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Bone meal

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Bone meal (or bonemeal) is a mixture of finely and coarsely ground animal bones and slaughter-house waste products.[1] It is used as a dietary supplement to supply calcium and phosphorus to monogastric livestock in the form of hydroxyapatite. As a slow-release organic fertilizer, it supplies phosphorus, calcium, and a small amount of nitrogen to plants.


Dietary supplement[edit]

Bone meal, along with a variety of other meals, especially meat meal, is used as a dietary/mineral supplement for livestock. The improper application of bone and meat meal products in animal nutrition can contribute to the spread of transmissible spongiform encephalopathy, commonly known in cattle as Mad Cow Disease. Proper heat control can reduce salmonella contaminants.[2]

Bone meal was historically used as a human dietary calcium supplement. Research has shown that calcium and lead in their ionic forms (Ca2+, Pb2+) have similar atomic structures and so create a potential for accumulation of lead in bones.[3] American actress Allison Hayes was poisoned in the 1970s with a calcium supplement made from horse bone containing high amounts of lead, which moved the EPA to develop more stringent importation rules. Additionally, research conducted on chicken bone broth-based foods in 2013 showed they contained an order of magnitude more lead than tap water.[4]


Bone meal provides phosphorus and calcium to plants, along with a largely inconsequential amount of nitrogen.[5] The N-P-K rating of bone meal is typically 3–15–0[6] along with a calcium content of around 12% (18% CaO equiv.),[7] although it can vary quite a bit depending on the source from 1–13–0 to 3–22–0.[citation needed]

As bone meal is water-insoluble, it needs to be broken down before the plant can absorb it, either by soil acidity or by microbial activity producing acids. According to the Colorado State University, it can only be broken down in acidic soil (pH < 7.0) and releases its nutrients over a span of 1 to 4 months.[6]


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.[8]

Before Liebig, the expansion of agriculture had depleted the soil of essential nutrients. In desperation, farmers collected the bones from major battlefields like the Battle of Waterloo and the Battle of Austerlitz to crush them and refertilize the soil.[9]

In 19th-century Europe, large-scale production and international trade in bone meal was seen as essential for agricultural development.[10]

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.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  3. ^ "Lead and Calcium – Lead Poisoning". 4 December 2021.
  4. ^ Monro JA, Leon R, Puri BK (2013). "The risk of lead contamination in bone broth diets". Med Hypotheses. 80 (4): 389–90. doi:10.1016/j.mehy.2012.12.026. PMID 23375414.{{cite journal}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  5. ^ 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.
  6. ^ 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.
  7. ^ Barker, Allen V. (2018). "Fertilizers". Reference Module in Chemistry, Molecular Sciences and Chemical Engineering. doi:10.1016/B978-0-12-409547-2.00142-6. ISBN 9780124095472.
  8. ^ "Robertson, James (1803-1860)".
  9. ^ Hillel, Daniel (2007). Soil in the Environment: Crucible of Terrestrial Life. Elsevier Science. p. 161. ISBN 9780080554969.
  10. ^ Sir John Sinclair (1832). The Code of Agriculture. Sherwood, Gilbert & Piper. pp. 141–145.