Hemp has moved one step closer to approval as a feed for laying hens after a key U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) agency signed off on a definition of “hemp seed meal” (HSM).
The FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine did not object to tentative wording approved by the Ingredient Definition Committee of the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) last week. AAFCO is expected to adopt the final definition later this year.
Hemp seed meal is a high-protein, high-fiber, and nutrient-rich byproduct of cold-pressing hemp seeds to extract hemp seed oil.
“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 as a source of protein and fat at an inclusion of no more than 20%,” the Hemp Feed Coalition (HFC), an industry group, said in response to the development.
The Coalition has worked for several years to clear hemp seed meal as feed for laying hens and other farm animals, based on research that demonstrated that the eggs of such hens carry multiple nutritional benefits, are safe, and contain no THC or other cannabinoids.
Hemp meal offers a wide range of essential vitamins, minerals, and healthy oils, and shows increased value over typical feed sources, with significant improvement in egg quality, HFC said. Hemp-fed hens lay eggs enriched with essential fatty acids, and Lutein, a natural antioxidant, according to the Coalition.
Assurance for formulators
Validation by FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine provides formulators and feed mills assurance that hemp seed meal is safe, and that any potential cannabinoid contaminants do not transfer over to human food products.
The advancement of hemp meal means advocates have overcome earlier pushback from animal feed, nutrition and veterinarian interests who had warned agricultural leaders and policymakers about potential health risks.
“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, President of the Hemp Feed Coalition.
Texas agriculture officials last year approved hempseed-derived feed for chickens and horses, and authorized the state feed agency to set regulations for such products.