Brewery

FDA Backtracks on Plan to Stop Small Breweries From Sharing Spent Grain With Farmers

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The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is backtracking on a proposed rule regulating the sharing of "spent grains" between beer makers and farmers. At present, many donate grains leftover from the brewing process to farms, providing brewers with an efficient and sustainable way to dispose of waste and farmers a cheap way to feed their livestock.

This has been going on absent FDA regulation for a long time (and with no major catastrophes), but in March the agency announced a proposed rule change that may have effectively ended the practice. Under the new rule, brewers sharing with farmers would have to process and package spent grain in such a way that it would no longer be cost-efficient to do so. The proposal was met with ample outcry from brewers, farmers, lawmakers, and food-freedom advocates. 

"Based on valuable input from farmers, consumers, the food-industry and academic experts," the FDA has now revised its proposed rule on spent grains. Under the new rule, processing and packaging requirements will only apply to brewers with annual sales of $2.5 million or more. The FDA hasn't yet specified what particular processing regulations will apply to these larger brewers.

Not a perfect solution, nor a terribly sensible one (more beer sales mean more spent grains for brewers, but they do not make those grains somehow suddenly more dangerous for local pigs to nosh on). But it's something.

Jim McGreevy, president and CEO of the Beer Institute, said his association is "gratified that the Food and Drug Administration listened to our concerns about their proposed rule (and) made the changes necessary for U.S. brewers to continue to market our spent grains as we always have—safely, with industry-best standards for testing, monitoring and management of the grains from the start of the brewing process."