FDA Moves to Stop Sharing Between Beer Makers and Farmers


Scot Rumery/Flickr

As anyone who's ever brewed their own beer knows, the process leaves a lot of excess … stuff. This goopy aftermath of the brewing process is known as "spent grain," and it would generally go to waste. But many brewers have developed relationships with farmers, who feed the spent grain to cows and other livestock. It's a win-win: Farmers get cost-effective feed, while brewers cut down on environmental waste and also possibly make some extra cash (or at least save cash by not having to dispose of the spent grain). 

Obviously, this won't do

Under new rules proposed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, breweries would be required to dry and package spent grain before it could be given or sold to farmers to use as feed. Both brewers and farmers are upset by the proposal, which they say would pose a big financial burden and also just generally makes no sense.

"The transfer of spent grain … has been going on for decades," said Jason Perkins, brew master for Allagash Brewing Company. "It is just this kind of perfect, symbiotic relationship between a brewer and a farmer."

According to CraftBeer.com, spent grain accounts for as much as 85 percent of a brewery's total byproducts. Allagash creates about 10,000 pounds of spent grain each day, according to Perkins, which the brewery donates (free of charge) to a local farmer.

But processing the spent grain would require additional equipment investment and additional labor. If the FDA has its way, brewers are likely to back out of their once-symbiotic relationships with farmers (or at least stop giving away spent grain for free), thereby raising farmers' operational costs. Or they'll see their own costs go up, whether they choose to process the feed for farmers the FDA's way or simply dispose of it (which still costs more than giving it away for free to livestock farmers). Either way, nobody wins under the new proposal. Thanks, FDA! 

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  1. I am quite sure that the FDA’s sole purpose is to drive the cost of everything up. They are doing a damn find job with the “D” part, now they just need to wrap up the “F” part.

    1. Dude, food prices are skyrocketing too.

  2. Allagash creates about 10,000 pounds of spent grain each day, according to Perkins, which the brewery donates (free of charge) to a local farmer.

    I wonder if Allagash sends the farmer a 1099 ?

  3. Can’t.Fix.Stoopid.

    1. but “Hop Stoopid” is a darn fine beer.

      1. Wonder what name Lagunitas Brewing will put on a beer in honor of this new rule?

  4. Who comes up with this? What problem that didn’t exist were they even trying to solve? Can’t bureaucrats just drink coffee and surf the internet all day?

    1. Someone out there stands to benefit from this, and I’d like to know who it was who proposed this at the FDA.

      1. Has to be Big Beer.

        1. considering that Bud/Miller/Coors uses so much less grain per bbl of beer than a craft brewer, this might not be too far off. Note that craft beer is growing by double digits, and the big guys aren’t. Now, there is a long, long, long, long way to go before there is a real threat, but it is only so long before people learn that there is nothing but crap in those silver cans and that good beer beckons in the other aisle.

          1. I doubt big beer has anything to do with this, it would cost them just as much to abide by this dumb proposal. Why would they want to increase their costs when the only merit their product has is that it’s dirt cheap.

            1. probably right, upon further review someone like ADM has more to gain.

        2. More likely big ag.. if the spent grain has to be destroyed, that means farmers won’t be able to use it for feed, and will have to buy new grain instead.

      2. This part:

        The proposed new requirements for animal feed handling stipulate that the feed has to be dried, analyzed and packaged before being donated to farmers

        convinces me that it is somebody who is absolutely fixed on the rules rather than someone who understands the brewing process.

        1) The brewing is going to kill almost any pathogen in the spent grain.
        2) The residual alcohol is going to inhibit the growth of any new pathogens.

        1. Sorry, your understanding is lacking too. The grains are “spent” after the mashing process that converts the starches to sugars. There is no alcohol at that point.

          It’s only after the resultant wort (i.e. the sugar solution that is filtered from the mash) is fermented by yeast is there alcohol produced.

          But still, this B.S. from the FDA is just another classic example of so-called regulation just being roadblocks to small business. There’s no doubt some big corporations pulling the strings behind this.

