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Composting bones, meat scraps, citrus, bread, etc.?

 
pollinator
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Sorry if this has been asked already...I did a quick search but didn't find the answer, so I'm passing along a line of questions from my wife, who inquired:

Like most people's compost bins, ours is some kind of pescatarian: it accepts vegetation, fruit, eggshells, and the chitin-rich parts of seafood (e.g. fishbones & shrimp tails--but it doesn't get a lot of these anyway).

Of course we don't put in bones, meat scraps, citrus, bread, oils, or any of those other things I was taught are a No-No.

I know there are specialized bins and processes for composting those No-No things, but I'm wondering why can't I just dig a deep (>12-inch) hole in my yard and bury the stuff in there? After all, if a bird or a squirrel dies on my property I dig a hole, plop the carcass in, and cover it back up. We buried an expired pet fish that way too. Why should meat and bones leftover from dinner be any different?

And will the acid from an occasional grapefruit or lemon peel really ruin my compost? (My bin is approximately 1/2 a cubic yard, and is typically about 1/2 full.) How much citrus is too much? Same question for bread.

Edit to add: now that I posted this, of course I have recommended articles below, but this is already up so I'll just take the dynamic personalized real-human responses if you don't mind thank you very much.
 
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What you're looking for is Bokashi composting. You can safely compost meat and bones with bokashi. A quick search will net you plenty of sources and once you have it you can make as much spawn as you like!  Hope this nets you what you were after.

Good Growing
 
Ned Harr
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Demitrios Pitas wrote:What you're looking for is Bokashi composting. You can safely compost meat and bones with bokashi. A quick search will net you plenty of sources and once you have it you can make as much spawn as you like!  Hope this nets you what you were after.

Good Growing



I'm familiar with bokashi; my understanding (which might be wrong) is it requires specialized containers and non-garden-variety worms. I am asking about how to compost the things I mentioned directly into my yard without the need to procure any additional materials, organisms, or equipment.
 
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Ned Harr wrote:I know there are specialized bins and processes for composting those No-No things, but I'm wondering why can't I just dig a deep (>12-inch) hole in my yard and bury the stuff in there? After all, if a bird or a squirrel dies on my property I dig a hole, plop the carcass in, and cover it back up. We buried an expired pet fish that way too. Why should meat and bones leftover from dinner be any different?

Critters like rats tend to be attracted to human cooked food, like meat and the bread mentioned below, so depending on your situation and whether you've got natural rat control in the area (AKA Owl People), adding them to compost bins which warm up and provide warm winter rat housing, may not be the best idea. If your yard is big enough that you can dig new holes easily, that seems better, although I've heard very good things about Demitrios' Bokashi  suggestion.

And will the acid from an occasional grapefruit or lemon peel really ruin my compost? (My bin is approximately 1/2 a cubic yard, and is typically about 1/2 full.) How much citrus is too much? Same question for bread.

I admit I don't worry about small amounts. I gather worms don't like it, but my composts usually have lots of micro-organisms in them, (lots of chicken/duck/goose bedding), so I figure the micros will handle that. I'm not sure if Bokashi micros are good at targeting citrus, but I'm sure a quick search would tell you. Otherwise, I would bury some of it the way you do dead animals.

However, the way I deal with most cooked bones is to burn them in our wood stove. A small biochar retort of some sort would do the job if you don't have a wood stove. The biochar then gets added to my compost and eventually, my garden beds and this is an upgrade.

My goal medium term is to make a compost enclosure out of hardware cloth. There is no way I'll get rid of rats where I live. They are an asset in that the turn my compost for me, but they're a liability when their idea of "turning" is to push it all outside the bin, and then decide they're rather dig in my raised bed instead... sigh... smart critters, but I wish they'd take directions better!
 
pollinator
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We put everything in our compost.  Bones, fat, citrus; everything goes.  My understanding of the reason to avoid these things is the smell and/or attracting pests. If I add something that is going to stink, like butcher scraps on a hot day, I will add some wood chips on top to help soak up the smell. Seems to work for me.
 
Ned Harr
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Thanks for these additional replies.

Based on this info I think going forward we will probably continue to put bones/bread/citrus scraps in the trash, UNLESS:

1) It is reasonably possible to quickly dig a hole and bury it, in which case I'll do that (this probably won't be doable in the middle of winter when the ground is frozen)

or

2) I'm about to make a fire anyway, in which case I will burn up the bones/meat in the fire, then add the charred remains to the compost or bury them.

That's good! Two more options besides the trash is always good.
 
pollinator
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You can compost those things it’s just more likely things like raccoons or something will go after it. I know you said you don’t want additional composting setups but I made my bokashi bucket for around 10$. You can make your own grain but I buy mine as it’s pretty cheap.

