Fun With Meat Grinders

One of the things I’ve been wondering about for a while is the possibility of using some sort of big old-fashioned manual-crank grinding device for crushing up worm food materials. One of the possibilities that came to mind was a big meat grinder, but I’ve always assumed it would cost way too much to get my hands on one.

A recent email from (Brazilian) RWC reader, Gustavo, has me re-thinking this possibility! Gustavo initially emailed to let me know how he was using a meat grinder to prepare food for his African Nightcrawlers. This certainly caught my attention, and I was quick to ask if he’d mind sending in some pictures. As you can see, he happily obliged (thanks again, Gustavo).

I’ve included much of Gustavo’s initial explanation, along with the captions he provided for each picture

Hey, man! Just wanna share something cool I did today. I’ve seen a lot of people trying to make their worm bins work faster by using their blender to triturate the worm’s food. It may be good, but if you don’t control yourself in the process you only get a load of goo that will let the bin too wet. Anyways, I don’t like it. I prefer to use my blender to mix MY food. So, I was cleaning my house and found my grandma’s old meat grinder! I gave it a try and get a wonderful result, the food was homogeneously triturated. I did it to some vegetables, which dropped a lot of water so I placed them in the bin in one side and used the water to irrigate a dry spot, and even with some hard things, like manioc (I think this is the english work for that, or cassava).

The best thing is it’s cheap if you don’t own one and can find a lot of them in the internet. I think you buy used things there in ebay, right?

I let mine placed outside the house and clean it after using it with a hose (drying it later, of course, so it don’t get rusty).

That’s it. For small bins, like mine, it may be a good way to accelerate the process.

This is my grinder disassembled, it’s easy to understand how it works. The handle pushes the food and rotates that smaller part (in my hand) at the same time:

This should explain it better:

So, this is it. Just put the food in the grinder and rotate the handle. You only need to be cautious to not let your finger inside it too, it’s manual, but it’s very strong and can pull your finger very easily if the rotation is fast enough. I prefer to press the food (when needed) with a stick.

This picture shows how the finished “product” is. You can open or close it a little more for bigger parts. I like it almost closed for smaller parts.

The final result. Today’s lunch: zucchinis, carrots, pumpkins, tomatos and cucumbers. (I translated these names in google translator, don’t know if they right)

I put this today in the bin, this is how it looks like..

But this picture I took a few days ago shows what you get in only 4 days. You can’t distinguish what is food, what is compost… I can only distinguish the leaves and one of my chickens feather. I tried to show how many worms were there, but I have africans, they’re very fast, when I took the leaves they ran away. Btw, the appearance is not very beautiful, it’s too humid… it’s raining in Brazil for 2 weeks – it’s an outdoors bin.

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    • Terri
    • March 15, 2011

    That’s so cool! I think I have a meat grinder attachment for my KitchenAid mixer (if I do, it’s never seen the light of day!) I might have to try that!

    • Ted Cravins
    • March 15, 2011

    I have a hand crank, but I use that for making sausages. I bet wet cardboard would go though a larger disk. Do I smell home made manure in the works.

  1. I know I have one of those from my farther in laws house. Just need to find where I put it.

    • Anna
    • March 15, 2011

    First–I was really relieved to read your post after seeing that title. You had me worried!

    Second–cool idea. This would definitely be easier than the blender method I was using last year. I loved how quickly the food was consumed after blending but just got too lazy. The meat grinder, however, is actually something I might stick with.

    • Gustavo
    • March 16, 2011

    Bentley, just an addendum: in 24 hours the appearance of the food is just like the one in the 4 days’ picture. It’s REALLY that fast.

    • DaveG
    • March 16, 2011

    Thanks for sharing Gustavo. As we know, there are probably quit a few of these being stored away unused. My lovely wife has drawn the line at me using her kitchen appliances for the worm bin, so putting one of these back to work sounds like the call.

    • Carolyn
    • March 16, 2011

    The title had me clutching my heart.

    I like the meat grinder idea because no electricity is needed.

    A block of wood can be carved as a vegetable pusher to use every time all the time especially if children are going to use it tell them to only use their palms and keep their fingers out. Maybe call it a finger grinder and they will be aware.

    The grinder seems the perfect thing to quickly harm the vegetables for the worms.

  2. Great idea! I have been chopping up the larger and more tough bits of food by hand with a knife. I just went and bought a meat grinder on eBay. You can get older manual grinders for $10 to $15.

    • John Duffy
    • March 17, 2011

    Great idea! You can pick these up at yard sales for about $5.00…I’m with DaveG…My wife has been pretty understanding with all my worming adventures over the last year but, I think I’d lose the battle if I tried to snitch her grinder. Thanks for sharing this…Gotta go find some yard sales.
    Hey Bentley, my worms came today. They were GRRRREAT!

