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.

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