Bone meal

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Bone meal is a mixture of finely and coarsely ground animal bones and slaughter-house waste products.[1] Due to being rich in phosphorus and calcium 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, however, it can contribute to 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; for this reason, bone meal 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 as low as 3-15-0 to as high as 2-22-0,[3] although 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]


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.[5]

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.[6]

In 19th century Europe, large scale production and international trade in bone meal 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. ^ "Robertson, James (1803-1860)".
  6. ^ Hillel, Daniel (2007). Soil in the Environment: Crucible of Terrestrial Life. Elsevier Science. p. 161. ISBN 9780080554969.
  7. ^ Sir John Sinclair (1832). The Code of Agriculture. Sherwood, Gilbert & Piper. pp. 141–145.