What do beer and pigs have in common? If you said, “Beer drinking pigs,” you might be right. I have seen pigs and other livestock drink beer but that is not what I had in mind.
Depending on the taste, different types of grains are used to make beer. Mashing is a step in the brewing process that combines grain with hot water to convert complex starches into simple sugars. After about an hour of brewing, the grain is drained and rinsed to extract sugars. That’s what the brewer wants: sugars, which is the starting place for fermentation. Left behind is the starchy grain. Because the grain has been brewed it’s called “spent grain,” or “brewer’s grain,” and can be an excellent feed for everything from pigs to chickens.
Because Miles Smith Farm cattle are grass fed we don’t feed the cows spent grain but our pigs are another story. Pigs are omnivores with digestive systems very similar to humans. Pigs need protein so, when we can get it, we mix spent grain with their regular feed. Every week or so, Great North Aleworks fills each of two or three barrels with 300 pounds of spent grain. We unload the barrels with the tractor or bobcat and feed it out with regular pig food. Unfortunately spent grain quickly goes “sour” and can spoil so we have to use it within a week. Still, because it’s free, spent grains are a great way to save on feed costs.
This is a great business to farm partnership. Instead of waste, spent grain becomes feed for livestock. Everyone wins; farmers, breweries, the environment and, of course, beer drinkers.
While the pigs and our chickens love the stuff, to my taste buds, it seems bland and has no alcohol content at all. I’d much rather drink the end product, beer, and leave the spent grain to the pigs and chickens.
Here is a link to the video I took when I picked up the spent grain at Great Northern Aleworks:
Here is a link to a video of the piglets waiting for their breakfast of spent grain and pig pellets: