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Breweries, farmers knock FDA rule over grain

Spent grain from breweries has been a staple food for farm animals for centuries, but local beer makers worry that a proposed federal rule could put an end to this symbiotic relationship.

"If it were to pass, it would impact every single brewer in the state," said Nick Ellis, owner of Medford's Opposition Brewing Co., formerly known as Apocalypse.

Brewers steep grains such as barley to extract sugar, then the spent grain often gets donated or sold as animal feed. Ellis donates his spent grain to Hogs Creek Farm in Eagle Point, but worries new federal rules would mean he'd have to dump it in a landfill.

The proposed Food and Drug Administration rules, which are part of the Food Safety Modernization Act, would require breweries who provide the grains to animals to be regulated as "commercial animal-feed manufacturers."

They would face sanitary handling procedures and extensive planning, record keeping and reporting to health officials, and could be forced to dry and package of spent grains.

The brewing industry has fought back and the FDA has indicated it would offer a new set of proposed rules by the end of the summer.

Ellis said he's still not clear how the FDA is going to come down on this issue.

— Damian Mann