Until recently, most butchers saw bones as a waste product sold for dog food or ground up to use as fertilizer— if the bones were sold at all. Now margins are getting tighter for suppliers, with chicken and beef bones seeing the highest demand from broth enthusiasts.
Bone broth has been consumed for centuries, particularly as a cheap, nutritious food for the poor, but it now sells for $12 a quart at some health food stores. Devotees claim it has restorative health benefits, including healing and building collagen, although there is little evidence to support these claims.
Even though some see bone broth as the latest hipster-driven fad, there are good reasons why it may have staying power. Making it in the traditional way— by simmering bones with herbs and vegetables for several hours — means the bones break down, creating a rich-tasting broth packed with protein and minerals. This kind of home-cooked, slow food reflects a growing trend among consumers, many of whom want to move away from instant stocks and additives like MSG toward more wholesome, naturally flavored foods.
Bone broth is endorsed by Paleo diet proponents, and even the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization has backed the idea of ‘nose-to-tail’ eating as a way to reduce waste. U.S. consumers are embracing more cuts beyond steak for beef and chops for pork. The reasons include greater exposure to world cuisines, more adventurous tastes, interest in cheaper cuts of meat during the economic downturn, and a relatively recent revival in home cooking. Environmentalists have long supported the idea of eating as much of the whole animal as possible.
A few companies have jumped into the broth craze. Bonafide Provisions has developed Drinkable Veggies, a line of vegetable-based beverages that combine bone broth, cold soup and HPP juices in a cold, ready-to-drink beverage format. This is the first ready-to-drink product to use bone broth as an ingredient, but the company is positioning the product like V8 rather than a cold soup. Bone broth is not new to the food scene, but it's massive popularity is. It remains to be seen whether its trendiness will continue, or interest will go the way of the low-carb diet or cupcakes as consumers turn to the next big thing.