When researching how to maintain a worm composting bin, you’ll likely have come across all kinds of things you shouldn’t feed your earthworms. But where does meat fall into the equation? Can worms eat meat – and if so, do they choose to, out of all the food scraps in your bin?
Yes, worms do eat meat. The average worm will eat almost any organic matter whilst it is decaying or dead. It all converts into various nutrients and minerals, which then head back to the soil. Food scraps containing meat can make good worm food. But is it always recommended? Let’s take a look.
Can red wigglers eat meat?
Yes, red wigglers can eat meat. Red wigglers are the ideal worm for vermicomposting.
If you are considering joining the worm farming scene, you may wonder why everyone is warning you against putting meat in your compost bin, and whether or not you should actually use it to feed your worms.
Here are a few reasons why vermicomposters do not suggest putting meat in your worm bins with other food scraps:
Rotting meat smells foul
First of all, and probably most importantly, consider the smell. No matter what meat you have, when it goes bad it does leave a lingering scent!
If not planted deep enough in the worm bin, it could leave your apartment, house or garden smelling terribly for quite some time.
At least, it could stick around until the composting worms have done their job and eaten through it.
However, that could take up to two weeks.
It could attract pests
Due to the strong smell of decaying meat and food scraps from your worm bin, you could find yourself with a home full of flies and pests!
As you will be able to tell by yourself, decaying meat does leave a pungent smell that will reach far beyond the extremities of your home/garden.
Should the meat be improperly disposed of, it could end up attracting various insects such as flies and fly larvae, maggots or even rats and other unwanted pests!
Not only will they be infiltrating your household, they could also greatly disturb your worm population and the compost. Some pests have been known to decimate earthworms.
Make sure you keep this in mind before you feed your worms anything meaty or meat-based.
Protein Poisoning in Worms
Maybe the most important thing to consider about feeding meat to your earthworms is that too much is a health hazard to our little helpers.
You may be unwittingly killing off the worms in your worm bin or farm!
You may have heard it referred to a “string of pearls” or simply seen dead earthworms in your worm bin that look like they’ve been mauled by predators, but not actually eaten.
You’d be forgiven for thinking there’s a cruel beast hunting your worms for sport, but you’ll be sad to find out you’re likely the unwitting culprit.
Too much protein (without calcium) fed to worms causes the acidic protein to ferment in their intestines, and the gas from the fermentation eventually causes the organ to rupture.
This leaves the worm looking like a “string of pearls”, hence the name.
Be careful with oils and spices
Are you throwing plain meat away, or is there something more?
Should your meat be covered in oil, spices or other things to add taste and texture, these various additions could be damaging to the worms.
Meats like chicken from a salad or steak could be covered with juices from lemons (which is very dangerous to worms – they hate citrus toxins and acids).
Or, it may have been cooked in oil, which is damaging to their system as well.
It is therefore important to make sure that what you are putting in the vermicomposting system is just the meat itself, or that it is at least not covered in something that could be harmful to the worms and to the compost.
The last thing you want from your worm castings is anything harmful to the soil.
Should you dispose of your meat properly, red wigglers will happily enjoy eating it and you can rest easy knowing that it didn’t just end up in a bin bag, in a landfill site.
Can you put meat in a worm farm for Vermicomposting?
Yes, you can put meat in a worm farm for vermicomposting. However, you need to make sure whatever you throw in your worm bin is plain and safe for your worms to eat.
Some people without gardens choose to use vermicomposting systems, and might avoid putting meat in it.
However, providing you dispose of the meat properly, you can leave your composting unit to do its job.
Just as you would do with any scraps of fruit, vegetable or other organic product, it is important to prepare meat for composting by cutting it up into smaller pieces.
Spreading it around the vermicomposting system and properly covering it with bedding will make it easier for the decomposing of the meat, and therefore easier for the worms themselves to eat and digest.
If you do decide to put meat into your worm bin, you will notice just how quickly it can get swallowed up! Cut into tiny waste chunks and spread them apart across your bin.
Can I just feed meat to my worms?
You can, but you probably shouldn’t. Healthy worms like balanced diets. Although they are fully capable of eating and digesting the meat nutrients properly, it is important, just as it is with us, to keep things in balance.
Should you only provide them with decaying meat, your worms will be malnourished and lacking in certain nutrients and vitamins.
These are elements that they can only get from the variety of fruits, vegetables and other organic material that you should cast into your worm bins.
As always, however, avoid harmful bits and pieces like dairy products and citrus juices.
These can cause the average worm serious harm. Always check through your food waste before you give it to your worm bin.
Always check the source of meat, too.
Should the meat have come from an infected or polluted area, any of the contamination or pathogens that found itself within the animal could very easily then contaminate your worms.
Logic would then dictate that whatever has contaminated the worm, could also contaminate the compost and the plants, flowers, anything that you are growing with this very compost.
It really is worth taking the time when buying your meat to find out more about where it is from. This really isn’t a bad habit to get into for your own health, either!
In conclusion, despite popular belief, worms can eat meat, and will readily do so. However, you need to ensure you prepare this type of food waste properly before throwing it into your compost or worm bin.
Besides the worms themselves, you need to think of the smell and pests that decaying meat will attract to your vermicompost pile.
Want to know more about other organic material you can start adding to your worm bin? Get in the know and read our article on whether or not worms can eat eggshells!