U.S. Rep. Cory Gardner, R-Yuma, talks with Joe Schiraldi, Vice President of Brewing Operations, while on a tour, Tuesday at Left Hand Brewing Company in
U.S. Rep. Cory Gardner, R-Yuma, talks with Joe Schiraldi, Vice President of Brewing Operations, while on a tour, Tuesday at Left Hand Brewing Company in Longmont. Go to timescall.com for a video and more photos. (Matthew Jonas / Longmont Times-Call)

A bill to let microbreweries keep supplying left-over grain for animal feed without additional federal regulation will soon be reviewed in committee, Rep. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., said Tuesday.

The issue came up earlier this year after the Food and Drug Administration proposed new safety rules on how animal food is produced and handled. Brewers charged that the regulation would have made it hideously expensive to provide "spent grain" — used-up grains from the beer-making process — to farmers, making the landfill their only likely destination.

"It would have been shackling," said Joe Schiraldi, vice president of brewing operations for Left Hand Brewing Company. The Longmont-based microbrewer sells $4,000 to $6,000 of spent grain a month to Ulrich Farms of Platteville, and has dealt with other farmers before then.

"Our very first one was a local woman," he remembered. "She'd show up in a pickup truck with a bunch of 55-gallon drums, then wave after she was done and say 'See you later!'"

FDA officials have said the rule change was misunderstood and was not meant to require specific practices from brewers, such as drying and prepackaging spent grain. In late April, the agency announced it was going to review the change and issue revised proposals this summer for clarity.

"We agree with those in industry and the sustainability community that the recycling of human food by-products to animal feed contributes substantially to the efficiency and sustainability of our food system and is thus a good thing," wrote Michael Taylor, the FDA's deputy commissioner for foods and veterinary medicine in an April 24 blog on the agency's website. "We have no intention to discourage or disrupt it."

The Congressional bill, HR 4430, is meant to ensure that by specifically exempting spent grains from the new FDA regulation, along with some other by-products given to livestock, such as beet pulp from sugar making. Gardner is one of two dozen sponsors of the bill, including 18 Republicans and six Democrats.

"This is one of those issues where there is no partisan position," he said during a Tuesday tour of Left Hand's brewing operations.

The bill was introduced April 8 and sent to the Health Subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. Gardner said he expected to see the committee take it up in the next week or so.

The issue is a large one for Lyons-based Oskar Blues, which uses spent grains from its brewing to feed its own cattle, which are then served in the company's restaurants. Between its locations in Colorado and North Carolina, Oskar Blues produces between 10 million and 12 million pounds of spent grain a year.

"It would be potentially crippling to process it the way it's being proposed," Oskar Blues spokesman Chad Melis said. "It would have to be handled as its own separate department or even a separate business."

He added that Oskar Blues' practices are just a microcosm of the industry as a whole.

"In the end, it's a very economical use of a healthy, high-protein food substance," he said. "It just makes sense."

 

Contact Times-Call staff writer Scott Rochat at 303-684-5220 or srochat@times-call.com