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It's pricey to stay trendy.

Mike Pomranz
April 05, 2017

The old saying goes, “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” Apparently, thanks to the bone broth trend, this phrase suddenly applies to livestock farmers as well: Bones that used to be practically worthless have suddenly turned into their own cash cow (bones).

In a recent piece for NPR, Tove Danovich looked into how “broth-loving hipsters” (as the article’s title put it) are driving up the prices of beef and chicken bones. Not only is it proving to be a small boon for farmers who were used to doing things like simply grinding these byproducts up for fertilizer, high bone demand is also making it tougher for bone broth sellers – especially those who only source bones from specific types of farms that meet certain environmental or ethical standards – to sustain their supplies and profit margins. 

“Trying to get enough bones is really hard,” Tressa Yellig of Portland, Oregon-based broth company Salt, Fire & Time told NPR. “You have to remember, [bones] were waste products that were going to dog food. Farmers were ecstatic if they could get anything for them.” Instead, Yelling said that prices have jumped from under a dollar a pound back when she opened in 2009 to closer to $4 a pound today.

Meanwhile, the people raising these animals are enjoying the opposite effect. “They didn’t sell,” said Katherine Johnson, a Virginia-based farmer. “They take up a lot of space and we have to pay to have them packaged.” Now her bones go for $2 per pound. Jenni Harris, a rancher in Georgia, tells a similar story. “We hardly have any bones left over at the end of the week,” she told NPR.

The irony in all of this is that, according to Yellig, though demand for bone broth has gone up, broth lovers are reluctant to pay a premium for what everyone essentially knows is a byproduct. “No one wants to pay for broth the way they pay for steak,” she was quoted as saying. As a result, for now, bone broth retailers are the ones who are feeling the squeeze. Eventually prices may have to go up, and then—who knows—maybe hipsters may have to go back to eating filet mignon.