Foam to Farm York County


This article was originally published in the June issue of Rock Hill Reader the Magazine

Local breweries source ingredients from nearby and work with farmers to help feed livestock in return. We wanted to look into this a bit more and discovered some of this going on right in our own backyard.

Thames Farm in Fort Lawn has partnered with Amor Artis Brewery in Fort Mill. The brewery, which revived one of the old buildings downtown, is family owned and operated. The farm, which gets the brewery’s spent grains to add to their pig feed, is also family operated by Amy and Kent Thames.

Spent grain is the leftover malt and adjuncts after the mash has extracted most of the flavor. This by-product can constitute as much as 85 percent of a brewery’s total by-product. Craft breweries all over the country are devising innovative ways to prevent their spent grain from going to waste. But don’t worry, it doesn’t contain any alcohol.

Beer begins with a mash of barley (and sometimes other grains) and hot water, which after an hour or so of enzymatic activity, converts the grain’s starch into sugar and is then drained and rinsed to extract that sugar. That’s what the brewer wants: sugar, which is the starting place for fermentation. Left behind are the starchy endosperm, residual protein and whatever residual sugars the brewer couldn’t rinse away. These protein- and fiber-rich leftovers are excellent feed for everything from cows to chickens.

We asked Amy to share how beer-making can help livestock, and she explained that through the winter when the pasture is low and no fresh veggies are available, spent grain makes up about 50% of their pigs’ diet. “The other 50% is a pig ration,” which Amy explains is a feed they purchase from Farmers Service Center in York and is specifically formulated for pigs. In the summer, however, the amount of spent grains fed to the livestock is much less.

Spent grains from breweries contain 71 to 75 percent total digestible nutrients (TDN). For comparison, corn feed yields 88 to 90 percent TDN. Spent grains are not nutritionally complete and should not be relied on as the only feed source. Cattle, for example, require more calcium than spent grains supply. For chickens, enzymes must be added to help degrade the fiber to make the grains digestible. So if you’re thinking of following suit, consider supplementing the grains with a feed that has the appropriate nutrition.

Spent grains are the major waste in the brewing process. With feed being the major cost associated with raising livestock, like Thames Farm’s pigs, utilizing spent grains – turning beer ingredients into Berkshire pork– proves beneficial to both Amor Artis Brewery in Fort Mill and Thames Farm in Fort Lawn. With some additional supplementing, spent grains can be used as a significant portion of an animal’s diet. So, if you’re looking for a source of inexpensive feed, raise a glass at your local brewpub or tap room, then ask to speak to the brewer.

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