One of the lesser known sides of the craft brewing industry is the constant drive for sustainability and best environmental practices.
The Brewers Association has spent the last several years creating and refining Sustainability Manuals for the industry, covering topics ranging from waste water, to renewable energy, to solid waste treatment. In fact, at the annual Craft Brewers Conference an entire track of seminars is dedicated to Sustainable Brewing.
A classic example that many small brewers employ is the handling of their spent grain. After grain is used in the brewing process, it is full of rich nutrients that are especially beneficial to livestock.
Many breweries, instead of dumping grain in the garbage to be sent to the local landfill, will donate their spent grain to a local farm or ranch to be used as livestock feed. This practice is beneficial in a multitude of ways.
It engages local breweries and farmers, frees up valuable farmland by utilizing the same grown crop twice, is very economical for small farms and ranches, and keeps unnecessary waste out of landfills.
The Food and Drug Administration has recently proposed to regulate spent grains under provisions of the Food Safety Modernization Act. FSMA is designed to safeguard our nation’s food system from hazards that have resulted in serious harm to humans and animals; however, the hazards described by the FDA in its rulemaking notice do not include the use of spent grain.
There has been no data or evidence to suggest that there are any safety issues with the use of spent grain between brewers and farmers.
The FDA should clarify that breweries may provide spent grain for use as animal feed without requiring complex new regulations and recordkeeping requirements that do not otherwise apply.
The use of spent grain by farmers is a low-risk activity that has been mutually beneficial to brewers and farmers for decades. The alternative is to send the spent grain to landfills, wasting a reliable food source for farm animals and triggering a significant economic and environmental cost.
This issue will affect breweries and farms on the local and national level. We may be small, but we are not quiet, and we are making sure the FDA hears our concerns and takes our input into consideration as decisions are made.
Alicia Barr, vice mayor of Truckee, is also president and co-ounder of FiftyFifty Brewing Co.