Brewers Association Responds to FDA’s Spent Grain Proposal

Cows might not top the list of things that have benefitted from the rise of craft beer, but they certainly make the cut.

For years, smaller craft brewers have donated – or sold on the cheap – their spent grain to farmers to feed cows and other livestock. Rather than sending it to landfills, the handshake transaction between brewers and farmers has been lauded as mutually beneficial by many industry watchers and advocates.

Now, both parties are dealing with a different animal — the government. The two are fighting a proposal put forth by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that would make the transaction of spent grain more burdensome. Specifically, brewers would need to purchase expensive equipment and devote more time to properly packaging their spent grain before farmers could legally serve their animals, should the proposed changes be enacted.

Today, the Brewers Association issued the following statement regarding the FDA’s “Food Safety Modernization Act:”

“The current rule proposal represents an unwarranted burden for all brewers. Many of the more than 2,700 small and independent craft breweries that operate throughout the United States provide spent grain to local farms for use as animal feed. The proposed FDA rules on animal feed could lead to significantly increased costs and disruption in the handling of spent grain. Brewers of all sizes must either adhere to new processes, testing requirements, recordkeeping and other regulatory requirements or send their spent grain to landfills, wasting a reliable food source for farm animals and triggering a significant economic and environmental cost.

Absent evidence that breweries’ spent grains as currently handled cause any hazards to animals or humans, the proposed rules create new and onerous burdens for brewers and for farmers who may no longer receive spent grain and will have to purchase additional feed. Farmers also appreciate the ‘wet’ grains from breweries because it helps provide hydration for the animals.

Brewers’ grains have been used as cattle feed for centuries, and the practice is generally considered safe. We ask the FDA to conduct a risk assessment of the use of spent brewers’ grain by farmers prior to imposing expensive new regulations and controls.”

Gary Fish, the founder of Bend, Ore-based Deschutes Brewery issued somewhat of a rallying cry to brewers this week on an industry message board. Fish, who also serves as a chair on the BA’s Board of Directors, has called for brewers to communicate with their farmers and submit comments to the FDA. Their mission is to get the FDA to clarify in its proposal that brewers may provide spent grain for use as animal feed.

Brewers Association director Paul Gatza also issued a call to action last week, asking BA members to submit comments to the FDA in opposition to the proposed ruling.

Brewers have until March 31 to submit their comments. The complete rule can be viewed here.

  • cowman

    This is BS!

    Brewers grain has been used for cattle
    feed for decades with no problems.

    Unlike ethanol by products that has
    killed hundreds of heads of cattle and possibly caused the polio like
    symptoms in children in Ca.

    Google: Cattle, PEM (
    Polioencephalomalacia )

    If anything needs regulating by the
    FDA, it’s ethanol by-products.

    Q. Why is the FDA all of a sudden
    concerned about cattle feed?

    I suggest that we brewers and cattlemen
    take the position that if this rule is adopted, it MUST cover ALL
    distillers grain. Including ethanol by-products.


  • Richard

    If my take on the move is correct it would also limit waste whey from moving to small farms as well and there is a huge need for that as well. Might want to team up with cheese producers. I would wager the big brewers are excited about this. We small farmers are getting hammered on two fronts, one from the Food Safety Modernizations Act and one from this front. Its a bunch of BS. Its not just cattle either, its all live stock…HOGS too.

  • Jim Smith

    Corrupt politicians the masses keep voting into office working for big agriculture. Why feed livestock good, _real_, cheap grains when you can feed them high priced, chemical laden, artificial, processed, big agriculture feeds?

    • kennethetucker


  • Mary T.

    I am not in favor of this new ruling as it does not seem to have any studies to back up why this change should occur. It appears to more geared to squash small business a sit is the craft breweries and small farms that are realizing the benefits and in turn will bear the cost if this is passed. If the FDA where to publish their studies as to why this is being proposed I believe a better educated decision could be made before the rush to pass.

