Let Them Eat Beer: Cattle Will Still Be Able to Munch on Spent Brewing Grains

The FDA says it will release a revision of the controversial rule this summer.

(Photo: Kevin Day/Getty Images)

Willy Blackmore is TakePart’s Food editor.

The link between your favorite pint of beer and some cow's dinner is a sustainability measure that’s probably been around as long as the German Beer Purity Law of 1487—if not longer. In today’s world of craft breweries and sustainable beef and dairy, feeding the grain leftover from brewing to cattle at nearby farms doesn’t just solve a waste problem but can be part of a brand identity too.

Which is part of the reason why so many people freaked when news came out that the Food and Drug Administration’s Food Safety Modernization Act had its sights set on the age-old practice. Under a draft rule, breweries would be required to process their leftover mash grain before distributing it to ranchers. That would be onerous and expensive—and wouldn’t really achieve anything in terms of protecting anyone, human or bovine, from food-borne illness.

After just about every media outlet ran a story last week about the potential rule change—TakePart included—people took to the FDA’s website, registering more than 2,000 public comments by Friday. The response was apparently enough to convince the agency to reconsider the regulation; this summer it will release a revised rule regarding the use of beer mash as animal feed.

“We know there are concerns about the impact of this proposed rule on the brewing community, and we further understand that brewers who are small businesses also have questions about how the proposed rule might affect them,” the FDA told the beer website Brewbound. “We are working to develop regulations that are responsive to the concerns expressed, practical for businesses, and that also help ensure that food for animals is safe and will not cause injury to animals or humans,” the statement continues.

Which is reassuring, because apparently the agency wasn’t exactly sure why it was targeting the long-boiled barley and other grains that are the byproduct of beer in the first place. Last week a spokesperson told TakePart that the FDA is "unaware of specific contamination events resulting from spent grains relating to the brewing industry." 

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