Meat in Compost?

Over the years I’ve gotten a lot of questions about how to compost.  I’m not a composting expert, and don’t want to pass myself off as one, but I do understand the basics and I like to think of myself as a proponent of composting.  Having said that, there is a composting practice which I’m asked about frequently that I never know quite how to answer.  Should you put meat into your compost?

The easy answer to the question of whether meat belongs in compost is that it is an organic material which will break down just fine along with all of the vegetable matter in your compost.  But there’s more to it than that.  I’ve been to some areas that specifically forbid meat in compost because of the vermin that it will attract.  And it’s true, at least to some extent, that meat attracts vermin.  Rats, raccoons, and other mammals will go after meats.  It’s the high protein content.  How can they resist?  While leaves and grass can have as much as 4% nitrogen, meats will typically have between 5 and even as high as 16% nitrogen.  Of course they go for it! 

Besides the vermin issue, if raw meat is placed in a compost pile it tends to stink, especially if it isn’t mixed into the pile.  Cooked meat (table scraps) breaks down a little bit more slowly than raw meat and doesn’t stink as much.  Because of the high nitrogen content of meat it will get a compost pile to compost a little bit faster.  Personally, I’m in favor of using meat in compost piles as long as you’re careful to turn the pile frequently to keep it inside the pile where it can’t do as much harm.  If you’re a casual composter then you might want to avoid using meat because of the potential problems.  So there it is – in my mind the answer to whether you should put meat in compost or not comes down to how closely you like to monitor your pile, whether there are laws against it in your area, and also the likelihood of mammals getting into it where you live.  Also, at most meat should be a small component of a compost pile — not the main component.