          1. Thanks for the clarification. Obviously I am not a brewer.

            Even if alcohol is not involved, wouldn’t there be sufficient heat generated in the conversion to kill most pathogens?

            1. You were right for commercial dry mill ethanol plants, though. The grains are milled fine enough and made into a slurry, and aren’t removed until after fermentation. So in that case, they would probably be sterilized.

              For homebrewing, the grains are usually steeped at about 160 F.

              1. But sterilization is not the aim. Pasteurization at 160?F takes 15 seconds, at which point you can be assured the water is sanitized.

            2. Most, I suppose, but not all. Believe me, if you leave the spent grain sitting in the mash tun after brewing for a few days you’ll know there’s plenty of activity in there. Smells bloody awful; kind of like puke. Primarily from the lactobacillus, I think.

              And if you’ve ever been near a big brewery you’ll know the mash smells pretty ripe. All that said, is it a real threat to human health? Nothing normal common sense precautions won’t prevent.

          2. Uh….Purina?

          3. And mash temps aren’t sufficient to kill bacteria, however, animals eat all sorts of things, can’t imagine that spent grain could be even the remotest threat.

            Good recipes out there for spent grain bread btw.

      3. My guess would be dry mill ethanol plants. The process the FDA requires is the process they currently use. Mash is washed, with the liquid recovered as syrup and the solids dried to make the distillers grains, which are then sold for animal feed. That process is economical at scale, but probably not at the capacity that microbrews operate at.

        Wet mills separate the grain before fermentation, so they don’t have the same byproduct composition.

      4. Yeah. Cui bono.

      5. My thoughts exactly, think it’s GMO companies? They like to maximizing their profits at the cost and detriment of others.

    2. The problem was there was no one making GS-11 or GS-13 pay in each community over seeing this transaction. Now there will be probably at least another 100-200 FDA jobs to ensure no one is giving away good spent grains(I have used some of mine to make bread) to struggling local farmers. Good for the big agri-business bad for the small farmer.

  5. This stupidity sounds almost Chuck Schumer level.

    The only bright spot here is that the proposal is opposed by two very influential lobbies.

  6. It’s clear that food safety is important, but I’m not convinced that the stringency of this rule is commensurate with the risk.

    What’s not clear is how much if anything the FDA has to do with food safety.

    1. how much if anything the FDA has to do with food safety

      The amount is vanishingly small, approaching zero. Well, actually, it’s more like zero. Or even negative.

      Basically, the FDA is worse than Hitler.

    2. the constitutional burden upon FedGov to have any say whatever in food or food production is zero. Nothing. NO responsibility whatever. Since the Constitution does not specifically assign that burden to any part of FedGov, it falls to the states, or to the people. FDA is an unconstitutioinal entity and should be dissolved.

  7. Guys, guys, guy. You’re getting off track here. Sure, we could talk about how much the FDA sucks or we could realize it’s Friday afternoon and this is a….


    1. What do you guys do with your extra grain? I had about 13 pounds of it last weekend (rosemary wheat), and my buddy just took it home with him to throw in his dumpster.

      I did consider trying to make some grain bread with it, but not sure how that would turn out (or how much work it would be).

      1. I pour mine in the compost bin.

      2. I’d put it he extra wheat in a pot still and make some whiskey.

        1. Whiskey or bread is my vote.

      3. I had a friend try and use a small portion in a salad. She said it was pretty much inedible. I toss it, but if I gardened or knew someone who did, I’d compost.

        1. I’ve eaten a few bites afterwards and thought it was decent. If I ate 10 pounds of breakfast over 2-3 days I’d just do that.

          1. When I lauter efficiently there isn’t much residual sweetness. If I don’t, then it can sweet enough to taste good, but the texture leaves something to be desired. In that case, though, it can spoil, and I don’t have room for 10 lbs of grain in my fridge.

        2. I used to feed mine to the chickens…they seem to like it.


      I make a 6-gallon batch of Sack Mead starting every October to take to a friend’s Yule party. 20 pounds of honey, champagne yeast, plenty of yeast nutrient and lots of fruit acid. I just transfer it into a fresh carboy a few days before to keep from stirring up the sediment.

