The driver pulls his big rig in front of Widmer Brothers brewery in North Portland two or three times a day, opens the silo chute and fills up the 48-foot-long trailer with a steamy, sloshy byproduct of the brewing process.
The spent grain is hauled to dairy farms in the area, giving local cows a high-protein, high-fiber feed. In turn, the process allows Widmer to recycle its waste.
This relationship, common among brewers and farmers in Oregon and across the country, is centuries old. But it’s come under threat by a proposal from the Food and Drug Administration.
The agency, charged with tightening the country’s food safety network, has proposed a rule that strikes financial fear into the hearts of brewers and distillers nationwide. While the rule aims to make the food chain safer, it would cost the industry millions and increase the cost of beer and spirits.
The proposal would classify companies that distribute spent grain to farms as animal feed manufacturers, possibly forcing them to dry and package the material before distribution.
The equipment and set up to do that would cost about $13 million per facility, said Scott Mennen, vice president of brewery operations at Widmer.