Above: Arden Farm hogs enjoy a pile of fallen apples.
By Andrew Z. Galarneau
Spent grain from brewing makes good feed for livestock, but a proposed federal law would force brewers to dry it out before it can be used as animal feed. The cost would essentially force brewers to landfill it instead. Similar restrictions on other sources of feed would mean vegetables and fruit that could make wholesome meals for livestock would instead be left to rot.
The Brewers Association, based on Boulder, Colorado, sent out an alert to craft brewers recently noting that the regulation "would require that spent grain for animal feed be dried and prepackaged onsite in a manner that does not touch human hands. There is no evidence that breweries’ spent grains as currently handled are causing any hazards to animals or humans, yet the proposed rules create a burdensome set of regulations to solve a problem that doesn't exist."
Noah McIntee, the brewmaster at Pearl Street Grill, said Pearl Street used an average of 7,000 pounds of dry grain per month recently. From time to time, T-Meadow and another farm got spent brewery grain from their Buffalo location, for use as feed, he said.
The proposed law would require breweries to buy equipment to dry spent grain before it's used as feed, McIntee said. That would make it significantly more expensive than just throwing it in the Dumpster. "The new regulation wouldn't just be extra red tape, it would stop our practice of supplying farmers with our spent grain due to prohibitively high costs in equipment and time," he said.
Matthew Kahn, president of Big Ditch Brewing, whose brewery is currently under construction, said "we thought we had a plan, in terms of what to do with our spent grain," he said. There should be enough generated by Buffalo brewers for a spent grain pickup for area farmers to make economic sense, he said. "If we need to dry the grain first, that would be cost-prohibitive."
Spent grain and other feed sources can be important to local farmers, according to Rich Tilyou, who runs T-Meadow Farm in Lockport. Every truckload of vegetables, fruit or brewery waste that animals can enjoy is a truckload of feed the farmer doesn't have to buy. That sort of cooperation makes for a more efficient farming community, which benefits eaters and growers alike, he contends.
T-Meadow Farm, which produces celebrated heirloom-breed pork on open pasture, is urging supporters of local farmers and brewers to fight the bill. "It will prohibit feeding wet brewers grains to livestock, and force a wonderful feed source to be landfilled. It also will the end feeding of veggies etc. that can be fed from grocery etc. as it will become regulated to the point of making it cost prohibitive. We all want a safe food supply for both humans and livestock, but this is ridiculous."
You have until March 31 to voice your opinion, then the public comment period ends.