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Udall Urges FDA to Ensure Grains Disposal Regs Don't Hurt Colorado's Craft Brewers, Ranchers

Swift 'Risk Assessment' Would Help Colorado's Job-Creating Craft Breweries Continue to Sustainably Dispose of Brewing Byproducts as Economical Livestock Feed


Mark Udall tours Breckenridge Brewery in Denver.

Posted: Monday, March 31, 2014

Mark Udall, a strong proponent of Colorado's job-creating craft breweries, urged the Food and Drug Administration in a letter today to swiftly complete a "risk assessment" of the reuse of brewers' spent grains — the byproducts of the mashing and brewing process — as livestock feed. Brewers' spent grains, whose sugars are fermented to make craft beer, are an economical and high-protein food source for beef and dairy cattle.

According to a 2013 Brewers Association survey of its members, brewers currently re-sell or give away nearly 90 percent of their spent grain as livestock feed. The FDA's rulemaking could force brewers to dispose of these spent grains at landfills, forcing small breweries to incur an average cost of nearly $43 million per year — which could be passed onto consumers in higher prices or hinder job creation.

"Colorado's craft brewers are leading the way forward for their industry, creating some of the world's most innovative beers and sustainability practices. The FDA needs to ensure our food supply remains safe, but its new proposed rule may unjustifiably hurt Colorado's brewers and farmers," Udall said. "That's why I am urging the FDA to swiftly complete a risk assessment of brewers' uses of spent grains as a cost-effective and safe livestock feed. When brewers succeed so do countless other businesses and sectors of our economy."

"Colorado is the state of craft beer. We strive to innovate. Thoughtful reuse of spent brewers grain is elegant and efficient," said John Carlson, executive director of the Colorado Brewers Guild. "The costs of complying with the proposed federal regulations will be higher than the cost of sending spent grain to a landfill. Increased costs for Colorado brewers and Colorado ranchers and wasted food for livestock is not a good way to move forward."

"As a brewpub owner and entrepreneur, I am very concerned about the proposed federal regulations regarding spent grain. We fully agree that our food supply chain needs to be kept safe. We are a local brewpub, and pride ourselves in exceeding all state food safety requirements in our kitchen every day," said Tony Simmons, president and head brewer at Pagosa Brewing Company & Grill. "Our on-site brewery has even higher standards. We have offered spent grain to local Colorado farmers and ranchers, free of charge, for over seven years with no ill effects ever reported. These new federal regulations would potentially prohibit this practice, which would deprive our farmers and ranchers of a needed and viable source of high-quality feed. Furthermore, the spent grain would unnecessarily have to be hauled away to our landfills at an exorbitant to cost to our community and the craft brewing industry. We think the local consequences of this issue should be better explored before these regulations are implemented."

Udall's letter builds on his strong record of fighting for Colorado's brewers. Udall, a member of the U.S. Senate Small Brewers Caucus, has worked to lower the tax burden on Colorado brewers. He also has been a strong supporter of brewers' efforts to pursue more sustainable and energy-efficient business practices.

To read Udall's letter to the FDA click HERE or scroll below:

Dear Commissioner Hamburg:

I write today to express concern related to the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) proposed rule prescribing certain procedures to apply in the manufacturing, processing, packing and holding of animal food.  As you know, Docket No. FDA-2011-N-0922 (Animal Food NPRM) published on October 29, 2013 tentatively proposes to characterize spent brewers grains as "animal food" which could result in brewers being regulated as commercial animal feed manufacturers.

I support a robust framework of smart regulations that minimize unnecessary risk and keep our nation's food supply safe.  This particular part of the Animal Food NPRM, while well intentioned, does not seem based on evidence of risk or hazard.  I hope FDA will reconsider its initial interpretation and formally review the body of evidence that exists in abundance on this particular topic to determine if in fact spent brewers grains warrant designation as "animal food."

Brewers operate in a highly regulated environment currently which demands sterile practices and inputs (i.e. water and grains).  This regulatory structure appropriately recognizes these businesses for what they are — brewers — and not commercial animal feed manufacturers.  Spent brewers grains are an unavoidable by-product of brewing which can either be discarded as waste or used as a source of protein and nutrition for cattle.  

Colorado is home to brewers of all sizes.  My home state is host to what is regularly called the "Napa Valley of Beer" due to the robust brewing industry and culture that has evolved in the Rockies.  Regardless of the size of the brewer — whether the operation is small, medium or large the Colorado experience has been that this industry embraces community and prioritizes sustainable practices.  Partnership between brewers and farmers is longstanding and it allows for an environmentally responsible way to dispense with an otherwise useless by-product.

Perhaps most relevantly, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has decades worth of data that demonstrates the history of spent brewers grain used as animal food.  This information does not reveal to my knowledge any evidence that dedicating spent brewers grains for agricultural use has ever compromised food safety to animals or humans.  Further, the Animal Food NPRM itself does not provide data or anecdotes to justify new regulatory treatment of these grains.

With all of this as context I support the brewing industry's request that the FDA complete a risk assessment on the use of spent brewers grains by farmers before finalizing this rule.  This rule after all is about establishing risk-based controls and so I hope the agency will avail itself of existing documentation that details the decades of real world experience that brewers and farmers have had and have reported to USDA.

I appreciate your consideration of the thoughts and concerns outlined in this letter and look forward to working with you as you finalize these regulations.

By: Alyssa Roberts
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