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Bone Broth, Gelatin, and Collagen

Bone Broth, Gelatin, and Collagen

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“Good broth will resurrect the dead,” says a South American proverb.   Indeed, stock is everything in cooking. Without it, nothing can be done.  For dedicated cooks, stock is the magic elixir for making soul-warming soups and matchless sauces.

From a “cooks” point of view, meat (chicken and beef) and fish stocks play a role in all traditional cuisines—French, Italian, Chinese, Japanese, African, South American, Middle Eastern and Russian. In America, stock went into gravy and soups and stews. That was when most animals were slaughtered locally and nothing went to waste. Bones, hooves, knuckles, carcasses and tough meat went into the stock pot and filled the house with the aroma of love.    Returning to this tradition is not only satisfying to the palate, it is good for the health and soul.

YES, Grandmother Knew Best

Science is now validating what our grandmothers (and wise-women) knew. Rich homemade broths help cure the body. Stock contains minerals in a form the body can absorb easily—not just calcium but also magnesium, phosphorus, silicon, sulphur and trace minerals. It contains the broken down material from cartilage and tendons–stuff like chondroitin sulphates and glucosamine, now sold as expensive supplements for arthritis and joint pain.

Fish stock, according to traditional lore, helps boys grow up into strong men, makes childbirth easy and cures fatigue. “Fish broth will cure anything,” is another South American proverb. Broth and soup made with fish heads and carcasses provide iodine and thyroid-strengthening substances.   In fact, I suggest that the broth made of the body part that ails you will assist you.

When making the broth it congeals due to the presence of gelatin. The use of gelatin as a therapeutic agent goes back to the ancient Chinese. Gelatin was probably the first functional food, dating from the invention of the “digestor” by the Frenchman Papin in 1682. Papin’s digestor consisted of an apparatus for cooking bones or meat with steam to extract the gelatin. Just as vitamins occupy the centre of the stage in nutritional investigations today, so two hundred years ago gelatin held a position in the forefront of food research. Gelatin was universally acclaimed as a most nutritious foodstuff particularly by the French, who were seeking ways to feed their armies and vast numbers of homeless in Paris and other cities. Although gelatin is not a complete protein, containing only the amino acids arginine and glycine in large amounts, it acts as a protein sparer, helping the poor stretch a few morsels of meat into a complete meal. During the siege of Paris, when vegetables and meat were scarce, a doctor named Guerard put his patients on gelatin bouillon with some added fat and they survived in good health.

Gelatin research in the 1950s (France) was found to be useful in the treatment of a long list of diseases including peptic ulcers, tuberculosis, diabetes, muscle diseases, infectious diseases, jaundice and cancer. Babies had fewer digestive problems when gelatin was added to their milk. The American researcher Francis Pottenger pointed out that as gelatin is a hydrophilic colloid, which means that it attracts and holds liquid and facilitates digestion by attracting digestive juices to food in the gut.

Research on gelatin came to an end in the 1950s because the food companies discovered how to induce Maillard reactions and produce meat-like flavours in the laboratory. In a General Foods Company report issued in 1947, chemists predicted that almost all natural flavours would soon be chemically synthesized. And following the Second World War, food companies also discovered monosodium glutamate (MSG), a food ingredient the Japanese had invented in 1908 to enhance food flavours, including meat-like flavours. Humans actually have receptors on the tongue for glutamate. It is the protein in food that the human body recognizes as meat.

Any protein can be hydrolyzed to produce a base containing free glutamic acid or MSG. When the industry learned how to make the flavour of meat in the laboratory, using inexpensive proteins from grains and legumes, the door was opened to a flood of new products including bouillon cubes, dehydrated soup mixes, sauce mixes, TV dinners and condiments with a meaty taste. “Homemade” soup in most restaurants begins with a powdered soup base that comes in a package or can and almost all canned soups and stews contain MSG, often found in ingredients called hydrolyzed proteins. The fast food industry could not exist without MSG and artificial meat flavours to make “secret” sauces and spice mixes that beguile the consumer into eating bland and tasteless food.Can you see the connection to the increase in auto-immune diseases?

Short cuts mean big profits for producers but the consumer is short changed. When homemade stocks were pushed out by cheap substitutes, an important source of minerals disappeared from the American diet. The thickening effects of gelatin could be mimicked with emulsifiers but the health benefits were lost.

