Bone meal

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Bone meal is a mixture of finely and coarsely ground animal bones and slaughter-house waste products.[1] It is used as an organic fertilizer for plants and as a nutritional supplement for animals. As a slow-release fertilizer, bone meal is primarily used as a source of phosphorus and protein.


Dietary supplements[edit]

Bone meal, along with a variety of other meals, especially meat meal, is used as a dietary/mineral supplement for livestock. It is used to feed monogastric animals with bone meal from ruminants, and vice versa, to prevent the spread of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) or "mad cow disease". Proper heat control can reduce salmonella contaminants.[2]

Bone meal once was often used as a human dietary calcium supplement. Research in the 1980s found that many bone meal preparations were contaminated with lead and other toxic metals, and is no longer recommended as a calcium source.[citation needed]


As a fertilizer, the N-P-K (Nitrogen-Phosphorus-Potassium) ratio of bone meal can vary greatly, depending on the source. From a low of 3-15-0 to as high as 2-22-0. ,[3] though some steamed bone meals have N-P-Ks of 1-13-0.[citation needed] Bone meal is also an excellent source of calcium, but does not provide enough nitrogen to be beneficial to plants.[4] Plants can only get phosphorus from bone meal if the soil pH is below 7.0 (acidic soil), according to recent Colorado State University research.[3]


Organic fertilizers usually require the use of a variety of fungi in the soil to make the nutrients in the fertilizer bioavailable to the plant. For plants needing phosphorus, the fungi mycorrhiza penetrate the roots and break down the compounds containing the phosphorus for easier absorption and utilization, and in turn the plants supply the mycorrhizae with amino acids and sugars.[5]


The process was first suggested by Justus von Liebig (dissolving animal bones in sulphuric acid) around 1840 and first used in Britain by Rev James Robertson in Ellon, Aberdeenshire in 1841.[6]

In 19th century Europe, large scale production and international trade in bone manure was seen as essential for agricultural development.[7]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Brigham and Women's Hospital. "Bone Meal". Retrieved 22 November 2012.
  2. ^ Animal Feed Resources Information System, University of Kentucky, College of Agriculture, Poultry Extension. "Common Protein Sources for Poultry Diets". Archived from the original on 1 December 2012. Retrieved 23 November 2012.
  3. ^ a b Card, Adrian; David Whiting; Carl Wilson; Jean Reeders (December 2011). "Organic Fertilizers" (PDF). Colorado State University Extension. Colorado Master Gardener Program (CMG Garden Notes): 4. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2011-07-21. Retrieved 8 October 2014.
  4. ^ Chen, L.; J. Helenius; A. Kangus (2009). "NJF Seminar 422: Meat bone meal as nitrogen and phosphorus fertilizer (abstract)" (PDF). Nordic Association of Agricultural Scientists. 5 (2): 26. Retrieved 23 November 2012.
  5. ^ Stern's Introductory Plant Biology. McGraw-Hill. 2011. pp. 74–76. ISBN 978-0-07-122212-9.
  6. ^,_James_(1803-1860)_(DNB00)
  7. ^ Sir John Sinclair (1832). The Code of Agriculture. Sherwood, Gilbert & Piper. pp. 141–145.