    • Jerry from Puyallup
    • March 17, 2011

    I like to wander at thrift stores here in the pacific northwest, especially in the wet, wet winter. I see those grinders frequently, now I’m going to pick one up. I too, blend/chop/ freeze, microwave, (something, usually) when not lazy about it, however grinding may be even easier.
    Not using any electric resource and re using an item where the manufacturing resources consumption has already been spent is very appealing also.

    • Verlene
    • March 17, 2011

    The original name, The Worm Inn, is a good one, so this updated, improved version could build on that.

    Super Deluxe Worm Inn

    • Verlene
    • March 17, 2011

    Oops! This post must be in the wrong place.

    • Bentley
    • March 17, 2011

    No problem, Verlene – I moved it over to the right post

  3. I just ordered one. I couldn’t wait for a good deal. I don’t know why I didn’t think of this earlier. The long-haired guy in the garage chopping up things in buckets with a butcher knife tended to scare off all but the most persistent pollster or salesman. If the grinder has the same result maybe it’s the guy not the tool!

    • Jason
    • March 18, 2011

    It looks like you are missing a part on there… sort of an odd setup with the wingnut on the front.

    • tom
    • March 18, 2011

    I been using this same grinder for months now, I only grind wet egg shells with it much faster way of toasting them works great

  4. Castaway Keith LOL about the long haired guy with meat grinder butcher knife and buckets in the garage. I had several strange looks in the hardware store when I asked for chains to hang in my basement from hooks. They did not wait around for me to say they were to hang shop lights up for my plants. Oh Well.
    I only found one piece to my meat grinder. So going to need to search yard sales, salavation army, good will or eBay.

    • Worm Russler
    • March 20, 2011

    Will this also work on banana peelings. We consume allot of bananas.

    • Gustavo
    • March 20, 2011

    Yes, of course. Actually, it was the first thing I tried. Today I gave my worms a dozen of different things. I didn’t believe it, the food I gave them last weekend has all gone (I covered all my bin)! Not even a piece.

    About what works or not, the only problem I’ve assumed is that food with lots of fibers tends to block a little, but it’s really not a problem since you can clear it. Things like papaya or avocado don’t need to be grinded, they are soft enough to be placed directly in the bin and wont be pushed inside the grinder.

  5. I found the meat grinder. It does work. Thanks Gustavo for the ideal.
    Bentley I sent you a photo of it. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    • Kim from Milwaukee
    • March 22, 2011

    Gustavo, this is brilliant!! I’ve been wondering how to compost things like avocado seeds and skins, as well as banana peels, and I don’t know why I didn’t think of using my grinder. The simplest things are usually the best!!!

    • brenda bowen
    • March 23, 2011

    So I got excited about the grinder I have had my mothers old sunbean mixer with grinder attachment in my cupboard for years. Went outside and grabbed 3 bags of frozen worm food,microwaved it to speed things up. Started dumping the slop in the top and not watching how it was coming out.Lets just say my kitchen walls from shoulder height down have never been so clean. So I think fresh veggies prolly work best.
    Great idea Gustavo thanks

    • Gustavo
    • March 23, 2011

    Another thing I’ve been noticing is a difference my worm’s behavior. Previously, when using full pieces of food, it was rare to find a mature worm in the upper part of the bin, they were always in the bottom and just came out at night. Now they are there anytime, even in midday.

    Remembering, I have african nightcrawlers (we call then Giant Africans here :D).

    • Jerry from Puyallup
    • March 24, 2011

    I found 2 grinders, both new in box at Value Villiage ( Savers for you northern guys ) for $6.99 Ea. I bought them both, of course.
    One is Universal brand (made in China) #2. It looks like the one Gustavo owns. It has 3 cutting wheels to select from. the nose has the wheel and wingnut just like pictured. I know that is correct because it came with the directions in the box.
    I tried it out, and it does a great job! I will leave it mounted outside and just quick rinse with water and a quick spritz from a spray bottle of vegetable oil to fight rust to keep it in service!
    This unit was made before UPC label codes, and the price when sold new was $27.99 at Coast to Coast stores.
    The other is Maid of Honor (by Sears Roebuck) also new in box. the red paint on handle not even marred or chipped. No rust anywhere. the box has the Sears handwritten price label. $3.98
    It is slightly different in that it has an internal cutting/grinding blade and then the material is extruded thru end plate (your choice of extrusion holes size) . I have not tried it yet, but it does seem to be a superior design having the cutting wheel internal.
    A quick ol line search leads me to think this one was made in the 30’s or 40’s. the maid of Honor grinder was made at least as far back as 1900.
    Sorry for the long post, I just find this interesting, hope you do too.
    I think this one is going to be kitchen art.

