If you lived through the 80s, 90s, or early 2000s, the idea of cooking bone-in, not to mention skin-on, meat probably makes your head spin. Over the past few decades, bone-in meat has been portrayed as unhealthy as we have been encouraged to opt for lean cuts of meat for optimal health, forcing people to reach for boneless and skinless chicken breasts, pork tenderloin, and boneless steaks such as striploin or filet mignon. Fast forward to 2019 when bone broth is all the rage, saturated fat is no longer a dietary evil, and cholesterol is known for its health benefits, and yet many people are still hesitant to eat bone-in meat. Although cooking with bone-in meat may seem complicated, it truly is not, and the benefits of doing so far outweigh any drawbacks. So, in order to help get you started, here are 5 simple reasons why you should eat bone-in meat.
5 Reasons to Eat Meat with Bones
Can you eat bones? Are bones healthy? What’s the nutrition in bones? Here are 5 important health reasons to eat bone-in meat.
1. Bone-In Meat Provides More Micronutrients
Much like the meat that we eat, bones are living tissues and are therefore rich in vital micronutrients for our bodies. Bones themselves are rich sources of minerals including calcium and phosphorus, sodium, and magnesium, as well as other important nutrients. In fact, it is these trace minerals that provide the oh-so-popular bone broth with its nutritional highlights, however, these same nutrients are accessible in bone-in cuts of meat. Bones contain bone marrow, a fatty substance that is extremely nutrient-dense and considered one of the original “superfoods”. Bone marrow is known to contain vitamin A, needed for healthy vision, a strong immune system, and cell health, and because vitamin A is not present in the meat itself, cooking meat with the bone-in helps to release these nutrients into the meat during the cooking process, amplifying its nutrient density.
2. Bone-In Meat Supports Gut Health
In addition to trace minerals, one of the biggest benefits of bones is their high concentration of collagen, gelatin, and glycine. These nutrients are important for gut health, as collagen can help to maintain the integrity of the gut lining, and gelatin helps to maintain the layer of mucus that keeps gut microbes away from the intestinal barrier. While helping to support our gut health, these nutrients play a role in the health of our immune system, as well as help to reduce overall inflammation in the body. Slow-cooking bone-in meat in broths, soups, and stews can help to ensure we have access to these essential nutrients, and although they are becoming increasingly popular in supplement form (i.e. collagen powders), consuming them in their whole food version will always provide the most benefits.
3. Bone-In Meat Supports Sustainability
When it comes to eating meat, an important ethical argument can be made for eating the whole animal. Most of the meat cuts sold in grocery stores today are boneless for several reasons; 1) bones are heavy and more expensive to ship, 2) the (perceived) effort to cut, cook and carve bone-in meat, and 3) the (misinformed) emphasis on lean cuts of meat for health. Unfortunately, in doing so, we are discarding some of the most valuable cuts of the animal, and although it might be convenient to buy boneless meat, using bone-in meat actually helps to ensure that you are using more of the animal with less waste. It might take a little research, but there is a lot you can do with the ‘odd’ cuts of meat, including bones and organs, not to mention the many nutritional benefits you get from consuming them.
4. Bone-In Meat Adds Flavour
There is an old saying that says ”the nearer the bone, the sweeter the meat”. Not only do bones add nutritional value, but they add a ton of flavor to the cooking process as well! Bones are surrounded by fat, so as the bone heats the marrow its juices penetrate the meat and add a depth of flavor that does not exist with a boneless cut. Although bone-in cuts may take slightly longer to cook, it is well worth the wait as it creates a more succulent, flavourful, and juicy cut of meat.
5. Bone-In Meat Saves Money
A final and important benefit of bone-in meat is that, compared to boneless cuts, they are often less expensive, so opting for bone-in cuts can help maximize nutrition while minimizing costs. Because many people see bones as a nuisance, they will pay more for boneless cuts, which increases their price but helps to keep the cost of the bone-in cuts down. Therefore, opting for bone-in chicken thighs, chicken breasts, steak, and pork can help to provide more bang for your buck.
The Bottom Line
Eating and cooking bone-in meat is a wise tradition that has been praised for centuries, and traditional cuisine is filled with references to and uses for bones, bone marrow, and bone-in meat. Although forgotten in recent years, cooking with bone-in meat is much easier than most people think and there are many different ways to incorporate it into your cooking. The simplest way to get started is to swap your go-to recipes for bone-in cuts, and then begin to experiment with different cooking techniques such as roasting, braising, or cooking them low and slow in soups and stews.