    3. My Black IPA has been carbonating all week but it appears that the dip tube is clogged or something, hopefully it can be handled with a good blow from the C02 tank.

    4. I never bottled my pumpkin ale from before Halloween, need to do something with that and start another batch of something.

      1. Wow… That should probably be get taken care of soon.

  8. “The transfer of spent grain … has been going on for decades centuries.”

    1. Millennia.

    2. and probaby a lot longer than that, before brewers’distillers began to operate separately from the production of the grain. Back in the day, the farmer would mind his own mashpot, using grain from his own fields, and toss the spent grain to the chickens, pigs, goats, maybe use it to grow muchrooms, mulch his tater patch, maybe even dry some of it and grind it along with new grain for making bread. Im sure a bit of spent barley found its way into the souppot along with new. No FDA in those days to come round and play the nanny, so they did what worked.

  9. And why do I have to switch to desktop version to comment? Cumbersome.

    1. Reason’s mobile site blows. The only redeeming aspect is that it blows less than their app.

    2. I can comment fine on my iPhone, but yeah, their mobile app is pretty bad.

  10. Missing from the article is the justification for this new regulation given by the FDA. They just arbitrarily make edicts without any kind of justification?

    1. They are accelerating towards the coming regulation singularity were 100% of everyone’s time is spent attempting to conform to regulations.

  11. Oh great, a beer thread. Well, since I such at home brewing (just ask EDG about my Kolsch), I guess I’ll leave this one alone.

    1. Pilsners are hard (and other light lagers)

  12. I suck. Sorry for the typo

    1. Needz moar taste of the Rockies

  13. What? Wow no way dude. Really?


  14. Either way, nobody wins under the new proposal.

    Actually, somebody *does* win under these new rules (or else no-one would be pushing for them). I imagine that large, established brewers who can absorb the cost of new regulations will win out over the small niche brewers who can’t. Raised barriers to competition protecting incumbent businesses and all that.

    Plus, no matter what – they FDA wins. Increased regulations means increased regulatory *authority*.

    And I’ll re-iterate – if someone is pushing a new regulation, that someone thinks they’ll come out ahead if its implemented. Every time, no exceptions.

    1. The people selling the packaging materials and drying equipment would win. If “environmentalists” still cared about conservation they would have a sad about the unnecessary packaging.

      1. not to mention the additional energy required for drying, processing, packaging, handling, and tramsport. Maybe we should enlist their fervour to rabblerouse against such insanity on these grounds? Put their zeal to protest overmuch on trivia to work on this one.

  15. Long ago me and my buddy tossed out spent grain out on the compost heap. His dad’s dog found it and started eating it. Whereupon his dad (lifelong dumbocrat) started going apeshit about how we were poisoning the dog and how we didn’t know what was in it and all that shit.

    So I’m guessing this is just because there are too many dumbocrats in the FDA, and not enough republitards. Not that the republitards aren’t dumb in their own special way, but being largely rural folk who know where food comes from, they don’t shit their pants at dumping what is essentially bland porridge on a compost heap.

    1. nearly always, when a critter takes a liking to something as food, it will not harm them. Unless it is contaminated with tasteless bacteria such as escherichia coli or salmonella, it won’t harm them. And if it does, death is often fairly quick. In other words, if such spent grain were indeed harmful, the farmer at first happy to get it for his hogs/chickens/cattle would never return for another load. Its as simple as that: the free market will sort it out every time, if left to do it.

      Farmers deliberately ferment cut whole corn (silage) and cut hay/grains )haylage) and feed that to their dairy cattle, and hogs. Spent grain is no different. What do FDA know, or really care, about what any farmer feeds his critters? The farmer knows best. Meanwhile, FDA allow the use of growth hormones and daily antibiotic dosages in mean production, practices with clear and defineable hazards to humans.. yet they allow it? And this, totally harmless and natural and healthy and beeing done for milennia they want to outlaw? FDA, take a long hike on a VERY short pier. And mind you don’t contaminate the oceans when you fall off the end and drown. Stupid powergrabbing sellouts!!!