  6. I’ve been trying to locate parts to make a huge one for around 9 months.One of these days i will find the main piece.It will hopefully be able to push through large cardboard even to make it like spaghetti.This one won’t be able to turn by hand.But it will hopefully work for a lot of neat stuff.Like say for example old credit card bills thrown in with some table scraps.Once it goes through,you won’t be able to tell what it used to be.And worms will eat it a lot faster!

    • lee from iowa
    • March 27, 2011

    great tip i’ve been trying to justify keeping my old grinder around due to the fact it takes up cabinent space.

    • Bella
    • April 7, 2011

    I have just started vermicomposting and have been testing various methods of grinding the food to make the composting process faster. I have a kitchen aid mixer with a food grinder attachment and it has worked wonders for most food, but it does not work on some harder foods like cantaloupe rinds and butternut squash skins.

    The lazy man way is the way I prefer any time I can come up with one. To that end I have simplified the need for cleaning equipment, which I consider the worst part of worm food grinding, by using whatever is machine is dirty. It really doesn’t matter if you use a food processor, blender, or grinder as long as it hasn’t been used with raw meat. Sometimes when I intend to use the food grinder for raw meat I grind the worm food first, assuming the batch is also all human food, and just give it a quick rinse before moving on to meat grinding. If I have cantaloupe rinds on the day the grinder is dirty I just throw them in the worm food bag I keep in the fridge and pull them out next time the food processor is dirty.

    Like I said I havenโ€™t been at this long but it has fit easily into my low maintenance lifestyle (AKA Laziness) for a couple of weeks now. Usually if something is more effort than I am willing to put in for the long run laziness wins pretty quickly so I am hopeful I have found the lazy man way.

    Side Note: If any of you have kitchen aid mixers and are looking for a food grinder for your worm food I highly recommend the kitchen aid food grinder attachment. It may not be the cheapest grinder you can find but it is much easier and faster than manual grinders and you can cut some fat and mystery(you never know what parts you are getting when you buy previously ground meats) out of your diet by using lean and fully identifiable cuts of meat. As much as I love my worms (Both of my best friends have had babies within the last four months and I got a worm farm so the jokes have yet to stop) I donโ€™t intend on buying them any gadgets that are solely worm farm unitaskers.

    • Adrian
    • February 11, 2012

    Hi all I’m from Mumbai India where all these activities are relatively not really practiced ..
    I’m lucky I came across this site . which helped me a lot .
    I was looking for a shredder to make hummus & feed for the Worm bin ( which I hopefully should have soon) & all that I found was a commercial heavy duty shredder , very expensive . & that too it was the least capacity com-poster they had.

    But now .. this idea is really fantastic for home use .
    I have to look up really well to find a meat grinder here, since meat eating also is not done on a large scale, though, I have see the electric ones at the meat shops ( which is a hope that I can get things here too ).
    Thanx a lot Gustavo & all for posting experiences & feedback .

    One major question is, can I push my luck & mix dried leaves & twigs & stuff. to make the ideal carbon nitrogen mix.?
    Another question is, after doing a lot of asking all over the city I found one place which said that they will prepare a small scale bin & give it to me which will make vermicompost for around just 5 yrs .. Sounds strange to me, since I think the worms will reproduce .. wont they ??
    Isn’t it a life cycle ..
    the other thing which was an eye opener here was the kind of WORM’s used for composting “Eisenia fetida”.. I called up the person making the bin to ask him which worms was he using .. he rudely told me I cannot disclose that .. damn .. now my only chance of saving myself from being hugely disappointed is to see the worms before I buy them . This is the only place which will give me worms on a small scale for home use . will update on the progress .

    • tom
    • May 6, 2012

    haha, too great. being secret about his worms, which are pretty standard for worm boxes. i would not spend any buck to such a person, what about searching for them in nature?

    • Dan Gallagher
    • April 3, 2018

    Thanks Bentley and Gustavo,
    The thought just crossed my mind about using a meat grinder after using a food processor for a few years. I remembered how easy the clean-up was for the meat grinder. Who knew I would find the answer to an off the wall question about vermicomposting at Red Worm Composting after googling it. Thanks again and keep making me a better vermicomposter.

    • Pierre
    • November 4, 2020

    Ha, I just had this idea today. I googled “food scraps grinder” image search and of course I find this site ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Bentley
    • November 9, 2020

    That’s funny, Pierre – although with your “knife skills” and interest in meat grinders I’m really starting to wonder! Haha ๐Ÿ˜‰
    Kidding aside, do let me know if you end up testing out different optimization strategies like grinding.

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