The hemp industry has achieved a historic milestone with the tentative approval of hemp seed meal as a protein and fat source for laying hens by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO). This follows the recommendation of the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Center for Veterinary Medicine, which reviewed the application submitted by the Hemp Feed Coalition, a nonprofit organization that advocates for the inclusion of hemp in animal feed.
What is Hemp Seed Meal and Why is it Beneficial?
Hemp seed meal 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. Hemp seeds are rich in protein, fiber, minerals, and healthy fats, especially omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. Hemp seed meal can provide these nutrients to laying hens, which can improve their health and egg quality.
According to the Hemp Feed Coalition, research has shown that hens that ate diets enriched with hemp seed meal produced eggs with higher levels of certain fatty acids and other nutrients that are important for human health, such as vitamin E, iron, and zinc. Hemp seed meal can also help reduce the environmental impact of poultry production, as hemp is a sustainable crop that can grow in various climates and soils, and can help control weeds, pests, and diseases.
How Did the Approval Process Work and What are the Next Steps?
The approval process for hemp seed meal as a feed ingredient for laying hens was initiated by the Hemp Feed Coalition, which was formed in 2018 by a group of hemp industry stakeholders who saw the potential value and market opportunity of hemp in animal feed. The coalition conducted a comprehensive literature review, gathered existing data, and sponsored new research to fill in the data gaps. The coalition then submitted a 200-page application to the FDA-CVM in September 2020, which included the ingredient definition, the safety and efficacy data, and the proposed inclusion rate of no more than 20% of the diet.
The FDA-CVM reviewed the application and issued a positive recommendation to the AAFCO in January 2024, stating that hemp seed meal is safe and effective for laying hens. The AAFCO’s ingredient definition committee then tentatively approved the new definition of hemp seed meal at its mid-year meeting on January 23. The definition specifies that the meal shall contain no more than 20 ppm of total cannabidiol (CBD) and no more than 2 ppm of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive compound in cannabis.
The tentative approval is a significant step forward, but not the final one. The new definition still needs to be approved by the AAFCO’s board and members, which is expected to happen later this year. Once the definition is officially adopted and published, it will be up to each state to decide whether to allow hemp seed meal as a feed ingredient for laying hens in their jurisdiction.
What are the Implications and Opportunities for the Hemp Industry and Egg Consumers?
The tentative approval of hemp seed meal as a feed ingredient for laying hens is a breakthrough for the hemp industry and egg consumers. It is the first time that a hemp-derived product has been approved for animal feed in the U.S., opening the door for more research and applications for other species and products. It is also a win-win situation for both the hemp producers and the egg producers, as they can benefit from the increased demand and supply of hemp seed meal and eggs, respectively.
The Hemp Feed Coalition estimates that the U.S. egg industry consumes about 3.6 million tons of protein meal annually, which could translate into a potential market of 720,000 tons of hemp seed meal. This could create new revenue streams and economic opportunities for hemp farmers, processors, and feed mills, as well as for rural businesses and communities. The coalition also expects that the approval of hemp seed meal will increase the awareness and acceptance of hemp as a valuable crop and a source of nutrition for animals and humans alike.
For egg consumers, the approval of hemp seed meal means that they will have more choices and access to eggs that are enriched with beneficial nutrients and fatty acids, which can support their health and wellness. The coalition hopes that the approval of hemp seed meal will also encourage more consumers to learn about the benefits of hemp and support the hemp industry.
The tentative approval of hemp seed meal as a feed ingredient for laying hens is a historic milestone that has been more than three years in the making. It is the result of the collaboration and dedication of the Hemp Feed Coalition and its partners, who have overcome the challenges and barriers of introducing a new and innovative ingredient to the animal feed industry. It is also a testament to the potential and versatility of hemp, which can offer solutions and opportunities for various sectors and stakeholders.