If you've ever caught a whiff of decomposing meat, you have a good idea why most people don't throw meat waste on their compost piles. But you can compost animal waste if you follow the proper technique. Before you start throwing meat in with your compost, make sure you understand how to do it properly so you don't end up with a smelly mess on your hands.
Meat scraps and other animal products attract the attention of animals living nearby, both wild and domesticated. As the meat begins to decompose, it can emit a foul odor. The smell results from the breakdown of the meat by anaerobic bacteria as opposed to aerobic bacteria, which do most of the breakdown of material in a typical plant-based compost pile.
In addition to meat and poultry products, several other items should be kept out of your plant-based compost pile or bin. Don't mix diseased plants in with your compost. And while livestock manure can get thrown in the mix, the Natural Resources Conservation Service cautions against adding cat and dog feces, which can carry diseases. Dairy products will compost but break down slowly because the process involves anaerobic bacteria, as it does with meat. Other food items that take a long time to break down include peanut butter and other nut butters, salad dressings, cooking oils and mayonnaise.
While many food products shouldn't be added to your regular compost pile, you can include a wide variety of food items as well as some types of garden waste. All fruit and vegetable scraps will compost, as will grass clippings, pine needles, straw and other types of garden waste. You can also compost newspaper, wood shavings, wood ash, sawdust, coffee grounds, egg shells and bread. Seafood breaks down more quickly than other animal foods, so you can include it in your regular compost pile, according to the University of Maine Cooperative Extension.
You can compost meat, poultry and fish along with other animal products, including milk, butter and other dairy foods, but you'll need to use a special type of container to do it. Look for a compost bin with reinforced sides and a tightly attached lid to prevent intrusions from animals. An airtight container will also keep down the noxious odor that will develop as the meat decomposes. You should also choose an insulated compost container to allow heat to build up, which does not happen as readily with anaerobic bacteria. Because composting requires oxygen, you'll also need a container that allows air to enter.
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