Using Brewing and Distilling Spent Grains for Feed

​​​Brewers and distillers have several options for disposing of spent grains:

  • Landfilling – This is the most expensive option, with average tipping fees of about $55/ton.
  • Land spreading – This requires a permit from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, and identifying fields where the spent grains are spread. Farmers may need to account for the spent grain in their nutrient management plans, and may not always be able to accept the spent grain when brewers/distillers need to dispose of it.
  • Contracted pickup – Some businesses pick up byproducts from human food processing and either sell them for processing or process them into other products themselves. 
  • Distributing as a livestock feed ingredient – This requires a commercial feed license, which costs $25 a year plus a tonnage feed of $50 a year for up to 200 tons or 25 cents a ton for more than 200 tons a year. 

Many businesses involved in Wisconsin’s thriving brewing and distilling industry choose the last option, but may not be aware that they need a commercial feed license – even if they are not charging farmers for the spent grains. The reason that a license is required is to help assure that the feed animals eat is wholesome, to protect both human and animal health. 

We encourage this practice. Especially in a time when farmers are struggling financially, it provides an inexpensive and nutritious feed ingredient, prevents useful materials from going into landfills, and costs the brewer/distiller far less than landfilling. Getting licensed is not difficult or expensive.

Because brewers and distillers are licensed under state and federal food safety laws, they already meet most requirements for good manufacturing processes, which are more stringent for human food than animal feed. Other requirements are not difficult or expensive to satisfy:

  • Labeling –The label must state what the product is (e.g. spent grain) and list the company name and address, and quantity. The label also needs to carry a guaranteed analysis, providing the nutrient values of the byproducts as a feed ingredient. Generally, the analysis is necessary only initially, to develop the label, or if the process that produces the byproduct changes. A list of laboratories that do feed analysis is available in the box at right. We understand that farmers may be picking up the spent grain in bulk rather than in packaging. We can help determine how to provide this information.
  • Reporting tonnage – Feed license holders report the amount of feed or ingredients they distribute each year. The Department has developed alternatives to determine feed distribution quantities; please contact the feed program for more information. 
  • Inspections – We normally inspect feed facilities about every one to five years. However, breweries and distilleries already meet food safety requirements that are more stringent than the GMPs for feed plants. Feed GMPs, like human GMPs, are intended to proactively prevent adulteration as a GMP, but because the spent grain usually moves out quickly, adulteration during handling and storage is unlikely to be an issue.

What are the next steps if you are distributing your spent grains or want to distribute them yourself?

1. Apply for a feed license using the new commercial feed license application.

2. Create a label and submit it with the application.

3. Distribute.

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