Most serious, however, were the problems posed by MSG, problems the industry has worked very hard to conceal from the public. In 1957, scientists found that mice became blind and obese when MSG was administered by feeding tube. In 1969, MSG-induced lesions were found in the hypothalamus region of the brain. Other studies all point in the same direction–MSG is a neurotoxic substance that causes a wide range of reactions, from temporary headaches to permanent brain damage.

Why do consumers react to factory-produced MSG and not to naturally occurring glutamic acid found in food? One theory is that the glutamic acid produced by hydrolysis in factories contains many isomers in the right-handed form, whereas natural glutamic acid in meat and meat broths contains only the left-handed form. L-glutamic acid is a precursor to neurotransmitters, but the synthetic form, d-glutamic acid, may stimulate the nervous system in pathological ways.

Peasant societies and naturalists still make broth. It is a necessity in cultures that do not use milk because only stock made from bones and dairy products provides calcium in a form that the body can easily assimilate. It is also a necessity when meat is a luxury item, because gelatin in properly made broth helps the body use protein in an efficient way.


why you need to consume these foods.

As much as 25-50% of all total proteins found in animals can be sourced from the connective tissues, joints, skin, and bones.  The same is true for you. In your body, the same proteins make up up about 90% of the of your tendons and ligaments, and 60-70% of your skin.

Eating that specific part of an animal can yield health benefits for the corresponding parts in your own body. For example, the consumption of non-meat animal proteins can improve your skin, joints, and bones. People living in modern society are missing out on these benefits. How can you avoid missing out?  Integrate bone bone broth, gelatin, or collagen into your diet. Which option you choose is of less import. What matters is that you include at least one option.

Bone broth, gelatin, and collagen are three different – but related – foods. In a sense, these foods together make up their own very unique food group.

Let’s first consider how these foods are made:

  • Bone broth is made by simmering animal bones for 2-48 hours, for example, in a pan, slow cooker, or pressure cooker.
  • Gelatin is extracted from the tendons, skin, bones, and ligaments of animals, after a treatment process.
  • Collagen can be seen as a purified extract of gelatin.

The reason you need to consume bone broth, gelatin, and collagen, is because they contain specific “amino acids” that are not found in large quantities in other foods. Amino acids are the basic building blocks of proteins.  The proteins that you get from bone broth, gelatin, and collagen, are thus very different than the proteins in fish, shellfish, meat, eggs, and dairy. The reason for this difference is that bone broth, gelatin, and collagen contain other amino acids than your regular high-protein foods. The main the benefits of consuming bone broth, gelatin, and collagen are:

Well, lots of people in modern society have trouble processing the food they eat. Lots of people also have gut problems. Gut issues:

  • Affect 3 to 25% of the world’s population That’s 210 million to 1.75 billion people.
  • Are strongly associated with having poorer overall health
  • Have been connected to autoimmune disease.
  • Are tied to obesity.
  • Connect to cognitive functioning, mental-well being and cognitive disease.
  • Can compromise your immune system, and may even contribute to cancer formation.

Let’s be very clear here. I’m not saying that bone broth, gelatin, or collagen, will cure your gut issues once and for all. What I’m saying is that they might be an amazing strategy to aid in the healing of your gut issues. Out of these three foods, most people report that bone broth is the easiest on their stomachs. If you have gut problems, you should try bone broth first.

Collagen has amazing benefits for your bones – specifically increasing bone density, and combating osteoporosis. The food also slows the decline in muscle mass loss when you age.  Keep in mind, however, that you’ll need the right nutrients in your diet to optimally use collagen Adequate amounts of vitamin C are necessary to create collagen.  An overall diet where you consume high-quality shellfish, fatty fish, red and wild meat, healthy fats (e.g. butter; coconut oil), vegetables and fruits (in season) should give you the means to optimally use collagen.


Bone broth, gelatin, and collagen, are exceptional because of the proteins that they contain – the specific “amino acids” found in these foods. You can see amino acids as the “building blocks” of proteins. All proteins are made up of different amino acids. Your body can form the amino acids found in bone broth, gelatin, and collagen on its own. But the process by which your body produces these amino acids is very “expensive”. In other words, converting your body’s existing amino acids into the amino acids found in bone broth, gelatin, and collagen, costs a lot of energy.  That conversion is inefficient for your metabolism. As a result, you’re better off when your body does not have to produce the amino acids contained in bone broth, gelatin, and collagen in the first place.

