No Compost, No Digestion
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“Food that won’t rot just ain’t normal.”

In this chapter, Joel addresses the idea that real food should go bad. It should compost, digest and rot.

Can you think of any healthy foods that don’t? What about honey?

Later he goes on to talk about how our landfills are full of millions of tons of food waste, when really, we should be composting all of the food waste instead of dumping it to rot and stink forever.

What are your thoughts on this? What would you recommend to someone who lives in an apartment building and can’t compost their food waste? Where should it go instead?

What do you do with your food scraps? Do you think this could be the norm for everyone?

 

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About Sheri Salatin

Sheri is married to Daniel Salatin. She is the marketing director at Polyface Farm and stay-at-home mom of three children. Sheri is passionate about clean food and is enjoying working the land along side her husband. When not farming, Sheri can be found reading, writing, sewing, baking and serving in her church family.
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19 Responses to No Compost, No Digestion

  1. Rose says:

    An interesting topic.

    I feel like when I put something in the compost pile I’m leaving it for nature to take care of with possibly some slight management assistance like turning the pile and balancing wet/dry ingredients. Other than that I leave it to the microbes, bacteria, fungi, worms, bugs, etc to turn it into dirt.

    We hesitate to toss any biodegradable materials. Wood is burned or chipped, paper/cardboard is shredded and used as bedding for the rabbits or laid flat in the garden paths to stamp out weeds. All left over food stuffs, even dairy, meat, oils etc are put into compost spots. Anything that can be fed to chickens, goats, rabbits or pigs is and anything left is composted.

    We also compost leftovers from processing animals and if we have deadstock. Everything we can return to the ground is. Heavier compost loads are left longer and ones that have mostly green/brown matter are used up faster. We have piles that are designated to never receive meat/dairy/oil products and ones that it’s ok to have that kind of stuff as an ingredient.

    Anything recyclable gets recycled and taken to the drop off spot when we have a good load. We’ve thought about holding back all metals but right now lack the storage space to accumulate them.

    We try to limit our actual trash to as little as possible but we try also realize that this isn’t always possible and not to beat our selves up too much when it is just time to throw something away.

    Fabric/material/etc is something we’ve been having trouble finding a good way to return to the earth/recycle. Specifically things that are completely infested with pet hair. We use couch blankets to keep the dogs off the furniture and there is only so long these will stay fresh before the 10th washing just doesn’t get out the dog smell. I try to then recycle them as dog beds on the porch but eventually they are just gross and or falling apart and need to go. I can compost smaller bits or shredded pieces to some extent and we use them similarly to the cardboard to block out weeds. Any other ideas?

  2. jesse says:

    Im actually starting my own composting company and the reason why to make sure people have drop off area to compost there waste and to help people understand why composting is so great. Food for thought if u live in apt. U can compost too, get a small tote and hit up pet store and get some earth worms and you”ll bet all set.

  3. Daren says:

    I just got the book but I haven’t read the chapter yet. If honey is in a moisture proof container it can last indefinitely. Otherwise it readily absorbs moisture from the air and once the water content gets above 20% it will likely ferment and break down.

  4. peter clare says:

    Composting household food, paper, and even humanure waste is important to soil health. People who practice this know this. However most people don’t know this and don’t know how to compost. It is going to take a lot of public education, and probably some community cooperation. For example, I NEED compost so some of my neighbors give me their waste so I can compost it. Ultimately, it is all about educating people on the why and the how.

    • PeterPansDad says:

      I agree about Humanure, Peter. Want to excite your visitors? Tell them the flusher is broken and they have to use the bucket.

      I also agree it’s all about education. The wooden potty has led to some interesting conversations. I could go on and on here.

  5. Shawna Barr says:

    My family brainstormed healthy foods that don’t rot…excluding things that are preserved like Jerky. However, even naturally preserved foods, like canned or dried, will rot if put in the right environment, like a damp compost pile.

    My daughter pointed out the honey may not rot, but it will be quickly consumed by ants and other beasties if left exposed.

    So, we came up with “salt” and “vinegar”. Interesting huh? Since those are the traditional substances used in food preservation!

    As for apartment complexes, I think it absolutely makes sense to have community chicken flocks. Most complexes have park spaces. It would be so easy to install a coop. I think a “green business” could be born in urban areas to manage urban flocks for apartment dwellers. An eager entrepreneur could rent coops and flocks to apartments, install feeders and waterers and compost collection areas. The chicken manager could them make money by coop rentals, service fees, or egg sales. The apartment dwellers benefit from having access to fresh eggs. The apartment managers benefit from having less garbage to deal with in the dumpsters.

  6. PeterPansDad says:

    I did some small, market research after learning about a composting service called Pedal to Petal. It’s a bicycle-powered compost hauling service. I did a survey among my egg customers to see if they would be willing to pay for a service like this. Unsurprisingly the answer was generally “no” but I accomplished several things:
    1. Found out St. Louis City will pick up compost for free. If you’re going to waste tax dollars, you may as well make the worms happy. Unfortunately, only a minority of kitchen waste goes to the service.
    2. Some people want to compost but don’t know how to get started or have had a negative experience with a smelly, soggy composting failure.
    3. I found a new way to bring in a little revenue with customers who are interested in minimizing landfill waste but can’t compost.
    4. Affirmed the notion that most people just open a bag or a box. People who buy eggs in styrofoam containers and fill their trash with pizza boxes and fast food wrappers have little desire for a composting service.

