All the Benefits of Bones, None of the Risks

You may be surprised to learn this, but I never feed Suki bones. We don’t even have any of nature’s Lego, the cow hoof, in the house (for those unfamiliar with this reference, once the soggy chewed hoof dries it becomes incredibly sharp and is more painful than a Lego to accidentally step on). I decided the risks of snacking on bones outweigh any benefits, especially when there are alternative (and perhaps even more bioavailable) ways for her to get the nutrients stored in bones.

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I am a big fan of cooking food, but I can’t deny some nutrients can be leeched out in the process. In some cases this can be used to your advantage, like for bone broth. The bones are cooked for so long that most of the good stuff is pulled out into the water, creating an extremely nutritious broth. You’ll know the bones are done because you’ll be able to break them between your fingers with very little effort, even large turkey thigh bones. The outer portion of beef bones will remain quite strong, but the inner marrow area will be soft. Even though the bones are very soft I wouldn’t recommend giving them to your dog. It’s not wasteful because all the good stuff is in the broth now anyway, so avoid the potential risk and just throw them away.

I always utilize the full capacity of my slow cookers when making bone broth. That way I’ll have enough for both Suki and the two humans. If you plan to use the broth not just for your dog’s food but yours too be sure to roast the bones first to avoid the broth developing an off taste.

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Skip the cheap grocery store bones and check out what your local butcher or farms have to offer. Grass-fed beef has so much more nutrition in it and the cost of bones is almost negligible. Other alternatives are purchasing bone-in poultry cuts or whole birds, then saving the bones in the freezer until you have a slow cooker’s worth. Another thing to look into is fish “by-products”. Our local butcher shop will occasionally have bags of frozen (cleaned) fish carcasses set out for free.

Isn’t that awesomely gross?

I let the roasted bones soak in acidic water for at least 30 minutes before turning on the heat. The acidity of the apple cider vinegar starts the break-down process, allowing more gelatin and minerals to leech into the water.

Removing the fat from beef broth is easy. I found it solidifies much better than poultry broth, turning into a large fat disk that can just be lifted off the broth.

Yup, that’s beef fat.

For storing broth long-term I freeze 1/4 cup portions in a muffin tray and keep the disks in a large freezer bag. That way all I have to do is pop a broth disk into Suki’s food bowl before I transfer it to the fridge for the night, and if I’m making soup it’s easy to measure out the correct amount of liquid. If I’m going to be using it within 3 days I store it in mason jars.

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  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Spread the bones on a baking sheet and roast for 45 minutes to 1 hour.
  2. Transfer to a crock pot and cover with water. Add 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar and allow to sit for 30 minutes to 1 hour.
  3. Set the slow cooker to high until the water begins to boil, then switch to low and allow to cook for 12 to 24 hours for poultry, and 24 to 48 hours for red meat.
  4. Strain the stock into a large bowl, throw the bones away, and cool the broth in the fridge until the fat sets on top. Remove the fat.
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