Because your body contains a lot of tissues that rely on their amino acids. About 20-40% of your body consists in amino acids that are found in bone broth, gelatin, and collagen. In fact, the amino acids found in bone broth, gelatin, and collagen, are the most abundant in the human body.

If you do not consume enough of these foods, you’ll be more likely to be deficient.  Actually, lots of people in modern society are deficient.But the problem gets worse: if you’re diseased, it’s even harder for your body to produce the amino acids from this food group. Many people thus consume too little bone broth, gelatin, and collagen, even though they needs these foods – especially when diseased.

Nerd section: The most important amino acids – which are contained in large quantities in bone broth, gelatin, and collagen – are:

  1. glycine – makes up the greatest proportion of bone broth, gelatin, and collagen; important for your immune system, and cell stability
  2. proline – takes up the second greatest proportion of bone broth, gelatin, and collagen. Important for your blood vessels, wound healing, antioxidant functions, and joint health.
  3. hydroxyproline – keeps collagen stable.

Some people might consider glutamine a quintessential amino acids within bone broth, gelatin, and collagen. That conclusion is unwarranted, however, as other foods such as eggs and fish contain greater glutamine levels than bone broth, gelatin, and collagen. While glutamine is very important for gut function, I do not think glutamine is responsible for improving gut function within bone broth consumption. Other substances, such as glucosamine or gelatin, might be the reason bone broth benefits gut function. Glucosamine is a compound naturally found within the cartilage of your joints, made from chains of sugars and proteins bound together. It acts as one of the body’s natural shock-absorbents and joint lubricants, allowing you to move around while minimizing joint, bone and muscle pain.

Many people think that bone broth is very rich in phosphorus, calcium or magnesium. That is true!  However, minerals are also obtained from vegetables that are added to the broth…so, doing both is a double benefit.

There are different types of collagen found in bone broth:

  1. Type I; mostly found in the skin, tendons, ligaments, and bones.Supplementing with this collagen form reduces joint pain.[ Best sources: beef and fish. This is most abundant in the human body.
  2. Type II; is mainly found in cartilage and joints, as well as the eye.Type II collagen, moreover, has been proven to keep your joints and cartilage healthy. This effect is very specific for treating osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. These benefits entail that you will have less joint stiffness, less pain, and perhaps even reduce swelling levels. Chicken bones are especially rich in type II collagen.
  3. Type III; located in internal organs, skin, and around bone.Found mostly in beef
  4. Type IV; primarily exists in the skin and gut, the eye lens, and around your cells. This collagen type may specifically reduce gut problems. Examples of gut issues are inflammatory bowel disease and a leaky gut. Type IV collagen is also beneficial for skin healing.
  5. Type V; supports types I an III; spread throughout the body.

Let’s do a quick rundown of all the other good stuff found in bones and, therefore, well-made bone stock (please keep in mind that the quality of the bone and the animal it came from will impact the levels of goodness):

