How to Grind Beef Bones for Nutritious Pet Food and Fertilizer

If you’ve got leftover beef bones from cooking grinding them into a powder is a great way to put them to use. Ground beef bones can provide calcium and other nutrients when added to homemade raw pet food. The bone meal is also an excellent organic fertilizer for gardens and houseplants.

In this detailed guide, we’ll look at the best methods for grinding beef bones at home along with tips for storage and usage.

Why Grind Beef Bones?

While dogs and cats can chew on and consume small chunks of raw beef bones, breaking them down into a fine powder provides some major advantages

  • Improved digestibility – Powdered bone is easier for pets to digest than large fragments. This reduces the risk of constipation or obstructions.

  • Better mixing – Ground bone powder mixes smoothly into raw food recipes without altering the texture.

  • More nutrients – When bone is finely pulverized, more of its minerals become bioavailable for absorption and utilization.

  • Natural fertilizer – Bone meal introduces calcium, phosphorus, and other minerals to soil and plants. It’s slower release than commercial chemical fertilizers.

Grinding bones before feeding them to pets or using them in the garden ensures you get the most out of these nutritious byproducts.

Equipment for Grinding Beef Bones

Beef bones from cows and other large animals are denser than the bones of chickens, rabbits, and fish. Their high collagen content also makes them tough to break down.

Specialized equipment is recommended to grind beef bones properly:

  • Heavy duty electric meat grinder – A powerful, metallic grinding unit designed for bones. LEM, Weston, and STX International make quality bone grinders.

  • Commercial blender – A high-powered blender like a Vitamix has the strength to pulverize beef bones when used correctly.

  • Mortar and pestle – For small batches, a manual mortar and pestle can crush bones into powder through elbow grease.

Avoid feeding whole, cooked beef bones which can splinter and cause obstructions or lacerations. Make sure beef bones are always ground into a meal before consumption.

Preparing the Bones

Before grinding, the beef bones need to be cleaned and cut down to an appropriate size:

  • Remove all meat, fat, and tissue – Strip the bones bare using a knife. Discard any marrow inside.

  • Split with a cleaver – Cut bones into smaller 2-4 inch chunks using a sturdy cleaver or hacksaw.

  • Roast at 350°F (optional) – Roasting for 30 minutes helps dry bones out and makes them more brittle for grinding.

Keep bones raw – never boil or cook them prior to grinding. Cooked bones are hazardous as they tend to splinter.

Grinding With a Meat Grinder

For larger batches, a heavy duty electric meat grinder is ideal. Here is the basic process:

  • Set up the grinder and attach a basket or tray to catch the ground meal.

  • Feed a prepped bone into the top chute. Apply steady, even pressure with the stomper.

  • Let the grinder pull the bone through slowly. Do not force it.

  • Add each bone individually, waiting for the previous one to finish.

  • Repeat until bones are fully processed. Avoid overloading the grinder.

  • Unplug the grinder and disassemble it for cleaning when finished.

High-end meat grinders ($400+) are worth the investment for frequent bone grinding. Lower-end models require more maintenance and burn out quicker.

Grinding in a Blender

For smaller batches, a heavy duty blender like a Vitamix will pulverize beef bones into powder:

  • Cut bones into 1-2 inch chunks that will fit in the blender.

  • Add a cup of water to help the blender process bones.

  • Grind on high speed in short 10-15 second bursts. Scrape down sides as needed.

  • Continue bursts until a smooth, flour-like powder is achieved.

  • Remove and clean the blender immediately when finished grinding.

The friction from bone grinding generates heat that can damage blenders over time. Use intermittent grinding and cleaning to preserve the motor.

Grinding With a Mortar and Pestle

For DIY enthusiasts willing to put in some elbow grease, a manual mortar and pestle can be used:

  • Select a heavy granite or cast iron mortar with a pestle to match.

  • Break bones into pea-sized chunks using a hammer.

  • Add a few pieces to the mortar bowl. Crush them with a pressing/twisting motion.

  • Periodically remove and sieve the powder, returning large fragments for further grinding.

  • Once a fine powder is achieved, discard any remaining bone fragments.

While labor intensive, a mortar and pestle provides a free grinding option and control over particle size.

Storing and Using Bone Meal

Once the beef bones are ground, the bone meal powder should be promptly used or stored:

  • Place the meal in a sealed container or zipper bag. Remove any excess air.

  • Store in refrigerator for 1-5 days or freeze for 1-6 months.

  • For pets, mix into raw food at a ratio of 5-10% of total diet. Start with small doses.

  • As fertilizer, mix 1-2 tablespoons per gallon of soil. Till into beds and containers.

  • Monitor pet or plant health when first using. Adjust bone meal ratios as needed.

Discard bone meal that becomes discolored, rancid smelling, or moldy. These indicate spoilage.

Ground beef bones are a nutritious supplement, but excessive consumption may cause digestive upset in pets. Moderation is advised when adding bone meal to pet or plant diets.

Safety Tips for Bone Grinding

Grinding beef bones requires extra caution:

  • Wear protective gloves and eyewear when handling and prepping bones.

  • Never leave a grinder unattended. Bones can become lodged.

  • Unplug electric grinders before loading, removing jams, or cleaning.

  • Avoid grinder overload. Let unit fully process one bone before adding another.

  • Disinfect grinders thoroughly after each use to prevent bacteria growth.

  • Monitor pets and plants closely when first introducing bone meal supplements.

While bone grinding provides benefits, the process also introduces potential risks. Take necessary safety precautions.

FAQs About Grinding Beef Bones

Here are answers to some common questions about grinding beef bones at home:

Can I use a regular blender or food processor?

No. The motors of most kitchen blenders and processors aren’t strong enough to break down dense beef bones.

What about grinding in a stand mixer?

Stand mixers lack the torque for bone grinding. Attachments like meat grinders may work but still risk damaging the mixer.

Is it ok to boil bones before grinding?

No, boiling bones makes them brittle and prone to splintering into shards during grinding. Always grind raw bones.

Can I use bones from any animal?

Stick to beef bones or others with similar density. The bones of chickens, turkeys, and other small animals are better. Avoid bones from sheep and pigs.


With the right preparation and equipment, beef bones can be ground into a nutritious supplement for pets or fertilizer for gardens. While grinding does require effort, the benefits are worthwhile. Always focus on safety and find a grinding method that fits your needs. With some trial and error, bone meal can be produced successfully at home.

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