A hemp industry trade group announced this week that an organization of feed control officials has tentatively approved the use of hemp seed meal as animal feed for egg-laying hens—a move that was recommended by the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Center for Veterinary Medicine.
According to a press release from the Hemp Feed Coalition, the ingredient definition committee of the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO)—which oversees new feed approval—tentatively approved the action at a mid-year meeting on January 23.
The definition of hemp seed meal (HSM) as an acceptable protein and fat source for hens will next go before AAFCO’s board for final approval before being officially adopted later this year. As approved, it would require feed contain no more than 20 parts per million (ppm) total CBD and no more than 2 ppm THC.
“This historic milestone has been more than three years in the making and will allow processors to formulate with HSM in the diets of laying hens at an inclusion of no more than 20%,” said the Hemp Feed Coalition’s release.
According to Morgan Tweet, executive director of the Hemp Feed Coalition, the new definition reads as follows:
New Tentative Definition T71.5 Hemp Seed Meal, Mechanically Extracted is the product obtained by grinding or milling the cake, which remains after most of the oil is removed from the seeds of Cannabis sativa L. by a mechanical extraction process. The ingredient must be labeled with guarantees for minimum crude protein and maximum crude fat on an as-fed basis. The meal shall contain no more than 20 ppm of total cannabidiol (Total CBD = CBD + (CBDA x 0.877)) and no more than 2 ppm tetrahydrocannabidiol (Total THC = delta-9-THC + (THCA x 0.877)). It is used in diets of laying hens as a source of protein at an inclusion of no more than 20% of the diet.
If the definition is approved by the AAFCO board and members, it could be formally adopted and published later this year—the final step in the complicated process of allowing hemp seed as feed for commercial hens.
In its release, the Hemp Feed Coalition pointed to research indicating that hens that ate diets enriched with hemp seed meal showed improved egg quality, with higher levels of certain fatty acids and other nutrients that are important to human health.
Wider use of hemp can also benefit soil quality, promote disease control and make farming more efficient, the group said.
“Hemp’s integration into animal feed is a catalyst for agricultural advancement. It’s an opportunity for farmers to diversify with lower risk for supply chains to become more sustainable, and for the entire agricultural community to reap the benefits of this versatile crop,” said Andrew Bish, the coalition’s president as well as the chief operating officer for the agricultural equipment company Bish Enterprises.
Since hemp’s legalization federally under the 2018 Farm Bill, there’s been a renewed interest in utilizing the plant for nutrition, fiber and even intoxicating cannabinoids. As part of that, some have eyed hemp seed meal as an attractive option for livestock.
Last November, for example, New York lawmakers sent Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) a bill that would have legalized hemp seed as a feed ingredient for horses, llamas and household pets, though the governor ultimately vetoed the measure, citing lack of safety information on the practice.
The topic is nevertheless gaining attention in the research community.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) sent warning letters in 2022 to a series of businesses marketing CBD products for animals, cautioning that there’s a “lack of data on what levels of potential residues are safe for a person consuming the foods that come from CBD-treated animals.”
Last April, however, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) found that cows that are fed hempseed cake retain very low concentrations of THC and CBD in their bodies, indicating that meat products from hemp-fed cattle are safe for human consumption.
Another federally funded study published in 2022 found that feeding cows hemp in fact reduces their stress levels. Researchers have also previously looked into how CBD affects stress and pain in horses.
Among humans, use of cannabis stretches back millennia, according to a recent study, with the plant employed as a source of fiber, nutrition, medicine, spirituality and pleasure.
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