As the battle wages on over the safety of feeding antibiotics to livestock for growth promotion, a new report reveals yet another source of unregulated antibiotics in American animal feed--spent ethanol grain.
The new report by advocacy group the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy suggests that a relatively new source of food for livestock may contain levels of
Monday the FDA acknowledged that feeding animals distillers grain with antibiotic residues "may contribute to the emergence of drug-resistant organisms that can potentially infect humans who eat food products derived from those animals. Given the significant increase in the use of distillers dried grains as a livestock feed ingredient, FDA has decided to explore possible options for increased regulatory oversight over the use of antimicrobials in the ethanol production process when the byproducts of this process are used for animal feed."
Charles Staff of the Distillers Grain Technical Council took issue with the report, however, saying that it conflated concern over the use of antibiotics added directly to animal feed with the "far far lower levels" in distillers grain.
"We are talking about parts per billion that is potentially present," Staff said, adding that levels of antibiotics in distillers grain have dropped significantly since the 2008 FDA analysis. "We are talking about minuscule levels and you can see that in the later 2010 samples taken by the FDA. [Ethanol producers] have better control and the antibiotic companies have established technical service and people who go out out to the ethanol plants and monitor how they are using it."
As government programs have aggressively funded and promoted the proliferation of ethanol in the last decade, production of this grain byproduct (known as DGS) jumped by 1,264 percent, from 2.5 to 34.1 million metric tons per year from 2000 to 2010, according to the report.
Many ranchers and ethanol enthusiasts often point to its use as a selling point for the efficiency of ethanol production.
According to the IATP report "The beef industry uses 41 percent of all DGS, the dairy industry consumes 26 percent, 5 percent are fed to swine and 4 percent to poultry; 22 percent are exported for use by meat producers overseas.
"DGS have rapidly become a mainstay of the conventional livestock diet, replacing 914 million bushels of traditional corn feed in the 2010-11 production year."