Blood, bone & fish fertilisers. How dirty is your plant's dirt?

For centuries, animal parts have been used in the gardening industry.

Many people would argue that animal fertilisers are by-products of the food industry, but up to 40% of a livestock animal's bodyweight is actually inedible.[1]

Much of this, including the carcass goes to industries like gardening so it actually supplements the overall profit of the animal. At a minimum, animal fertilisers are co-products of the food industry.

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Five popular animal products used as fertiliser

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Yes, indoor plant growers use animal fertilisers too!


When we told one of the biggest wholesale nursery suppliers in Australia that we were searching for cruelty-free, vegan grown plants without blood and bone, they said to us "good luck they all use it!"

Whilst it is commonly known that animal fertilisers are used in outdoor gardening in our backyards, it's actually commonly used by indoor plant growers too in their potting mix. Here are the statistics from our study.

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The production time for cow bone fertiliser can take TWO years


Deriving fertilisers from animals is an environmentally destructive process. Beef cattle are raised for an average of 18 months before slaughter (their natural life-span is 15-20 years).[2]

After slaughter, The University of Minnesota Extension states that composting a cow's carcass for fertiliser use takes another 6-9 months.[3]

Composting a cow's carcass for fertiliser is an extensive process which involves significant energy usage consisting of:

1. Preparing carcasses in a pile using bulking material over and under carcasses;
2. Heating the animal remains for up to 180 days at more than 54 degrees;
3. Heating the animal remains a second time for 60 days at more than 54 degrees; and
4. Curing and storing the animal fertiliser produced (to prepare for sale and distribution).

Whether in the production of blood, bone or livestock manure fertilisers, undercover investigations show time and again that cruelty is inherent in animal farming, even within farms certified as humane.[4]

[1] https://www.handsourced.com.au/behind-the-scenes/how-much-meat/
[2] https://www.farmtransparency.org/kb/abattoirs/48-age-animals-slaughtered
[3] https://extension.umn.edu/manure-management/composting-livestock-and-poultry-carcasses
[4] https://www.materialinnovation.org/our-why

How we based our research

Australian Wholesale Nurseries

The results are based on the wholesale plant nurseries that we found which showed up on Google Search and Google Maps in Australia. The wholesale nurseries were narrowed down to those which sold indoor plants and totalled 32. They were located across NSW, QLD, VIC, WA, and NT.

how we based our research

Definition of Animal

We consider animals are living organisms which have a nervous system and are able to sense pain. For example, fish or livestock would be animals. We do not consider seaweed or micro-organisms such as minute living things breaking down a peat bog to be animals.

Nurseries that refused to tell us whether animals are used in their soil include nurseries that do not know what is in their soil because they never enquired about their soil supply chain or refused to tell us.

how we based our research

Data Collection

This study was conducted on Australian Wholesale Nurseries between Oct 2020 and Jan 2021.

We phoned each Australian Wholesale Nursery and recorded an excel log of the responses given by each nursery.

Learn more about our gardening philosophy here.