Bonemeal is a product created from the waste resulting from the slaughter of animals, especially beef cattle, by meat processors. It is a white powder made by grinding either raw or steamed animal bones. This results in a product that contains the same nutrients necessary for the production of, and maintenance of, bone in both humans and animals.
The composition of bonemeal can vary. Phosphorus, in the form of chemical compounds related to phosphates, makes up 20–30% of the powder. In addition to its mineral content, depending upon the amount of tendon and muscle left on the bones, bonemeal can be a fairly good source of protein.
The nutrients typically present in bonemeal include the minerals calcium, phosphorus, iron, magnesium and zinc, as well as traces of other elements. Bonemeal, especially when not steamed or cooked, is also rich in vitamins A and D.
Calcium is the most significant nutrient in bonemeal. Calcium is particularly significant to women because of its essential role in the prevention of osteoporosis. A 1999 report of the American Dietetic Association and Dietitians of Canada entitled Women's Health and Nutrition states that either osteoporosis or osteopenia affects more than 30 million Americans (mostly women).
That same report states that osteoporosis is an irreversible disease process. However, it has been found that increasing bone mass early in life may prevent its occurrence or at least lessen its severity. Bone is living tissue
It is consistently reported that American women are not meeting even minimum requirements for calcium intake according to the recommendations of the American Dietetic Association (ADA). Although the ADA recommends that people's intake of calcium be consumed via foods rich in this element, such as low-fat dairy foods, it further recognizes that some people cannot eat these foods at all, or cannot take in sufficient quantities to maximize bone health. It therefore concludes that for those persons who cannot consume sufficient calcium rich foods, it will usually be necessary for them to take supplements containing calcium, and sometimes vitamin D as well. Bonemeal provides both of these nutrients. Recent research even reports that calcium supplements can help prevent formation of kidney stones when combined with a fairly low animal protein, low salt diet. Doctors once advised a low-calcium diet to prevent kidney stones.
Bonemeal, with its 20–30% phosphate content, is an important organic fertilizer used in gardening of all types. Raw bonemeal works more slowly as a fertilizer than steamed bonemeal. Both work more slowly than other fertilizers, making bonemeal an ideal source of nourishment for bulb plants, such as tulips, crocuses, daffodils, and irises, that are planted several months before growth and blooming occur.
Bonemeal tablets are available from health food stores. A typical dose of four tablets per day would commonly contain the following nutrients:
- calcium: 880 mg
- phosphorus: 400 mg
- iron: 1.8 mg
- natural vitamin A: 4,000 units
- natural vitamin D: 400 units
- red bone marrow: 15 mg
Phosphates present in bonemeal could potentially be leached into water systems if bonemeal fertilizer is used along shorelines. Phosphates have the capability to drastically alter the chemical makeup of lakes and rivers, and can kill aquatic life if present in sufficient quantities.
Many bonemeal products contain high, even dangerous, levels of lead. Labels should be read carefully to make sure the product has been tested. Unfortunately, preliminary research in the United Kingdom in 2002 found that the bone-boosting effects of calcium supplements did not have the same long-lasting effects of drinking milk.
Affenito, Sandra G., and Jane Kerstetter. "Position of the American Dietetic Association and Dietitians of Canada: Women's Health and Nutrition." Journal of the American Dietetic Association 1999.
"Calcium Supplements' Effects Short-lives." Nutraceuticals International (January 2002).
"Unrestricted Calcium Intake Protects Against Recurrent Kidney Stones Better than a Restricted Calcium Diet." Environmental Nutrition (March 2002): 3.
MacDonald, Sarah. Phosphorus Boosters. Canada/Nova Scotia Agreement on the Agricultural Component of the Green Plan.
New Zealand Federal Ministry of Agriculture. Part II: Addressing The Issue. 1997.
Vitamin Power. "Bone Meal Plus." http://vitaminpower.com/.
Teresa G. Odle