The end of happy hour

It’s the beginning of the end of happy hour, which may cause problems for brewers, distillers, Congress members, farms … and cows.

Enough of the tease — happy hours aren’t ending at bars across America. Instead, a new regulation from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is cutting off cows from feed that is, in part, comprised of byproducts of booze. The regulation is meant to ensure the safety of food given to our livestock and pets; it was originally signed into law as a tiny part of the massive Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) of 2011.

The process once went like this: when making various types of alcohol (whiskey, bourbon, beer) breweries and distilleries would have tons of wet, leftover grain. They’d send that product to the farms, and the cows loved it. Happy hour! To do a quick round of math: one gallon of beer will yield about a pound of spent grain; bourbon yields more than nine pounds.

Now, the byproducts — which once were a cheap way of disposal for alcohol makers and reduced costs of feed for farmers — are headed to the landfills.

“Many of the more than 2,700 small and independent craft breweries that operate throughout the US provide spent grain to local farms for use as animal feed,” said Abby Berman from the Brewers Association in a recent press release. “The proposed FDA rules on animal feed could lead to significantly increased costs and disruption in the handling of spent grain.”

Other beer associations argue that the changes are unnecessary because there is no record of any food safety issues with the practice.

Chris Thorne, vice president of communications for the Beer Institute, echoes the Brewers Association’s concerns. “This is a practice that’s been going on for centuries without any incident or risk to human health,” he said in an article on

Even members of Congress are fighting the FDA’s ruling, including representatives from Maine, Maryland, Colorado and Kentucky.

Many of them — and breweries and farmers alike — are hopeful that the “absurd” ruling will have a “reasonable solution.”

UPDATE: On April 24, 2014, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said it will revise its ruling after hearing objections to the regulation.The previous ruling would’ve likely affected the price of beer, beef and dairy products.

Dan McChesney, director of Office Surveillance and Compliance at the FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine said that the administration was not aware of any problems with brewers’ grain.

According to an article from the Washington Post, the FDA plans to release revised rules this summer, and will seek comments before issuing a final ruling next year.


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