  • Bone marrow –  bone marrow is one of the first “superfoods” (for lack of a better term – I actually slightly cringe using it) our ancestors enjoyed. It’s fatty, with a bit of protein and loads of minerals. Even if you’re cooking spindly chicken bones, there’s going to be marrow, and that marrow will make it into your stock.
  • Collagen and gelatin – Most commercial gelatin comes from animal collagen already, so why not cut out the middle man and get your gelatin directly from bone and cartilage? The more collagen your bones have, the more gelatinous, rich, and viscous your stock will be – important qualities, especially if you intend to reduce your stock into sauces. Gelatin may even reduce joint pain in athletes, as one (admittedly small) study appeared to show. Another showed benefits for ulcer patients.
  • Glycine – Although our bodies already produce plenty of glycine, rendering it a non-essential amino acid, there’s some evidence that supplementation can help mitigate free-radical oxidative damage in rats with alcohol-induced hepatotoxicity. Bone broth is rich in glycine. It probably doesn’t mean much, but it can’t hurt. And hey – it may even improve sleep quality, as one Japanese study showed in human subjects. Drink a warm cup of broth before bed, perhaps?
  • Proline – Proline is another non-essential amino acid found in bone stock, but supplementation has shown promise in patients suffering from vision loss due to gyrate atrophy. It’s also an important precursor for the formation of collagen, though it’s not clear whether eating proline has any affect on the body’s ability to make collagen.
  • Hyaluronic acid – Hyaluronic acid, also known as hyaluronan, is one of cartilage’s three glycosaminoglycans. It helps broth gel, and it’s been used for years to treat race horses with osteoarthritis, usually as an intra-articular injection or IV fluid. Recent studies on oral administration have been promising, though, meaning oral administration of quality bone stock (as opposed to, um, what other method of administration?) might help us with our joint issues, too. According to Wikipedia, human studies are underway and showing promise, but I wasn’t able to dig up much beyond this small study. Still, it’s compelling, and I’ll continue to drink broth regardless.
  • Chondroitin sulfate – Chondroitin sulfate is another glycosaminoglycan present in bone stock. It’s also a popular supplement for the treatment of osteoarthritis the efficacy of which has come under question. One recent review concludes that chondroitin sulfate “may interfere with progression of osteoarthritis”. I’d say it’s worth a shot.
  • Calcium – I downplay the importance of large amounts of supplementary calcium, but that doesn’t mean it’s not important. It’s the raw material for bone production and fortification, and bone stock might be one of the best sources of calcium around, especially for those who avoid dairy and don’t eat enough leafy greens.
  • Phosphorus – There’s also a good amount of phosphorus in bone stock, though I doubt Primal eaters lack adequate dietary phosphorus (there’s plenty in meat). Still, it’s a nice buffer.
  • Magnesium – Magnesium is pretty lacking in the modern diet. Fatty fish like mackerel offer good amounts, as do leafy greens, nuts, and seeds, but most people, Primal folks included, could stand to take in more magnesium. Dr. Michael Eades says if he had to recommend just one supplement, it’d be magnesium; Dr. Stephan Guyenet over at Whole Health Source recently posted a couple great pieces, one on magnesium and insulin sensitivity (short version: the former improves the latter) and another on magnesium and vitamin D metabolism (short version: the former affects the latter). Bone stock is just another way to obtain this valuable mineral.
  • Sulfur, potassium, and sodium – Stock has these minerals in mostly trace amounts, but they’re all important for health. Sodium isn’t really an issue for most people, but potassium is undoubtedly important and often lacking. Both are crucial electrolytes (bone broth – possible new sports drink?). Sulfur is the “S” in MSM, or methylsulfonylmethane, the popular joint supplement that has shown some promising results in humans.

The best way to extract all that boney goodness from the bones is to cook with them, and that means making stock Now that you’ve learned everything you need to know about the benefits of these foods, let’s look at how you can use them in your diet. I’ll provide some easy to use recipes (at the end) so that you can integrate these very essential proteins into your life.

If possible, opt for bones that come from animals that are as young as possible. What’s true of you and me, is true of animals as well–the younger you are, the more “gelatinous” proteins our bodies contain. But let’s say you’re choosing beef or chicken. With these animals, there are two basic types of bones:

  1. Bones coming from the joints. Examples are chicken feet, wings, or tights, or cow knuckles, feet, joints. You can even use cow ears! These bones contain a lot of gelatin.
  2. Bones that have meat attached to them. In beef, they can be ribs, oxtail, shank, or marrow. In chicken, you can include the full skeleton. These bones are less prone to “gel”, because they contain less gelatin. If there’s meat on the bones, you can leave the meat attached during the simmering process. The meat adds flavour.

Of course, you can use lamb, fowl, or pig bones as well. These animals contains the same basic types of bones. Combining the two types of bones will give the best effects. If you do not include a lot of bones from joints, your bone broth might not gel.

Happy Bone Brothing!


Meat sauces are made from stocks that have been flavoured and thickened in some way. Once you have learned the technique for making sauces—either clear sauces or thick gravies—you can ignore the recipe books and be guided by your imagination.

