot of bones to deal with as we are a mostly vegetarian household. We do buy some local meat for the freezer though, and we have a dog who gets the occasional knuckle bone as a treat. What bones we do have I usually burn along with our egg shells. They break down with heat and mingle with the wood ashes. These then get added to the compost heap where, I hope, most of the calcium and other minerals become available for plants.
 
pollinator
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A mix, depending on what it is.

The dog get some as treats. He's getting a bit geriatric, and the marrow has all sorts of good collagen and stuff in it.

Some gets hot composted. I occasionally turn up small pieces of old bone in the veggie patch. This tends to be the smaller bones - or occasional small carcass (squirrel, rat, chicken etc...).

Some get rendered down for stock, or fat for cooking.

We don't actually get that many to be honest though, and certainly not as much as someone who regularly butchers at home.
 
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There are lots of ways to use those bones.

The easiest and the first thing that comes to mind is to compost them.

Use the bones for making bone meal:

https://permies.com/t/160397/Bone-Meal

The bones can be turned into bone broth:

https://permies.com/t/73308/favourite-bone-broth-recipes

Those bones contain lots of bone marrow:

https://permies.com/t/150041/Roasted-bone-marrow

Have you heard about eating bones?

https://permies.com/t/207798/Eating-bones
 
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Assuming we're talking homestead level butchering here, not commercial scale.  Between a preference for bone-in cuts, making stock, and letting the dogs eat them we don't really have any issue disposing of bones.  Cooked bones go in the garbage.  Could compost them but I'm not set up for hot composting.  I cut a salmon yesterday for dinner.  Our female german shepherd scarfed the carcass as part of her dinner (the male turned up his nose at it).
 
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My first step is to make bone broth with some vinegar added and usually things like walking onion greens, fresh sage/oregano/marjoram, and a few nice dandelion leaves. Some people are fussy about exactly how their broth tastes, but I just make sure that when I use it, I'm adding enough dominant flavors that it doesn't matter all that much. The nutrition this represents in my diet as a fine-boned older woman is huge. I've had a couple of tumbles in the last year - including one where I landed on my outstretched hand due to how fast it happened, and I didn't break anything!

Our second step is to burn them in the wood stove, but I try to stop them at the "biochar" stage. Yes, there are very specific temperatures which make the best biochar, and I'm not able to control for that, but we've got heavy soil and are wet all winter when it's too dark for plants to grow much, so anything that even resembles biochar is a big help.

There are times when bones end up in my compost, but my compost is rarely hot enough to biodegrade them. So long as the compost isn't ending up at the top of a bed, I don't worry, as I figure they are lightening the soil and slowly feeding microbes/fungi even if it takes years to do so.
 
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Also, if you have trees to feed, you can just bury the bones by the tree and it will consume them quite quickly. But please do some research before because I haven't tried it myself, just heard stories of people who did this at their properties.
 
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T S Rodriguez wrote:Is there a use for leftover bones after butchering? I mean any bones, whether it is a cow skull or a chicken drumstick or a fish, or whatever. If you are butchering animals on a regular basis, you probably have a big pile of bones somewhere. Does anybody have a good use for them?



I get a large number of bones from a local place that sells meat.  Lots of pork scapula and sections with ribs.  I also process my own deer and poultry.  The dogs get most of the bones.  They will literally eat them, and their poop sometimes looks like sticks of sidewalk chalk.  We have a compost bin specifically for dog fecal material... I'm sure it's very high calcium, but we won't put it on our garden due to parasite risk.  Someday it will be used around trees, etc.  I've noticed that the hens like to hang out near there.  I wonder if they are "collecting" calcium bits... I am slightly concerned about them picking up parasites from the dogs, but they free range, and I have no intention of moving the compost bin at this point.
Occasionally I clean out the dog kennel.  Any bones that are left get burned, the ashes added to the garden.  

So ours basically all get recycled through the dogs.  Old bones get burned and ashes added to the garden
 
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If you can get fish bones they can be used to remediate lead in the soil.