  • Mortimer

    Such trash. Absolutely going to cripple small craft breweries. Thanks FDA you bums. Can’t even release any data or some kind of study back up your claim. Sounds like a big GMO crock of +#@$ to me.

  • Joe Atallah

    Alphabet agencies at it again. No doubt for our safety. More likely protecting the already over-subsidized industrial agriculture industry.

    • kennethetucker

      Cargill & Monsanto. Ag feed net of $2.31 B in 2013 & GMO Corn/Soy* ‘mfgs’ , respectively, | * neither of which #craftbeer brewers use, btw so spent grains are actually MUCH safer [read less poisonous] than BIGAGRA’s offerings. #justsayin

  • The little guy

    Good thing we have big government, what would we do with out them?

  • Dan

    This is not just a small brewer problem. I have seen the trucks at Coors being loaded with spent grains to deliver to farmers. It was neither packaged nor dried. It will invariably have a greater impact on small brewers but let’s call in the big guys also. Millionaires will only listen to Billionaires.

  • Jaime

    Simply awful. Our brewery has been responsibly supplying 100 percent of our spent grain to local farmers. Eliminating waste and keeping it from going to the landfill. This is clearly another step to regulate a growing business sector and collect revenue. This has got to stop. Writing our congressman now.

  • Aaron Koenigseker

    The FDA, who presumably understands that there are droughts throughout the country and works with the Dept of Agriculture, is making no sense at all with this one and I’m usually one who defends government actions more than not. This is a viable food source for all livestock that, apologies to cowman below, has likely been used for centuries or longer in some form. Spent grain has been boiled and is all natural. No brewer worth their wort is going to produce anything less. And now it’s bad compared with all of the other chemicals and ‘stuff’ that is in our food supply (not talking GMOs, but additives)?

    The FDA website states that they “conducted extensive outreach to industry, the consumer community, other government agencies, and the international community to gain input and perspective”. I wonder what industries and what communities this includes.

    The FSMA website states that the legislation “aims to ensure the U.S. food supply is safe by shifting the focus from responding to contamination to preventing it” – a noble goal but hopefully one that is implemented intelligently and fairly. One can only hope that as the FDA throws out a large net to help protect our food supplies that an exemption is created for spent grain and this is not an issue. It is a ‘proposed rule’ which means ‘draft’ so hopefully changes can and will be made.

  • Lee

    The USDA already killed off small slaughter houses with burdensome regulations (that have no bearing on the safety or the humaneness of the process.) The FDA is trying to keep up by killing of small breweries…

  • kennethetucker

    New ‘rules’ coming outta ‘left field’? Another case of the ‘golden rule’ (eg BIGCHEM / AGRA w/ all the ‘gold’) ‘encouraging’ a rule promulgation that would benefit them? #justsayin #followthemoney Who stands to ‘gain’? How? I’m pretty sure FDA bureaucrats, under-staffed, under-paid, and often vilified, aren’t looking for even more ‘work’ to do w/same or fewer resources YOY. #justsayin Monsanto / Cargill et al on the other hand…

  • kennethetucker

    BA / Gary; I’d like to see a FOI request for the ‘data’ / outreach ‘input’ that the FDA relied on to draft this rule change. Guessing that some transparency / ‘sunlight’ will be…illuminating. #justsayin

  • Shelley Powers

    Did you know that the fatty acids and other material that are left in spent grains can impact on the pH balance within manure pits, leading to an increase of the highly poisonous hydrogen sulfide?

    And that the hydrogen sulfide can kill, almost instantly?

    People need to assume that there is a reason for regulation changes, rather than just consider them an excuse to toss out a quick quip.

    • leland

      you have no farming back ground because they feed silage to cattle and spent grains is the same thing. it comes down to it is a free food to farmers and the government isn’t getting any money from this.

  • Sky Angel

    I agree COWMAN! Maybe its a way to force farmers to purchase GMO products? The FDA/GOV needs to just stand down with things that have been delt with through a handshake. One hand is feeding the other here with no problems. Is there a petition? I’ll sign it…