Cooked Food in the Compost Is Bad?

D wasn’t happy with the free composting guide I give away to newsletter subscribers:

“You say in your compost guide to use cooked food!!! Isn’t that just asking for rats and maggots to come and invade, giving them a invitation?”

You can’t win them all.

Yet why would you not use cooked food in your compost? Do you think rats are particularly attracted to cooked vs. non-cooked food? No, rats love just about anything you throw their way, as do maggots.

Soldier fly larvae are maggots, and they are great composters!

And rats? Come on. Bury things deeply, as I do in my “melon pits:”

Other gardeners are picking up the melon pit idea as well:

Melon pits are an easy way to add cooked food to your compost if you’re really afraid of rats and other vermin.

Or you can just compost in a closed bin.

I mean, really … why throw potential soil fertility away? Compost everything!

Nature was designed to break down organic material, and she’s really good at it. Cooked food isn’t a problem; meat isn’t a problem; paper isn’t a problem! You can keep problems at bay by burying the really nasty stuff or by building bins that are animal-proof (provided you don’t have bears or Bigfoot in your neighborhood).

Quit worrying and compost on.

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This post was written by David The Good


  • clairemarie183 says:

    I often put items that would go to my compost bin in the bottom of large flower pots.

  • Scott Sexton says:

    Haha. Love the boulder sound effects. And “some kind of a worm lizard.” Great videos. Thanks for the info. Really fun stuff.

  • peter922 says:

    Include also your shellfish remains as many shells contain useful minerals like silica for cellular strength and when you screen your finished compost (with a wire mesh on your wheelbarrow for instance) the hard remains are collected and returned to the next compost and many more after that. If not, use a grinder to powder them and add that to a compost for easier adsorption by the microbes as usable mineral.

  • SSLM says:

    I have a question.

    Since meat (rotting animal products) products in an anaerobic environment is the perfect recipe for the growth of botulism, I’m leery of planting on it.

    Can someone comment on the possibility of botulism in this kind of growing environment?


    1. Generally, there is quite a bit of bacterial, fungal and insect competition in the ground, unlike in a can of green beans. Clostridium botulinum spores are very resistant to high heat, unlike a lot of other “bad guys,” so when their spores survive and are the only bug left standing in canned food, they’re a huge issue. I am not a microbiologist but I do know various cultures have been burying meat, sewage, etc., beneath their plants for a long time without issue.

    2. But – that said – just through it in an aerated compost heap if you’re worried. I don’t have all the answers, for sure.

      1. SSLM says:

        Thanks for the replies on that. I remember one guy that had issues with his chickens and botulism when he was doing something similar. I also knew another family that had a botulism issue with chickens when there were meat scraps that weren’t cleaned up right away and left out for too long.

        That made me wonder how planting over it may affect the plants in the area. I’ve always been a little more careful with meat scraps laying around for too long because of that issue.

  • Rebecca L Gray says:

    I’m in Colorado, and welcome to a whole new world. I am at 8,500 ft altitude (zone 3 or 4) and after many successful years in Kansas, I totally had to relearn gardening here. It can freeze any night of the year, in fact we just had snow today, May 3. I wake up to elk, deer, and prairie dogs chowing down on my flowers. But life is an adventure.
    I wish David the Good luck, but I can’t put cooked food in my compost because of bears. If your zone is that much lower, you probably won’t have issues, but Colorado Springs has lots of bear problems, especially on the west side of town against the mountains. I also have a big pond, any cooked food that the fish will eat, I pitch out into the pond. I make bone broth, which means I have leftover bones when I’m done, so the fish get a chance to pick at them. Better the trout and Asian carp than the bear or, worse, the mountain lion. Sadly, this also means in order to have chickens, I would have to build a Chicken San Quentin. The birds are a real predator magnet, and a bear can destroy almost any normal chicken house. So I buy my eggs at the farmers market and keep the critters out of the garden with an electric fence. But it’s worth it. Such a beautiful part of the country. I hope you love it here, too.

    1. Bears are a whole different problem! The fish are a good alternative, as at least the material is being reused.

  • gailburnswood says:

    Bears are indeed a problem of that area! Still, I make bone broth for it’s health benefits and make bone meal for it’s nutritional additives to plants. Bone broth and bone meal are pretty easy to make. When making bone broth, make sure you simmer it long enough for the bones to be soft and the bones yield their goodness. Once the bones are soft, you can either grind them in a “coffee mill”(like I do for beef bones after they have simmered for over a week to almost two weeks) or if soft enough you can use a fork to mash them into a meal(like with bird or fish bones), then you can dehydrate that meal and bury it under the plants. I do this to have bone meal in my tiny greenhouse. I make chicken or turkey bone broth and simmer it for at least 4 to 5 days. Yes, I get tired of the smell of the bone broth simmering in my crock pot, but when I can use the broth in so many dishes as the broth is simmering for days(just add a cup of water for each cup of broth removed), I am reminded I am being a good steward of the properties of each animal when I make bone broth and use the bone meal when I garden. I also use egg shell meal for nutritional reasons when planting, and I bury the meal below the sprout. To get egg shell meal(similar to bone meal), I allow my egg shells to dry out completely, the grind them up in the above mentioned coffee grinder. I have one coffee grinder dedicated to the purpose of grinding up bones, shells and leftover dehydrated vegie scraps, another for coffee itself. I allow nature itself to make these leftovers into soil. Yes, I used to compost normally, then discovered the benefits of dehydrating things or making bone broth and using the meal for my “indoor garden” of my greenhouse.

  • waterwatergoddess says:

    thanks – great holes = great to know to just dig deeper and plant pumpkin seeds on top!

  • Brian Moyers says:

    YASSS! As you started rolling the boulder I thought to myself how awesome it’d be to have sound effects as if it got away from you and caused chaos. INSTANT GRATIFICATION!

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