Preserving the Environment

Brewers Fight Proposed Regulation That Would End Grain Recycling Initiatives

April 8, 2014
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Brewers Fight Proposed Regulation That Would End Grain Recycling Initiatives
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Spent grains would end up in landfills instead of being used as cattle feed.

If you’re a lover of the brewsky, then Denver is the city for you.

The Mile High city brews more beer than any other American city, and the state of Colorado boasts over 140 microbreweries. So it probably won’t surprise beer lovers here in the “Napa of beer” that many brewers are using their drinks as forces for environmental and economic good, donating their spent grains — barley, hops, wheat and other grains that have been soaked in water during the beer-brewing process — to farmers who can use them to feed their livestock, instead of throwing them away.

Oskar Blues, a Longmont-based brewery, runs the Hops and Heifers program. In a process it calls “Farm to Cup,” the brewery grows hops on its own farm, uses the hops for brewing, feeds its cattle with the spent grains, and then uses the meat from these cows in burgers sold at its restaurant.

But newly proposed FDA rules threaten to disrupt innovative recycling programs such as this, forcing microbreweries to send the spent grains to landfills or else engage in a costly process of drying out the grains and packaging them to prevent anyone from touching them before they reach the farmers. For many small brewers, the cost of this would be too great and they’d be forced to choose the landfill option.

According to John Fryar of the Longmont Times-Call, Paul Gatza, who directs the Boulder-based 20,000-member strong Brewers Association, spoke with FDA officials who say they’ll change the rule before issuing new draft of the regulations this summer. “The wording in the original proposed rules was pretty bad,” Gatza said. He estimates that the new rule would cost breweries $5 more per barrel to process the grains before donating or selling them to farmers, potentially putting many small brewers out of the recycling business. That would have been a shame, as a recent Brewers Association survey found that members reuse 90 percent of their spent grains.

FDA spokeswoman Juli Putnam told Fryar that they’ve gone back to the drawing board, rewriting some of the language in the regulation in a way that will hopefully allow this beer positivity cycle to continue. Now that’s good news worth lifting a beer over.

MORE: His Family Lost its Farm. Now He’s Making Sure No One Else in His Community Suffers the Same Fate.

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