    So, no. It’s not for everyone. Especially when you try to tell a suburbanite that a little dose of urine on the compost pile would really heat things up. Kind of puts you in the buddhist nudist category…too weird.

    My non-chicken scraps go to the chickens. My non-pork scraps go to the pigs. I don’t think most people can even concieve of that. Who has time to care for animals when they’re busy ignoring their kids at karate, scouts, swim team, gymnastics, soccer and public school? Oh, and we have to get our hair colored, our nails done, the cable guy is supposed to stop by, there’s a gold party tonight and a pampered chef party tomorrow night and then there’s the football playoff party on Sunday. How could you expect anyone to have time to collect eggs? Oh, and I saw farm eggs one time and, like OMG, there was, like, poo on one of them! Gross!

    • Daniel says:

      True, honey never spoils. It will sugar, but set it out in the sun for a colupe of hours and it’s good as new. I would guess that it would decompose or absorb back into the earth if you put it in your compost heap, or would get eaten by birds or insects if left sitting outside. I guess the sugaring process could be considered going bad as well. So I think honey does meet the qualification to compost.Most of our scraps (including meat scraps) go to our chickens. The exception of course is onions (and they don’t like hard squash peels either). Those go straight to the compost heap.

  7. Martina says:

    Yeah, what a waste (literally!) to add compostable stuff to landfills where they get smothered by all the paper and synthetic stuff so they don’t decompose.

    I used to work at a conservation nonprofit, and we had a small compost can in the cafeteria that staff could fill during the week to be emptied on the pile out back periodically. It was quite clean, didn’t smell, and it wasn’t too much trouble to walk down a couple of flights to deposit a banana peel or apple core every so often. This could be easily transferrable to office parks around the country in cooperation with the management company that could keep a central compost pile for each park.

  8. Amy says:

    True, honey never spoils. It will sugar, but set it out in the sun for a couple of hours and it’s good as new. I would guess that it would decompose or absorb back into the earth if you put it in your compost heap, or would get eaten by birds or insects if left sitting outside. I guess the sugaring process could be considered “going bad” as well. So I think honey does meet the qualification to compost.

    Most of our scraps (including meat scraps) go to our chickens. The exception of course is onions (and they don’t like hard squash peels either). Those go straight to the compost heap.

  9. jeanne says:

    I live in NYC and when I joined a CSA i also found a place to bring all the many scraps i acquired! http://www.grownyc.org/compost How great!

  10. Rachel Hershberg says:

    Hi – I live with my family in an apartment in Israel, and haven’t figured out how to successfully compost. Tried a couple of things, so far nothing has worked out. We are six people, and thank God eat a fair amount of real food, so we do produce a lot of compostable waste. I just got the idea off the internet to use at least some of my scraps for vegetable stock, but I am grateful for any other suggestions!

    • Brad says:

      Hi Rachel-
      I don’t know if you can purchase this & have it shipped to Israel but this site will give you a great idea on apartment composting. I have had a Nature Mill for 3 years and live in a small condominium/apartment. What do I do with the compost? I give it to friends/family who have gardens. They love it. I also have some containers with flowers on my patio. The key to success with a Nature Mill is to follow the directions EXACTLY. I abused my first one by trying to push the limits and it eventually gave out. But I liked it so much I purchased another one.
      http://www.naturemill.com/
      Good luck.

  11. Anthony says:

    I just got a compost tumbler for Christmas and am loving it. I’m a total suburanite trying this whole sustainability thing.

    A few chapters back, Joel talks about replacing your parakeets with chickens. My city does not allow chickens outside, so I’m thinking this might be a work-around. Has anyone tried this? Maybe keeping them in the basement or some other indoor location? Any advice?

    Thanks!

  12. catharine says:

    So enjoying this conversation! I live in a town with lots of bears, so it is hard to compost here as it will attract them as well as raccoons, coyotes, dogs, rats etc. As far as apartment living,yes, I am wanting to start a business to pick up saved scraps to keep them out of landfill. It would be necessary to have a bear – free yard to make the piles in, though, and that would entail a tall chainlink fence with an electric wire top, I suppose.

  13. Annie Carlson says:

    We have over two acres is garden and people as me all the time if we compost our garden waste. Nope! We feed it to the chickens and turkeys and then we compost them! 🙂
    As far as animals getting into our compost, it doesn’t happen. We have a dog, cats, and plenty of wild animals but the compost if left alone because my husband builds the piles so well.

  14. Ruth Anton says:

    In the past I’ve managed to use the snowfall as an excuse not to trudge out to the compost pile in the winter. It’s out past the chicken coop on the edge of the woods. This year, because it’s been so mild, along with having read Mr Salatin’s book, I’ve made sure that almost no kitchen waste makes it into the ‘trash’. It goes to the chickens, the dog or cats, or the compost pile, snow or no snow. Since we pay by the bag for trash pick up in our town, the added benefit has been the savings. Between composting a recycling, we might fill a 10 gallon ‘trash’ bag every two weeks.

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  16. Joanna Banana says:

    I know there are some cities that have compost collection. We don’t have that here in Philly. Although it would be helpful because the parks department’s free compost is only comprised of yard waste, and has no nutrient value. We have a worm bin, although we aren’t very diligent with it. It’s small, odorless, and efficient. When I worked in a public school, the students would throw their food waste in a separate bucket, and a local farmer collected the food waste.