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Friday, 21 March 2014 05:17

Proposed food safety rules imperil breweries' disposal of spent grain

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New Jersey's two largest craft brewers say proposed federal food-safety regulations could upend the longstanding practice of having farmers take breweries' spent grain.

Proposed regulations under the Food Safety Modernization Act would essentially require spent grain being used in livestock feed to be dried and prepackaged on site, via a process in which human hands aren't touching it.

That’s potential trouble for all of New Jersey’s craft breweries and their counterparts across the country. For the bigger craft brewers, it would be a monumental headache.

The owners of Flying Fish Brewing and River Horse Brewing say the proposed rule would likely amount to tons of spent grain being sent to landfills, with breweries footing the bill for that at the more expensive commercial disposal rates.

"I guess the trash companies will benefit," says Chris Walsh, owner of River Horse Brewing, the state's second-largest craft beer producer.

Craft breweries have long depended on farmers to take the grain off their hands in what is for the most part a break even disposal method that also speaks to conservation and sustainability.

It's a simple arrangement: Farmers send a truck to a brewery, take the grain that's raked or pumped straight from the mash tun and use it still wet as livestock fodder.

The Brewers Association, the Colorado-based trade group for the craft brewing industry, calls the FDA's proposed regulation onerous to brewers and farmers alike. There's no evidence, the BA says, that current handling practices for spent grain pose a hazard to livestock or people.

The association is urging brewers to team up with farmers to submit comments to the FDA on the proposed regulation by a March 31 deadline.

Breweries simply aren't set up to process the grain in the fashion that the proposed regulations would require, and it's unlikely they would take on the expense to make that happen, brewery owners say.

"They (the FDA) are trying to solve a problem that doesn't exist, in a way that won't happen," Chris says. "Asking a brewery to now become a feed-processing plant on the back end won't happen. We've got enough to focus on just making beer. Breweries will end up throwing out perfectly good feed.

"It would be unfortunate for various reasons," he says, "forcing an industry that prides itself on sustainability to increase the number of times its trash hauler comes every week, and adding an additional cost to farmers who barely squeak by in a lot of cases."

Each week, River Horse deals with 7 to 10 tons of barley left over from the beer-making process. Flying Fish in Somerdale, the state's largest craft brewer, had 750 tons of spent grain to get rid of last year.

Gene Muller, Flying Fish founder and president, says the $60 per ton landfill fees would amount to a big hit to the bottom line.

"Not only that, then farmers have to purchase replacement feed," he says. "This is total FDA mission creep."


Read 2485 times Last modified on Saturday, 22 March 2014 03:34

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