My family live in an urban area, and lots of the soil is contaminated with lead.
When the soil is damp the calcium phosphate in the buried (ground up) fishbones dissolves and then recrystallizes, capturing and locking up the lead in a form that we don't absorb.

I can't find any references indicating that mammal bones are similarly effective, though they also contain calcium phosphate. Maybe it's just that fishbones are easier to grind?
It says it takes about 3 lbs per square foot, but I presume that varies with the degree of contamination, and that any quantity is better than none.
I would imagine that non-ground bones would work a great deal more slowly, but still be worthwhile in the long run.
 
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Beef and deer bones go to my dogs for first processing :)  After that, all my bones are charred in with my wood when I make biochar.  Oddly, to my thinking, bones char more easily than wood chunks do.
 
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As others have suggested, we also make use of the goodness in bones for our dogs. I actually boil them up to make bone jelly and feed this to the dogs since I am worried that bones alone could splinter and cause a problem if fed directly to the dogs. The remaining bones I dry in the oven (wood stove always on) and then roughly crush for a soil amendment. This is very attractive tot he dogs though, so it needs to be buried and also I now have a 'dog resistant' fence around my growing area. I'm hoping that in time the bones will help raise the pH of my very acid soil. I'm also thinking that the porous structure of the bones will act a bit like biochar as a home for soil organisms and fungi, although I've not seen this suggested elsewhere
 
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Chicken, turkey, beef, and pork bones get used for bone broth first. We add peppers, onions, salt and pepper to the mix along with any leftover vegetable peelings we have been saving in the freezer. The mixture is strained and put into jars to be canned. The pork and beef bones are then given to the dogs while the poultry bones are given to the chickens. They scrounge whatever they can from them and they get added to the compost mix being made by the poultry over the course of the season.
 
Trace Oswald
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Jeffrey Loucks wrote:Chicken, turkey, beef, and pork bones get used for bone broth first. We add peppers, onions, salt and pepper to the mix along with any leftover vegetable peelings we have been saving in the freezer. The mixture is strained and put into jars to be canned. The pork and beef bones are then given to the dogs while the poultry bones are given to the chickens. They scrounge whatever they can from them and they get added to the compost mix being made by the poultry over the course of the season.



Be careful with pork bones.  I have two friends that lost dogs to cooked pork bones.  They can splinter and destroy their stomachs and intestines.
 
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Sepp Holzer bone sauce would be another use.


That said bone meal is a risk for prion based disease.  Are prions broken down by composting?
 
Andrew Mayflower
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Nancy Reading wrote:As others have suggested, we also make use of the goodness in bones for our dogs. I actually boil them up to make bone jelly and feed this to the dogs since I am worried that bones alone could splinter and cause a problem if fed directly to the dogs.



Raw bones are entirely safe for dogs.  Note, even large dogs shouldn't be given the major weight bearing bones of ruminants - they're too hard and dogs can damage their teeth trying to eat them.  But those weight bearing bones also are great for marrow extraction.  

Bone jelly would be better than otherwise whole but cooked bones.  But you can save the bother by giving them raw to the dogs.
 
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C. Letellier wrote:That said bone meal is a risk for prion based disease.  Are prions broken down by composting?


I've asked a number of people I've met in related fields about prion diseases and their spread. Seems I always get a series of shrugs and grunts as a response...
 
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In the early 1800's I have read that ground bones were distributed over farmland as an improver.
After the battle of Waterloo in Belgium, the bones from the fallen soldiers later were exported to England for that purpose!
 
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Eat, compost or burn.  I had a stack of dry cow bones from my neighbor I threw in with my biochar.
 
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I dry out the bones, and then I throw them into the biochar when I burn it.  I've read that it improves the biochar somehow.
John S
PDX OR
 
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T S Rodriguez wrote:Is there a use for leftover bones after butchering? I mean any bones, whether it is a cow skull or a chicken drumstick or a fish, or whatever. If you are butchering animals on a regular basis, you probably have a big pile of bones somewhere. Does anybody have a good use for them?



We've been looking for a bone grinder / pulverizer.

Does anyone know of something that could be used on raw and cooked bones?

We don't want shards that could kill a dog.

It seems there should be something available
 
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