Last Updated Feb 2020 – The BARF, or “bones and raw food” diet, has picked up a lot of traction in recent years. It sounds pretty disgusting (both due to the acronym and the meaning of the letters), but the participants don’t seem to care. Instead, they live happy, healthy lives while eating ground-up animal parts that you would normally discard.
Why? Because they’re dogs. BARF is a way for dog owners to cheaply feed their beloved pets highly nutritious diets without spending very much on dog food. All you need is access to cheap bones, giblets, or even whole birds as well as a meat grinder that can process bones.
Why Can’t My Meat Grinder Handle Bones?
Whether you’re putting your dog on BARF or you just want to grind up some small game for normal human consumption, you can’t get away with a normal meat grinder. The smaller machines that you use for making sausage simply won’t cut it when it comes to bones.
They’ll quickly fail or even break if you feed any bones from animals larger than a chicken into the chute. Even chicken bones will cause damage to some smaller meat grinders. While you can boil the bones to soften them and largely avoid this issue, this solution won’t work for people who grind lots of dog food on a regular basis. It would simply take too long to boil all the meat!
This means you need a meat grinder that’s specially designed for the task. You’re usually after quite a bit of raw horsepower, although this doesn’t always translate to power. You also want all-metal gearing, to handle the strain of crunching through bones. Finally, you’ll want a strong auger to perform the actual crunching.
The best way to find these powerful meat grinders isn’t through reading manufacturer specs. Most meat grinder makers deliberately pad their numbers with things like max wattage that don’t really matter. We recommend a 1 HP Weston, for example, that massively outperform comparably powered Kitcheners.
Remember, horsepower and watts are just numbers, nothing more. Instead of these empty numbers, look for user testimonial from actual consumers who have used a machine to grind bones. What’s important is how effective a grinder is at applying these metrics to the bones you’re trying to grind.
The Best Meat Grinder For Bones
I’ve picked out four of the best models on the market below. These models are big, expensive, and noisy, but they’re also fantastically powerful and quite durable. All of our picks have been thoroughly vetted and can handle chicken bones with a minimal amount of prep work. If you want to process many pounds of boned meat in a single short session, these are the right tools for the job.
A Note On Cabelas Meat Grinders
It’s worth noting that this list doesn’t have any Cabelas meat grinders on it. The reason is simple: at the time of writing, Cabelas grinders are roughly twice as expensive as similarly powerful grinders from other brands. This means that you can save quite a bit of money by choosing the recommendations here over a Cabelas machine.
First, let’s get the most important part out of the way: this meat grinder will not handle bones from anything larger than a chicken. The manufacturer claims that it won’t grind bones at all unless they’ve been softened by boiling. In practice, however, you can easily get away with most chicken bones, especially from smaller birds.
So why is this on my list of recommended grinders? Because it’s still a great option. The STX-3000 is fairly cheap, incredibly effective, and comes with a wide assortment of accessories. You might not be able to toss cow neckbones through it without any prep, but you can still process whole Cornish game hens with just a couple of cuts. It’s also brilliant for grinding your own sausage or hamburger.
Okay, so let’s say you decide to give it a try. What happens when you put in a bone that’s too tough for this grinder? Not a lot. If you notice the grinder is getting stuck on something, you simply throw the grinder in reverse and then watch as the offending object rises from the feed chute.
There’s a circuit breaker that will prevent the motor from wearing itself out on impossible-to-grind objects. These features mean that you’re free to experiment a little bit with different types of meat and bones. They’re also common among all four grinders we recommend here, so you’ll be safe with any of them.
Users report that this machine grinds over 2 lbs of food per minute quite comfortably. It’ll pulverize chicken, ham, beef, and vegetables. This means you can put your entire pet food recipe straight into the feeding chute. You may have to do a bit of prep to remove larger bones from the chicken, however, and you’ll definitely want to avoid pig and cow bones.
Like the other options here, this machine has removable parts for easy cleaning. You should stick to a hand wash, however, as dishwasher detergents and temperatures will remove the protective coating that surrounds these metal parts. This means that they’ll rust or discolor if you put them in the dishwasher.
There’s plenty of power behind this STX grinder. It’s got up to 3,000 Watts backing up the motor at peak power, with between 800 and 1200
Watts during normal operation. This is more than enough to pulverize any type of meat. This power is channeled through polished aluminum parts, meaning that this machine is quite durable. It’s also covered by a very generous 3-year warranty.
Overall, this is one of the best options for people who want to grind lots of chickens. The machine itself can handle meat from all animals, of course, but you’ll want to do your best to remove skin and bones from the meat of larger critters. With chickens, however, you can usually get away with significantly reduced prep. The high speed, low price, and great durability of this grinder make it a perfect choice.
If you’re after the absolute best product, you want to get a big, heavy duty grinder. The Weston Butcher Series #22 definitely fits these criteria. It’s a true behemoth, weighing almost 60 lbs and taking up quite a lot of counter space. This gives it more than enough torque to power through larger turkey bones, but it does make it somewhat awkward to store in your house.
This isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. If you want something slightly more moderate in size and power, our next two options are a bit better at grinding bones than the STX-3000 while being smaller than this Weston. If you want to pulverize bones with zero issues, however, this is one of the best choices for home use.
So what makes this machine more powerful? If you go by wattage, this is actually one of the least powerful units on the market. The answer is simple: torque. The auger in this grinder doesn’t slow down for anything. While it’s only got 750 Watts of power, it grinds over three times as fast as the next best option on this page. This means it can process between 9 and 12 lbs of meat every minute, or up to 700 lbs of meat in an hour. I cannot stress how fast this actually feels in practice. The meat practically flies out of this machine.
