Trendy Broth Driving Up Prices of Bones

Beef bone broth from The Healthy Butcher in Toronto is made with from 100 percent grass fed beef marrow. Carlos Osorio/Toronto Star via Getty Images

My dog Bailey always buried her bones in the backyard. McBeal stole them from her sister, Sophie. Loretta Lou now keeps her snout inches from the oven as they bake. For a dog, there is little tastier than meat bones, whether they're baked, raw, grilled or ground up and put in dog food.

But the bones, including those from cows, turkeys, lambs, chickens and pigs, are in short supply these days, as the broth made from them has become the elixir du jour. Bone broth has become so trendy in cities like New York, Austin and Los Angeles that it's getting hard to find inexpensive bones, once regarded as the detritus of butchers and farmers. What once cost about 25 cents a pound averages anywhere between $2 and $4 a pound.

And the gourmet broth isn't cheap either. In Atlanta, for instance, a company sprang up in 2015 selling only bone broths. Four 24-ounce (709.7 milliliter) pouches of Bone & Co.'s broth will set you back about $65.

What's behind this craze? The liquid, which has been prepared for centuries from essentially animal scraps, is now being touted as having myriad health benefits, from tamping down inflammation and speeding up the healing process to increasing energy.

But there's little difference between regular broth and bone broth. Broth is water simmered for less than two hours with meat, vegetables and aromatics, and few, if any, bones. Bone broth is made with bones that still have meat attached. The bones are often roasted first, and together with veggies and other aromatics, they simmer for usually at least 24 hours, but in some cases longer. The goal is to extract the collagen and minerals from the bones. Many think the protein in the collagen imparts special health benefits when you drink or eat it. However, some scientists say that reasoning is "nonsensical."

Nevertheless, grandmothers have sworn by bone broth as a cure-all for bad digestion, bad skin and lots of other ailments. Despite what Gram might think, research has yet to prove or disprove the medicinal purposes of bone broth as distinct from other similar food. Still, that hasn't stopped people from buying up bones — and driving up their prices.