FDA rule that threatens brewer-farmer relationships to be reconsidered

By Joseph Alton, @JoeAlton


Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter (D-NH) is requesting that the FDA exempts beer and alcohol facilities from the animal feed rule.

Spent Grain

Spent grain is a natural byproduct of the brewing process. After grains have been used in the mashing process they remain nutritionally viable as feed for dairy and beef cattle. In fact, leftover grains are often higher in protein content and more nutritious than commercially available feed.

Related Post: Spent, but Still of Value: Ideas for Re-using Brewing Grains

For hundreds of years alcohol producers and farmers have maintained a synergistic relationship—typically a “handshake agreement”—in which farmers take spent grains from breweries to use as feed, saving both parties significant amounts of money. Under a new regulation many beer and alcohol producers would be forced to dispose of their feed in landfills, which is a big ol’ lose-lose for some of our nation’s hardest working small businesses.

“Local breweries, distilleries, and farmers around our district and around the country have engaged in this mutually beneficial relationship for hundreds of years,” Congresswoman Shea-Porter said in a press release Wednesday, adding, “Even President George Washington saw the benefits of feeding nutritious spent grains to his own livestock, providing Mount Vernon with feed for 150 pigs and 30 cows. It’s imperative that the FDA’s rules remain focused in their scope, and do not attempt to solve food safety problems that do not exist.”

These partnerships aren’t just entered into by the most progressive brewers around the country. Paul Gatza, director of the national Brewers Association, told Twin Cities Business that about 90 percent of U.S. brewers give their spent grain to farmers. This includes Minnesota breweries like Saint Paul’s Summit Brewing Company and Duluth’s Fitger’s Brewhouse—who actually raises Scottish Highland Cattle on spent grains from their facility.

“We’re definitely watching it,” a representative of Fitger’s Brewhouse told Twin Cities Business. “A big part of our food brand is wrapped up in what we call the ‘beer-beef cycle.”

The Food and Drug Administration’s recently proposed rule that would require breweries and distilleries to package spent grain under the same regulations as commercial feed producers.

The new regulation has not been without pushback, though. On March 14, 2014 the FDA stated that it would resubmit its proposed animal feed rule after hearing extensively from constituents and stakeholders.

Yesterday, Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter (D-NH) rallied more than 50 Members of Congress, calling on the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to exempt alcohol facilities’ spent grain from its proposed animal feed regulations.

Full text of the letter and a list of the 54 cosigners is available here.


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