The thing I really appreciate about bokashi is that I can put literally anything in it and it changes straight up trash dirt into soil in a hurry. And also gives an amazing liquid fertilizer as well. 2weeks fermenting and 1-2weeks buried you see nothing but nice soil. No trace of any food left.

In the winter this is how I compost almost exclusively because decent amounts of green material are hard to come by for me. But if you can’t dig into frozen ground this will probably not be a helpful method.

But there’s nothing wrong with burying those things either I just don’t think you will see to much drastic results

There was a thread on here not long ago where someone made a bone crusher out of a sledgehammer I think. Then amends soil with the chips.
 
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I like the trench method of composting. Dig a deep trench and buried that stuff then cover the trench with rocks.

I suggest deep because those are slow to compost.

I do like your idea for turning those items into biochar.

 
Ned Harr
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Regarding "results", my main composter bin is definitely there to produce material for use in the garden, but when I talk about composting meat/bread/citrus I'm really more just trying to do something better than send that stuff to the landfill. Just having it break down quietly would be a win.
 
pollinator
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All that stuff goes on the garden, even bones. Once in a while an opossum might grab a bone. Good for her. Spread it out on the surface rather than concentrating it. No need to overthink every detail.
 
Demitrios Pitas
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Thom Bri wrote:All that stuff goes on the garden, even bones. Once in a while an opossum might grab a bone. Good for her. Spread it out on the surface rather than concentrating it. No need to overthink every detail.



I can say if you bokashi compost then sure. Just to shed some light, you can produce alcohol, formaldehyde, and other things if your stuff goes anaerobic. There is a lot of damage you can do if you don't know what's going on. I'm not trying to be a bell end here and I will say you may have many problem free years under your belt. But one time and you could lose anything that it touches. Most wouldn't take that chance.
To each their own though.
 
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For what it is worth—— I compost it all. I just don’t over do the amounts. Everything in moderation, I think is how the saying goes. And please keep in mind that I’m out in the country, not in a housing subdivision.

I keep my compost hot. As a result I can, and have, composted entire sheep, goats, and smaller animals with good results. As long as the compost pile is hot, there is no objectionable odor at all. Odor would quickly tell me that there is a problem with the pile that I need to address immediately.

Again, no problem with critters digging it up as long as the pile is hot. Cold or cool piles will smell and draw vermin. Hot piles don’t seem to do that, at least not on my farm.  

This time of year I get plenty of waste citrus. I add it to a compost pile by the 5 gallon bucket load. Yes, lots of citrus. I don’t see any problem with it. I’ll add citrus in place of adding water, so as not to make the pile overly wet.

I also use trench and in-place bed composting a lot. In fact, my piles are just for my excess material that I cannot immediately use. I normally just dig a hole or trench, and add the compostable material, stir in some dirt, cover it all over, rake it smooth. But I will sometimes find dug up spots where a mongoose or rat has dug around for the goodies.

I never take the garbage to the dump. It either gets fed to the pigs and chickens, dug into the garden or compost piles. The larger cattle bones get burnt in a fire, then crushed to be used as a soil amendment in the gardens.
 
gardener
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I can basically +1 for everything Su Ba says here.
in the last few years I've recently gotten rid of my compost pile due to lack of brown materials and space (I'm on a small urban garden here) and gone entirely to either bokashi or trench composting.
We often get large amounts of citrus, which I'll juice or something, and I'll end up with 5 gallons of orange peels or something, I'll trench that just fine, maybe a bit of lime on top before I fill in the hole.
I have also buried some small animals in the garden, at the foot of the fruit trees, I put a large stone on top and nothing disturbs it (note, my dogs do not have access to the garden, but the feral cats and rats and whatever else roaming the city at night leave these spots alone).

As for bokashi. I can reiterate that you do not need anything special: no fancy worms, no magic sauce or sparkly sprinkles. You can do it in a series of buckets, I've even seen it done on apartment balconies using bins, through the final stage (back to soil).

We have looooooots of info here at permies about bokashi because a lot of us do it, in many different iterations. there are ancient threads, newer threads, threads about how to use the tea/leachate, but the two most informative are probably this one
https://permies.com/t/78784/Bokashi-Composting
and this one
https://permies.com/t/11246/bokashi

In both you can see some great examples of people making their own microorganism juice with normal materials, making their own sprinkle from stuff other than bran.... it's definitely doable and there are a million different variations. I'd recommend it highly to anyone.
 
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Composting here looks like me just tossing everything in a pile and letting whatever happens, happen. Two years later, I have compost that everything loves to grow in. We don't generate much animal parts because we don't eat them, but half-eaten mice that the cats are too finicky for and their leftovers and the occasional wild animal that dies where I don't want it to, all go into the pile and seem to vanish in that two-year window. The only thing that's ever given me any trouble was an all-cotton futon that took five years to break down into usable humus. (And I guess the stickers on boughten fruit that my kids "forget" to throw away.)
 
