FDA’s Grain Proposal Will Do More Harm Than Good

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The FDA is in the midst of another controversy as a round of proposed regulations simultaneously threaten the beer brewing and farming industries. These regulations pertain to the way in which breweries distribute grain byproducts to farmers and the health risks that this process poses. While the FDA’s goal is to make this process a more controlled and safe arrangement, new regulations would have a chain reaction of negative consequences that seem to overshadow the intended benefits.

FDA’s Proposed Regulations

Traditionally, farms and breweries are institutions that coincide with a mutually beneficial relationship. During the brewing process, beer manufacturers discard large amounts of barley and other spent grain. Rather than simply throwing it away, breweries make deals with farmers who can use the otherwise useless grain to feed their livestock. The beer manufacturers get to remove the byproduct for free, and farmers have a cheap solution for feeding their animals.

This relationship may soon be forced to change as the FDA is proposing new regulations that would change the way in which breweries part ways with spent grain. As part of the broader Food Safety Modernization Act, the FDA is considering adding an extra step to this process that would require breweries to package spent grain prior to its distribution to farmers.

While packaging the grain may seem like a minor detail, it will actually present itself as a very large setback for breweries. Not only would they be forced to dry the grain before packaging it, but also the packaging process would require the purchase of new machinery and equipment. It is suggested that these changes could lead to more than $13 million in additional expenses for each brewing facility.

This huge spike in production costs would inevitably raise the price of beer and push facilities to find other ways to dispose of their spent grain. While preowned equipment and alternative grain-disposal methods are options for brewers, they too have downsides, with the most prominent being a lack of access to cheap grain for farmers. It appears that if these regulations are brought to fruition, breweries and farmers alike will suffer.

Blatant Downsides

While the FDA has proposed these new regulations with public safety in mind, the apparent downsides seem to significantly outweigh the questionable advantages. The thought behind these regulations is that making grain safer will in turn make meat sold by farmers safer for human consumption. Despite this rational thinking, there isn’t any research to suggest that grain-packaging regulations will have any significant impact on the quality of meat sold in stores.

Another potential consequence that hasn’t been considered with these regulations is the impact that it would have on the price of other goods. Obviously, beer would become more expensive as production costs rise, but farmers’ expenses will also rise as they lose access to cheap grain. If it becomes more expensive for farmers to feed their animals, then the price of dairy products and meat will spike in turn.

Increased prices for consumers, financial strain for farmers and the environmental impact of grain disposal are just a few of the negative consequences that these regulations would bring about. Unless the FDA comes forward with evidence showing health risks that the current grain tradeoff poses, this seems like one situation in which the FDA is making a large misstep.

Image by KevinLallier

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Courtney Gordner is a blogger/journalist who loves writing about anything and everything! You can read more from her on her blog, www.talkviral.com
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  • FreeMktMonkey

    In fermentation the sugars in grain feed the yeast to produce ethanol, leaving the protein behind. What remains is known as “brewer’s grain” and makes good animal feed. I’ve often wondered what happens to the corn used to make ethanol added to gasoline. Is this suitable for feed and used as such? If so, consideration of it should be included in the economics of corn ethanol as motor fuel, yet I’ve never seen such a discussion. This says nothing of the problems of ethanol, especially in low use small engine applications where the fuel often ages too long. Wonder if nanny government would impose expenses on corn ethanol fuel producers too or just suck more from the private sector economy in the name of elitist control?

    • FreeMktMonkey

      More thoughts: Where’s any evidence of problems with the current way of doing things? Indeed, do elitist control freak regulators need such evidence or simply rely on their expansive imaginations to guide them in the control of others?