Can you compost meat? Yes, with one major caveat!

  • Date: June 1, 2022

With more awareness of the environmental impact of food waste, composting has gained popularity. Not all food waste items are suitable for the compost pile, but some are debated widely – meat being one. So, can you compost meat? Or does it need to go into the trash, and ultimately, end up in landfill? Generally, it isn’t recommended in standard composting due to the high temperatures it is required to reach – but Bokashi composting may be the answer! Let’s take a look….

Firstly, is meat biodegradable?

Whether an item is biodegradable or not, provides a big clue as to whether it can be composted. Anything that can be broken down naturally by microbes, such as bacteria, is termed ‘biodegradable’. Generally, anything that came from nature is biodegradable – essentially, the component parts return to nature. As follows, all types of meat, and bones, are biodegradable.  

Can you compost meat?

Composting is a great way to reduce the amount of waste we send to landfill – whilst providing a homemade (free!), nutrient-rich fertilizer for your garden. Good for your pocket and the planet, what’s not to like?

Meat is biodegradable – so that means it can be composted, right? Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as that. Although many people think that the terms ‘biodegradable’ and ‘compostable’ are interchangeable, this is not the case. There are subtle differences between the two terms. To be compostable an item needs to be biodegradable, but not all biodegradable items are compostable! There can be numerous reasons a biodegradable item can’t be composted – from it containing harsh chemicals to the presence of pathogens.

Although there will be many people that do compost meat successfully, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) advise against it for a few reasons. They reckon the odor that it will cause and the wildlife it will attract makes it an unsuitable item for your home pile. And it is difficult to disagree – who really wants a pungent smelling, rodent-attracting mess in the backyard? Furthermore (and more importantly), meat can contain pathogens that are difficult to kill off in your typical home composting set up. High temperatures need to be reached to finish off the pathogens and this can prove difficult. For that reason, if you do decide to proceed – and the temperature reached is not high enough – the compost may need to just be used on ornamental plants.

That being said, there is a difference between a full rotting chicken and a few scraps from your cooked turkey sandwich. The odd scrap of meat buried deep into the pile is unlikely to attract all the rats in the neighborhood. As always, it’s your garden and your call – but it will come with its risks, particularly when it comes to pathogens!

But its not all bad news – meat can be composted at home Bokashi style!

If you don’t want the headache of composting meat at home, there may be a food waste collection in your local area. These, generally, collect meat as well as other (cooked or uncooked) foods and are a wonderful option for foods that are difficult to compost at home.

However, if you want to do-it-yourself at home there is another alternative to a standard compost bin. Bokashi composting, in short, involves the fermentation of food scraps. And, since it is an anaerobic sealed container, it cannot be hijacked by insects or other pests! Scraps usually take between 4-6 weeks breakdown into a ‘pre-compost’. This can then be added to your standard compost pile or buried in the garden.

It is recommended that you add more Bokashi bran to the bin when you have added meat or bones – and larger bones will take a bit longer. But other than that, it simply couldn’t be easier!

The bottom line

Composting meat at home isn’t recommended by the EPA. The foul odor it can cause and the wildlife it attracts means it simply isn’t worth it for most. If you don’t have a local food waste collection who compost it industrially, or you aren’t an experienced composter, don’t worry! There is another, much simpler alternative. Bokashi composting is a quick and easy alternative. And it will provide you with a nutrient rich compost in hardly any time at all. A Bokashi composter is a wonderful addition to any kitchen, especially when it comes to awkward composting foods like meat.