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I have nearby neighbors, but I also believe anything organic can be turned into compost if done correctly.

In order to keep the peace, anything that has the potential to draw in animals or create bad smells goes into the core. Sometimes this means having to space out how much is being put in over a period of time (which generally indicates I need a bigger or separate new pile because I don't want to hold onto meat scraps/bones for extended periods of times) before covering it back up and letting the microbes go nuts on it. I'll strategically let piles that will be utilized soon mellow out and have time to process to make sure any meat/oil/dairy is turned into soil before moving it. A few flips usually is all it takes.
 
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Two households here, on the same land.

Our household gives everything to the chickens. Bones, etc... they are housed in a deep litter system, so anything they don't immediately eat gets composted in the litter.  The little dinosaurs LOVE anything with a bit of meat left on it.

My parents household has a  takes-everything compost bin system. Garden waste, kitchen scraps etc... all go in there. It gets buried 12" or so deep in the heap, and then gets covered with straw. In practice they do have some rats that raid it, but we are rural and the bins are remote from our house and the neighbours. In a more densely populated area I think we would have different compost "rules" to prevent rats.

One last thing; most bones, kitchen scraps, offcuts of veggies etc... are probably best used for humans anyway. Have a bad in the freezer where you shove the bits, and when you have a pot worth make a batch of stock. Regularly making  and using stock in my cooking has taken my meals to another level. By the time they have been boiled for stock there is minimal nutrition left for critters to enjoy.
 
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My compost is the manure pile at the barn.  It's big enough to take anything I choose to put in it.  The hens "work" the pile for me, so bread and meat won't remain anyway.  Big bones (talking deer femur, etc) go to the dogs, then get burned in a bone pile in the garden a few times a year.  Small bones end up in the compost, no big deal.
Unless smells or nuisance animals are an issue, I'm inclined to compost all biodegradable materials, even if they take awhile to break down.

We have a seperate compost pile for dog fecal material.  Due to parasite concerns and general "yuck" factor, it doesn't get turned, and will never be used in the garden.  Long term plan is to wait a few years after pile is finished and then use it around trees, so as to not contaminate food sources.  
 
Tereza Okava
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Thomas Dean wrote:We have a seperate compost pile for dog fecal material.  Due to parasite concerns and general "yuck" factor, it doesn't get turned, and will never be used in the garden.


This is also us. I don't have space for a compost pile or areas to dig large holes to deposit dog waste for long-term breakdown, and I have 2 large dogs that are, uh, very productive. So my trash is probably 90% dog poop.
I have a friend who breeds Great Danes (talk about production) and she installed what is essentially a sewer access port in her kennel area, like a toilet in the ground, and all her dog waste goes to the sewer treatment plant instead, which I think is a great solution but unfortunately not something I thought about when I built this house.
 
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I've put citrus peels in my compost for years and they break down just fine. With larger ones like grapefruit which I usually eat one half at a time, I've regularly cut or torn each half of the peel into three or four pieces to give bacteria more edges to chew on. And when I have blood oranges or tangerines or satsumas, I usually slice them because I use them in a breakfast fruit salad regularly at this time of year; I find it easier to get smaller portions of the segments out that way iwith less membrane on them, rather than peeling the whole fruit and pulling out the segments and cutting them into smaller pieces.
That means I have strips of the peel which I usually cut or tear into smaller pieces. I don't know why people say you should not put citrus in your compost because I have done it successfully for years. However, this is all been in the Deep South where composting is surprisingly uncomplicated thanks to heat and humidity.

I would never put meat scraps in compost but I'm about to try putting bones that did not break down while I was making bone broth into my compost. I don't think they'll attract rats because there's so little meat left on them as those lamb and beef bones have been boiled and simmered for probably a total of probably 12+ hours spread over multiple afternoons. But putting those bones in my compost bin is definitely an experiment! The thing is that I live in an old house that is not well sealed and I've had small rats in my house plenty of times. I hate to kill them, but they can't be in my kitchen, so I use a Tomcat brand snap trap with a bait cup that I fill with crunchy peanut butter. I haven't seen any in my house lately but I'm thinking that if the "spent" bones from the bone broth I've made attract rats, at least they'll be over by my compost bin which is roughly 15 or 20 yards from my kitchen!

Good luck with your composting! And one last note because I didn't address bread, I never have any bread to compost because I eat it before it goes moldy. If I have high quality bread that I'm worried will get stale or moldy before I can eat it all, I cut the loaf in half or quarters and freeze part of it. The pre-sliced bread I use most mornings for peanut butter toast never goes moldy because I eat it every day. It's Food for Life sesame sprouted grain bread. I've never had to get rid of any of that!
 
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