23 Feb 2022

Hemp: A potential and controversial feed ingredient

Hemp production is currently a controversial subject in agriculture. There is considerable interest in the potential use of hemp and its byproducts in animal feed. However, it is still illegal to feed hemp or any of its byproducts to animals in the U.S, which continues to spark great controversy amongst hemp advocates and regulatory agencies.

Hemp: A potential and controversial feed ingredient

Hemp production is currently a controversial subject in agriculture in the USA . Similar to other agricultural and food industries that have residues or byproducts, there is considerable interest in potential uses for hemp and its byproducts. Considering it for potential inclusion in animal feed, and more specifically for cattle.


Information within the 2018 US Farm Bill paved the way for an increase in hemp production. Nontheless, it did not grant permission for the use of hemp or any of its byproducts in animal feeds. Therefore, up to date there is no legal way of feeding animals with hemp or any of its byproducts.

Within the US, animal feeds and any substance or ingredient included in them are jointly regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO), which are primarily made up of state and federal regulators). As well as the inclusion of each respective state’s department of agriculture. FDA and AAFCO establish regulations that apply to anything that is used in animal feeds, and such regulations are enforced by each state. Individual states also have the ability to establish and enforce additional regulations.

agriCalendar Subscribe Now!

Before being legally fed to animals, any feed ingredient that is not considered by the FDA to be a new animal drug must undergo a scientific review process to ensure that the product is safe both for animals and humans. Once the ingredient has passed the scientific review process, it receives an official feed ingredient definition. Depending upon the type of ingredient and its potential use, there are three possible routes through which the ingredient definition is received:

Successful completion of any of these routes results in an ingredient definition contained within AAFCO’s official publication, which is published annually.

It is currently illegal to feed hemp or any of its byproducts to animals in the U.S. because there has not been an approval of documents certifying its safety when used as animal feed ingredients. Therefore, there are currently no AAFCO ingredient definitions that apply to hemp or any of its byproducts. As a result any food animal that is fed hemp or hemp byproducts, along with any food products obtained from that animal, are considered to be adulterated.

Subscribe Now!

Within this scenario, an open letter released on February 9 by AAFCO officials calling for more research on the safety of hemp to allow its inclusion in animal feed has stirred frustration within the hemp industry.

The letter states that it is still unclear how hemp-based feed will compare with conventional diets, and what implications are there related to the presence of trace quantities of cannabinoids, including THC, the primary intoxicating compound associated with cannabis. This is still not well understood, and there is a need for more research regarding the potential passage of these compounds into meat and other animal byproducts.


On the other hand, from the industry’s perspective, hemp advocates claim that they have spent at least three years trying to obtain the data requested by AAFCO. However, they have been told they require more granular data.

Morgan Tweet, executive director of the Hemp Feed Coalition, said:

“It doesn’t feel like they are evaluating us on an even playing field.” She explained that as they have proposed recently to the FDA, the hemp seed meal that would be allowed in chicken feed could not contain detectable levels of compounds such as CBD or THC. If it did contain these compounds, it would be considered adulterated. The meal would be derived from parts of the hemp plant that are already approved for human consumption. Research has also shown that hemp seed meal has an interesting fatty acid profile which makes it benefitial and attractive for poultry, and aquaculture. “

“Meanwhile, hemp-based products are legal in Canada and available in the U.S. in spite of FDA’s incomplete decision about the ingredients, prompting states to take action to avoid losing economic gains to other regions. Although it is certain that more research must be done, AAFCO should also “take a reasonable approach to the evaluation of these ingredients,” she said.


It is clear that there are pending legal matters to be addressed, for hemp and its byproducts to become an ingredient option for animal feeds. Nonetheless it cant be denied that the industry behind it has important firepower and that this matter won’t be easily dismissed. Making hemp and its byproducts and almost certain reality within the animal feed industry in years to come.

For more information refer to the folowing source: https://www.aafco.org/

Subscribe Now!
Subscribe Now!


Subscribe now to the technical magazine of animal nutrition


Access to articles in PDF
Stay up to date with our newsletters
Receive the magazine for free in digital version

AgriFM - Los podcast del sector ganadero en español
agriCalendar - El calendario de eventos del mundo agroganaderoagriCalendar
agrinewsCampus - Cursos de formación para el sector de la ganadería