Reduction Sauces are produced by rapid boiling of gelatinous stock to produce a thick, clear sauce. The first step is to “deglaze” coagulated meat juices in the roasting pan or skillet by adding 1/2 cup to 1 cup wine or brandy, bringing to a boil and stirring with a wooden spoon to loosen pan drippings. Then add 3 to 4 cups stock, bring to a boil and skim. (Use chicken stock for chicken dishes, beef stock for beef dishes, etc.) The sauce may now be flavored with any number of ingredients, such as vinegar, mustard, herbs, spices, fresh orange or lemon juice, naturally sweetened jam, garlic, tomato paste, grated ginger, grated lemon rind, creamed coconut, whole coconut milk or cultured cream. Let sauce boil vigorously, uncovered, until reduced by at least one half, or until desired thickness is achieved. You may add about 1-2 teaspoons gelatin to promote better thickening, although this should be avoided by those with MSG sensitivities (as gelatin contains small amounts of MSG). Another way to thicken is to mix 2 tablespoons arrowroot powder with 2 tablespoons water. Gradually add this to the boiling sauce until the desired thickness is obtained. If sauce becomes too thick, thin with a little water. The final step in sauce-making is to taste and add sea salt if necessary.

Gravies are thickened with flour rather than by reduction. They are suitable for meats like roast chicken and turkey, which drip plenty of fat into the pan while cooking. After removing the roasting fowl and roasting rack, place pan on a burner. You should have at least 1/2 cup good fat drippings—if not, add some butter, goose fat or lard. Add about 1/2 cup unbleached flour to the fat and cook over medium high heat for several minutes, stirring constantly, until the flour turns light brown. Add 4 to 6 cups warm stock, bring to a boil and blend well with the fat-flour mixture, using a wire whisk. Reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes or so. Check for seasonings and add sea salt and pepper if necessary. You may also add herbs, cream, butter, whole coconut milk or creamed coconut.


You don’t have to be a chef to make your own bone broth.   Most people use tap water or spring water – while adding some vinegar – to simmer the bones. You can use different types of animal bones: beef, fish, fowl, pig, and even game. The simmering period takes between two and 48 hours. But why the big difference in hours? The simmering period depends mostly on two things. First, the animal type, and secondly, the type of bone that you use. For example, very large cow bones need to simmer much longer than bones from small fish.

You can drink bone broth as it is or it can act as the basis for soup and stews

An optional step is to roast your bones in the oven before starting with step one on 230 degrees Celsius (450F). Roasting the bones for 20-30 minutes will make your bones more flavourful. This step is especially useful in the case of beef bones.

You might be asking: “why let the broth simmer this long?” Well, there have been studies investigating a shorter versus longer extraction process. A longer cooking time will make sure that you extract more nutrients, such as gelatin and glucosamine from your broth. There are some guidelines for different animal bones have to simmer:

  • Beef bones: up to 48 hours
  • Chicken bones: up to 24 hours
  • Fish bones: up to 2 hours.


1 whole free-range chicken or 2 to 3 pounds of bony chicken parts, such as necks, backs, breastbones and wings*
gizzards from one chicken (optional)
2-4 chicken feet (optional)
4 quarts cold filtered water
2 tablespoons vinegar
1 large onion, coarsely chopped
2 carrots, peeled and coarsely chopped
3 celery stalks, coarsely chopped
1 bunch parsley

*Note: Farm-raised, free-range chickens give the best results. Many battery-raised chickens will not produce stock that gels.

If you are using a whole chicken, cut off the wings and remove the neck, fat glands and the gizzards from the cavity. Cut chicken parts into several pieces. (If you are using a whole chicken, remove the neck and wings and cut them into several pieces.) Place chicken or chicken pieces in a large stainless steel pot with water, vinegar and all vegetables except parsley. Let stand 30 minutes to 1 hour. Bring to a boil, and remove scum that rises to the top. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 6 to 8 hours. The longer you cook the stock, the richer and more flavorful it will be. About 10 minutes before finishing the stock, add parsley. This will impart additional mineral ions to the broth.