In order to accommodate this impressive amount of force, this machine has extra durable steel gears. You won’t be burning through any cheap plastic internals anytime soon. It comes with multiple steel grinding plates as well as three funnels, enabling you to stuff sausage or simply control how your ground meat comes out.
I could go on about how big and powerful this Weston is for a while, but you probably get the idea. It’s far and away the best machine for
grinding medium amounts of bones at home. It’s the easiest to use, too, since it practically sucks meat through the feeding tube. You’ll definitely notice the improved speed and power from this unit compared to our other picks. On the other hand, it’s well over 50 lbs, quite large, and fairly expensive.
If you want to spend five or six times as much money, you can get an even larger commercial grinder, but at that point you’ll almost certainly have to keep the machine in a garage or an outdoor shed. By contrast, this Weston is quite reasonably priced for the power, and while it’s big and heavy, it’s still small enough for kitchen use. If you have multiple dogs on the BARF diet or you simply want the fastest bone grinder around, this Weston is definitely the best choice.
Reasonably Priced Meat And Bone Grinders
The oversized gears and metal gearbox in Sunmile meat grinder help it power through tough meat, bones and all. It’s not quite as well suited as the Weston above for pulverizing tough bones from larger animals, but it’s more than strong enough to crush chicken bones. This makes it ideal for moderate home grinding.
One huge advantage that this Sunmile has over the Weston above is size. It’s about four times smaller by weight. This means that it’s much more reasonable to carry by yourself. You can even put it away in a cupboard in between grinding sessions.
Despite the small size of this Sunmile, it grinds really, really fast. You can process up to 200 lbs of chicken in an hour, bones and all. In other words, you can get through a week or more of pet food prep in just a few minutes. You’ll spend more time setting up the machine and cleaning it out afterward than you will grinding.
Should you want to use the Sunmile for something else, like making sausage, it’s got all of the equipment you need. It’s not the best sausage stuffer on the market, but the fact that there are tubes is quite handy. You can moonlight with occasional forays into sausage stuffing in between grinding large batches of meat.
As far as numbers go, the GM50 offers 350W of steady power with a peak output of 1000 Watts. It comes with 3 cutting plates, 3 sausage attachments, and a plastic plunger to help force meat into the auger.
The biggest disadvantage of this unit is the lack of dishwasher safety. Should you put any of the parts in the dishwasher they’ll quickly discolor. In order to avoid this, simply hand wash the removable components in dish soap and warm water.
Overall, this reasonably priced unit is an excellent option for people who want to grind small animal bones. It works great with rabbits,
chickens, and other small birds. While it doesn’t grind big animal bones super well, it’s a robust grinder that works with all types of meat. You can even use the sausage-making attachments to try creating your own unique sausage blends.
Like the Sunmile above, this meat grinder works brilliantly on chicken bones. You’ll want to either boil or avoid bones from larger animals, but you should be fine to throw mostly-whole birds into the chute and let the grinder do all of the work for you. It’s got many of the same advantages, including robust metal gearing, a fairly reasonable price, and a small enough form factor that you can lift it with one hand.
As far as speed goes, the Chef’s Choice 720 is quite comparable to the Sunmile. It can do about 200 lbs of meat in an hour. Again, this lets you burn through a week or even month of pet food in a single short session.
Like our other top picks, there’s both overload protection and a reverse switch on this grinder. This means that if you accidentally load it with something that’s a bit too tough for its motor it’ll shut off before any serious damage occurs. When that happens, you can simply switch the machine to reverse and then remove the offending object.
One notable thing about this Chef’s Choice is the way it’s constructed. It’s got a slightly more vertical design than the other grinders on this page. This means that it takes up less space on your counter. The vertical hopper is somewhat smaller too, but that shouldn’t be a big issue in practice. It takes a shockingly short amount of time to grind a hopper full of meat with all of the models on this page. You probably won’t’ even notice the smaller tray.
The all-metal gear drive on this machine is designed to provide as much torque as possible. This means that while it’s got less peak wattage than the STX at the top of the page, it’s much smoother at grinding bones. Chef’s Choice has helpfully provided multiple grinding plates to let you choose how finely you want to grind your meat.
Like our other picks, this machine has removable parts for easy cleaning. Again, please do not put these parts in the dishwasher. They’re not designed for prolonged exposure to water or harsh soaps. Instead, hand wash them in the sink and then dry them before returning them to your machine.
Honestly, the choice between this and the Sunmile probably comes down to online sales. Both units have very similar specs, sizes, and prices. You’ll easily grind whole chickens with both machines, stuff sausages, and pulverize vegetables. If you want a smaller, affordable meat grinder that can handle chicken or rabbit bones, both options are great. Feel free to choose whichever one happens to be the cheapest right now.
The final verdict
If you’re after a machine that can turn cow necks or other large animal discards into chewable pet food, the Weston 22 is by far the best choice for home use. It’s big, tough, and extra durable, and it’s more than powerful enough to handle six or seven months’ worth of grinding in a single session.
If you simply want something that can process whole chickens, however, you’ve got quite a few more options. The STX-3000, Chef’s Choice 720, and Sunmile SM-G50 all give you enough power to crush chickens into mushy bits with minimal amounts of hand processing. Best of all, all of these machines can be used to stuff sausages, grind hamburgers, and more.