Hemp Seed Meal for Hens Gains Recommendation for Federal Approval

FDA-Center for Veterinary Medicine and Association of American Feed Control Officials are on their way to approving hemp seeds for hens at egg farms.

Things are changing fast regarding how hemp is tolerated in agriculture and farming. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s veterinary arm, the FDA-Center for Veterinary Medicine’s (FDA-CVM), is responsible for assuring that animal drugs and medicated feeds are safe and effective. Officials that determine approved chicken feed ingredients recommended hemp seed meal for hens, under a tentative FDA-CVM approval, as evidence mounts showing hemp seed is not only safe but beneficial for healthy hens and eggs.

Hemp Feed Coalition (HFC)—a nonprofit that aims to federal approval for hemp grain products in animal feed—announced a “landmark achievement” with the tentative approval of Hemp Seed Meal (HSM) for Laying Hens at the recent Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) 2024 Mid-Year Meeting

“Hemp’s entry into animal feed will catalyze agricultural advancement,” HFC President and COO of Bish Enterprises, Andrew Bish. “It’s an opportunity for farmers to diversify, to develop more sustainable supply chains, and to reap the benefits of a new crop.”

The AAFCO guides state, federal and international feed regulators with ingredient definitions, label standards, and laboratory standards, and has done so for over 110 years. The AAFCO celebrated the recommendation for hemp seed feed during the first day of its Workshop & Board of Directors Meeting held on January 23-25 in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

Hemp Seed Meal is Healthy for Hens and Eggs

We already know that hemp seeds are packed with essential vitamins, minerals, healthy oils, and an impressive, high-quality protein profile. Now research confirms the nutritional value of hemp feed resembles that of soy and canola, and is believed to be safe. The data also shows the value of hemp seed is growing and could surpass typical feed sources.

Specifically, researchers found that hemp-fed hens lay eggs enriched with essential fatty acids such as ALA, DHA, and GLA, and increased amounts of Lutein. They are all known to promote better human health.

The safety of HSM has been validated after undergoing the FDA-CVM’s rigorous evaluation, and it will provide formulators and feed mills with the assurance they need that HSM is a safe and viable protein and fat source. 

“Data to support this application included the validated method and quantification of cannabinoids in both the ingredient and egg product, and it was verified that any potential cannabinoid contaminants did not transfer over to human food products,” the HFC’s announcement reads.

Hemp seed / Shutterstock

The Road Here

Federal officials are typically strict about any sort of medical claims on hemp products, including those intended for animals and livestock. 

Keep in mind that just over a year ago in May 2022, the FDA sent out warning letters to four hemp-derived CBD companies that were selling hemp products marketed for animals.

This will go before AAFCO’s Board and members for final approval, and then be adopted into the Official Publication later this year. This “historic milestone” took over three years to achieve and will allow processors to formulate with HSM in the diets of egg-laying hens as a source of protein and fat at an inclusion of no more than 20%. To see the ingredient definition in its entirety, visit the HFC’s website.

Crops like hemp, that are new to the agricultural world, provide benefits to soil, disease control, and farm flexibility. Furthermore, hemp requires lower input needs, resulting in a more sustainable supply chain overall. 

HFC shared their support for a more nutritious ingredient, reducing risk for farmers, and opening up the door to opportunities in the hemp market. 

HFC members are proud to support these efforts and lay the groundwork for hemp grain products in feed across species. Visit the MemberZone page to access additional data and resources, and to learn more about the benefits of HSM for laying hens.

Hemp Seed Feed by State

Late last year, a bill to allow hemp seeds in animal feed in New York was stopped in its tracks. Two New York measures would allow for hemp seeds to be part of animal feed meant for pets, horses and camelids, like llamas and alpacas and got the green light from the state Assembly and Senate earlier this year. 

In early December, Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) received the pair of bills, though she effectively stopped them in their tracks via veto, stating that there is a lack of information about using industrial hemp in this way and pushing for the state to study the topics in an “expeditious manner.”

Specifically, the measures would have allowed industrial hemp seed to be added to animal feed that includes seed hulls and seed meal. The bills would not have allowed for hemp seeds and additives to expand to other commercial livestock, most likely because of regulatory complications surrounding certain ingredients for animals used for human consumption.

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