Remove whole chicken or pieces with a slotted spoon. If you are using a whole chicken, let cool and remove chicken meat from the carcass. Reserve for other uses, such as chicken salads, enchiladas, sandwiches or curries. Strain the stock into a large bowl and reserve in your refrigerator until the fat rises to the top and congeals. Skim off this fat and reserve the stock in covered containers in your refrigerator or freezer.


about 4 pounds beef marrow and knuckle bones
1 calves foot, cut into pieces (optional)
3 pounds meaty rib or neck bones
4 or more quarts cold filtered water
1/2 cup vinegar
3 onions, coarsely chopped
3 carrots, coarsely chopped
3 celery stalks, coarsely chopped
several sprigs of fresh thyme, tied together
1 teaspoon dried green peppercorns, crushed
l bunch parsley

Place the knuckle and marrow bones and optional calves foot in a very large pot with vinegar and cover with water. Let stand for one hour. Meanwhile, place the meaty bones in a roasting pan and brown at 350 degrees in the oven. When well browned, add to the pot along with the vegetables. Pour the fat out of the roasting pan, add cold water to the pan, set over a high flame and bring to a boil, stirring with a wooden spoon to loosen up coagulated juices. Add this liquid to the pot. Add additional water, if necessary, to cover the bones; but the liquid should come no higher than within one inch of the rim of the pot, as the volume expands slightly during cooking. Bring to a boil. A large amount of scum will come to the top, and it is important to remove this with a spoon. After you have skimmed, reduce heat and add the thyme and crushed peppercorns.

Simmer stock for at least 12 and as long as 72 hours. Just before finishing, add the parsley and simmer another 10 minutes. You will now have a pot of rather repulsive-looking brown liquid containing globs of gelatinous and fatty material. It doesn’t even smell particularly good. But don’t despair. After straining you will have a delicious and nourishing clear broth that forms the basis for many other recipes in this book.

Remove bones with tongs or a slotted spoon. Strain the stock into a large bowl. Let cool in the refrigerator and remove the congealed fat that rises to the top. Transfer to smaller containers and to the freezer for long-term storage.


3 or 4 whole carcasses, including heads, of non-oily fish such as sole, turbot, rockfish or snapper
2 tablespoons butter
2 onions, coarsely chopped
1 carrot, coarsely chopped
several sprigs fresh thyme
several sprigs parsley
1 bay leaf
1/2 cup dry white wine or vermouth
1/4 cup vinegar
about 3 quarts cold filtered water

Ideally, fish stock is made from the bones of sole or turbot. In Europe, you can buy these fish on the bone. The fish monger skins and filets the fish for you, giving you the filets for your evening meal and the bones for making the stock and final sauce. Unfortunately, in America sole arrives at the fish market preboned. But snapper, rock fish and other non-oily fish work equally well; and a good fish merchant will save the carcasses for you if you ask him. As he normally throws these carcasses away, he shouldn’t charge you for them. Be sure to take the heads as well as the body—these are especially rich in iodine and fat-soluble vitamins. Classic cooking texts advise against using oily fish such as salmon for making broth, probably because highly unsaturated fish oils become rancid during the long cooking process.

Melt butter in a large stainless steel pot. Add the vegetables and cook very gently, about 1/2 hour, until they are soft. Add wine and bring to a boil. Add the fish carcasses and cover with cold, filtered water. Add vinegar. Bring to a boil and skim off the scum and impurities as they rise to the top. Tie herbs together and add to the pot. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for at least 4 hours or as long as 24 hours. Remove carcasses with tongs or a slotted spoon and strain the liquid into pint-sized storage containers for refrigerator or freezer. Chill well in the refrigerator and remove any congealed fat before transferring to the freezer for long-term storage.

Beef and Garlic Bone Broth  Cook Time 24 hrs


4 quarts of filtered water
2 lbs. of beef (or chicken) bones
8 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
2 carrots
2 stalks of celery
2 Tbsp. of apple cider vinegar
1 Tbsp. of sea salt (Himalayan if possible)


Put all ingredients in a large pot. Cover, and place on a high heat.  Bring to the boil and then reduce the heat to a low setting.
Allow the broth to simmer for a minimum of 24 hours. A longer cooking time generally means more nutrients. Turn off the heat and allow the broth to cool down. Strain the broth through a fine metal strainer. Put the cooled stock in to containers for storage (only up to a few days) or freezing (can be stored frozen indefinitely). Drink a glass of broth each day, or freeze it in small batches and use it for cooking. Enjoy!

Recipe Notes A slow cooker is the easiest way to make bone broth if you have one

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