  16. Folks, I can tell you EXACTLY what is going on here. It ties in with the EPA’s latest crusade: cow flatulence.

    Meat is essential in in the human food culture for higher intellectual development and creates more aggressive, smarter citizens that are harder to control and deceive. It is part of an overly “male” and “Imperialist” society that has no place in a civilized, metrosexual, vegan culture that is easier to subdue.

    In very poor 3rd world cultures, there is very little meat and almost none of it is beef. If America is to be more like the rest of the world, more submissive, more dependent, less properly fed and thus less intellectual, then meat consumption must be demonized and priced beyond the reach of the peasants by virtue of its scarcity.

  17. I have not RTFA, but I am curious as.to whether this applies to micro distillers as well. I am a partner in one, and we just turn a local farmer loose on our spent mash. He says his pigs are happy with it.

  18. If someone, somewhere, is enjoying an activity you can bet your sweet one that someone, somewhere, is working diligently to curtail that activity. That someone is usually a government bureaucrat.

  19. I work in a food packaging plant where tons of raw agricultural waste is generated. We could re-process the waste and package it for human consumption as well, but it’s cheaper just to give it away to a local cattle farmer and not even have to pay for landfill disposal. That farmer processes the waste himself to the necessary food safety level for his cattle. Win-win. I suppose it’s only a matter of time before the FDA intervenes.

    My take on bureaucratic interference, based on my many interactions with govt. auditors, is that there is an element of hostile envy in their collective psyche. Generally the USDA/FDA types are behind the times technologically, have poor social skills, and are pretty inept at actually getting things done. And I think they know all this and look upon the private sector with envy, because we know how to make things happen and they don’t. They love to throw wrenches in the works to slow us up, even in the absence of food safety issues – and they appear to relish such authority. They’re the types who believe their own candles will burn brighter by snuffing out others’.

  20. Homebrew thread:

    Plans for today: Rack 15 gallons of raspberry melomel out of the primary and into a demijon. Rack 2 1/2 gallons of cyser out of an American oak barrel and rack another 2 1/2 gallons into it.

    Plans for tomorrow: Start an all-grain batch of London Brown Ale.

    1. You’re going hard. When I first started my buddy and I would brew twice a week (once at my house, once at his). We eventually took a break when we had hundreds and hundreds of bottles each.

      1. I brew less frequently now than in the past, and I brew bigger batches than in the past.

        The raspberry will probably be the only melomel I do this year.

  21. I see a lot of people blaming big beer, or ethanol plants being the ones pushing for these regulations. I respectfully disagree, reason being that farmers and ranchers are the most hurt by this.

    While big agriculture can eat the extra cost that is sure to come off this for feed, many local farmers can’t. Plus this is likely to raise food costs even more.

  22. om WHAT bases do FedGov think they have ANYTHING to say about such activities? The Constitution NOWHERE assigns such meddling to FedGov, thus it remains with the states, or the people. Whatever happened to the freedom of association guaranteed us? This is one more example of FedGov bureaucracy gone power-mad. What does it matter to any wonks in Washington DC what brewers do with their spent grain? This will result in several unintended and unpleasant consequences: increased cost of brewed beverages; increased cost in farm products using spent grain now; increased energy costs to either dispose of, or process, spent grain; wasteful use of commercial property required to deal with, in the one example, ten thousand pounds of spent grain daily; incraesed energy requirements to process the spent grain, or truck it to some disposal site; the increased environmental load of disposing of the spent grain; increased government costs to “make sure they’re doing it right” following the certain paperwork, new licenses, inspections, certifications, tracking, paying the new fees certain to be included…. WHEN will this insanity end? Mr. Obama, WHEN will you rein in your jackbooted goon squads that cost us more money, place more burdens on business that EMPLOYS people, and stop preventing people from just getting to work and running their own affairs? Enough already.

  23. beetwen a good news and bad news

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