BYPRODUCTS from distilleries, whether ethanol plants or small breweries, have found that the animal feed market is a viable way to reduce waste while also providing a preferred animal feed alternative.
The Beer Institute estimates that about 5.4 billion lb. of spent grains were created nationwide as part of the brewing process. Less than 10% goes to waste, but that number will rise significantly if the Food & Drug Administration mandates that all brewing leftovers be analyzed and packaged.
For centuries, brewers of all sizes have disposed of their spent grain by giving or selling it to farmers and ranchers.
This recycling process supports community green initiatives, but it could end if FDA upholds the animal feed rule proposed under the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA).
Instead, some brewers will be forced to throw away this valuable feed because it would become a cheaper option than complying with the costly proposed regulations, which the Beer Institute estimates may run a single brewery more than $13 million in one-time and recurring costs.
"This regulation is onerous and expensive, but really, it's just unnecessary. There has never been a single reported negative incidence with spent grain," Chris Thorne, Beer Institute vice president of communications, said.
The National Milk Producers Federation added that the regulations "will result in unnecessary, increased costs to dairy producers." It joined the Beer Institute and the American Malting Barley Assn. in requesting that FDA use the existing authority in FSMA to exempt animal feed products made during the production of alcoholic beverages.
Sen. Mike Johanns (R., Neb.) sent a letter to FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg seeking an exemption for "raw agricultural commodities, distillers grains and other byproducts" from the proposed animal feed rule.
"As currently drafted, these new requirements would be illogical and could bring a safe, mutually beneficial system to a screeching halt," Johanns said. "The proposal would increase costs and create massive amounts of landfill waste — without any improvements to food safety."
Johanns said the proposed rule includes a number of new requirements that would make the distribution of byproducts cost prohibitive.
"That would endanger an economical food source, instead threatening to clog our landfills with nutritious feedstuffs," he wrote. "This, in turn, would raise production costs for our livestock producers, making them less competitive in the global economy."
The American Feed Industry Assn. (AFIA), however, is opposed to allowing any exemption that isn't a farm.
"AFIA believes all facilities that manufacture, process, pack or hold feed, feed ingredients or pet food should be required to comply with the final rules issued under the Food Safety Modernization Act unless they are a 'farm' and exempt," said Richard Sellers, AFIA senior vice president of legislative and regulatory affairs.
"It's difficult for feed and pet food manufacturers to prepare facility-specific animal food safety plans and determine how to exempt a segment of the industry. It makes the plan very difficult to manage and determine sources of potential hazards when one or more of the commodity groupings may be exempted from compliance," Sellers added.
The comment period on the FSMA animal feed rule closed March 31. Just two days later, FDA released a statement recognizing the brewing community's concerns with the proposed rule, saying it anticipated some of the issues when it requested comments on the rule.
"We recognize this is an area that should be addressed and will reach out to those concerned," the statement said.
FDA added that it is "working to develop regulations that are responsive to the concerns expressed, practical for businesses and also help ensure that food for animals is safe and will not cause injury to animals or humans."
FDA plans to propose revised language for the feed rule later this summer that will include more on the brewery issue and said it welcomes continued comments.
Thorne said the Beer Institute has "had very positive conversations with the FDA and other concerned stakeholders, making us cautiously optimistic."