Spent: Trouble Brewing for Local Breweries and Farms

Potential FDA requirements tighten restrictions

Spent: Trouble Brewing for Local Breweries and Farms
Image Courtesy of Texas Craft Brewers Guild

The mutually beneficial relationship between brewers and farmers may soon be coming to an end. As part of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), the FDA has proposed new and pervasive regulations governing the use of spent grain for animal feed.

The Texas Craft Brewers Guild (TCBG) and member breweries are asking for the FDA to clarify that breweries can provide spent grain for use as animal feed without requiring complex regulations and additional record-keeping requirements that wouldn’t otherwise apply. The TCBG asserts that the practice is low-risk and that sending the grain to landfills would be wasting a reliable food source for livestock “triggering a significant economic and environmental cost.” In an email to The Austin Chronicle, Charles Vallhonrat, executive director of the TCBG adds, “These regulations, if applied to breweries, would require many of the small, independent craft breweries in Texas and throughout the United States to invest in new equipment to package, label, and analyze the spent grain that is natural byproduct of the brewing process before providing this food source to local farmers for their cattle. The alternative for breweries who cannot afford to make this investment would be to simply throw out this spent grain, which would then end up in landfills." According to Josh Hare, owner of Hops & Grain, the restrictions would be cost-prohibitive and a move away from sustainability – one of the brewery's primary missions. "The effects would be very costly not only to us as small brewers but also to our local economy and environment," says Hare.

Additionally, farmers rely heavily on the grain, particularly during the drought as the grain is often still wet and used as a form of hydration for livestock. According to Erin Flynn of Green Gate Farms, food waste, such as spent grain, is a crucial component to their sustainable farm. Green Gate raises rare-breed pork and uses the grain for compost, as well. She estimates that Green Gate uses anywhere from 10 to 15, 32-gallon barrels of spent grain per week from local breweries including Hops & Grain. “Ideally, we would be getting more if transportation weren’t an issue,” she says. “We have to have it to stay in business.”

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Beer, FDA, Food and Safety Modernization Act, FSMA, spent grain, Erin Flynn, Green Gate Farms, Texas Craft Brewers Guild, Charles Vallhonrat

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