For many years, craft breweries have been selling or donating the spent grain to farmers in their areas for livestock feed, particularly to cattle. This practice is not only helpful to local agriculture, but also reduces the waste produced by the brewing process and creates a sustainable cycle of farmers growing grain for breweries’ uses, and those breweries returning some of those resources to be eaten by livestock. New grain uses manure from the livestock, completing the cycle.
A little over a month ago, the FDA issued a proposal that would more strictly regulate the transaction of spent grain, specifically regarding packaging the by-product. This would require brewers to invest money in expensive equipment and machinery, and spend more time preparing the substance before they would be allowed to sell or donate it to farmers to feed to livestock. Thus, it would be difficult to sell the spent grain as a cheap alternative, considering the overall expenses.
However, the Brewer’s Association, along with U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer D-N.Y and several members of the farming community spoke out against these proposed regulations, citing tradition and the ecology of the practice, which requires little packaging waste as-is and doesn’t take a great deal of money or energy to accomplish.
Less than a week ago, the FDA came out and said that it was never their intention to disrupt this exchange of goods. They’ve agreed to revise their proposed rules to allow for this sort of commerce without additional regulation, both in the beverage industry, and also in other human food industries. They’ll be issuing revised rules this summer to provide more clarity.