Updated: December 3, 2020
The question at hand is “could the soil amendment bone meal cause mad cow disease in humans or pets?” This is the risk according to the article on bone meal in the Smiling Gardner blog.
The article says that gardeners should not use this soil additive, especially for organic gardens because there is a danger of inhaling the dust and contracting Mad Cow Disease.
Bone meal has been used to add phosphorus to plants for some time. It’s made from ground up animal bones.
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Bone meal alternatives
In a follow-up article, the Smiling Gardner provides three alternatives to bone meal that allow plants to increase the phosphorus and other nutrients in their diet.
I don’t think it’s a good idea to use non-organic products when we are talking about the food you and your family eat.— Suburban Hobby Farmer
These three alternatives are mycorrhizal fungi, sea minerals and liquid kelp. Keep in mind, that the Smiling Gardner admits that he used to sell these additives.
On the surface, the alternatives seem safer and more in keeping with organic gardening practices than ground up animal bones.
Whenever possible, I recommend organic alternatives when growing food. I don’t think it’s a good idea to use non-organic products when we are talking about the food you and your family eat.
The manufacturers have not been active in addressing the fear of contracting mad cow disease from their product – at least not in the blogosphere. The top search topic that comes up on Google under the keywords “bone meal and mad cow disease” is this Wikipedia article.
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But I know what I’ll be doing. I’ll be asking my wife not to add this stuff to her hydrangeas this year. Plus, I’ll also strongly consider using some of the alternatives rather than take the chance.
Unfortunately, the Smiling Gardener didn’t suggest an alternative for previously planted plants, just additives during planting.
It’s too bad, bone meal seems to help hydrangeas. After adding bone meal, we have blooms for the very first time in about 10 years.
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