The legalization of hemp has revitalized and expanded an age-old industry. While hemp was largely touted for its textile applications, we are now seeing all the things hemp can do. From bioplastics to biodiesel, to building materials, and of course let us not forget the CBD craze; hemp is changing more than just the agricultural industry. The opportunities for hemp to be used as bi or even tri-crop are growing season after season due to genetics, equipment, and market expansions.
Hemp in Animal Feed
The Hemp Feed Coalition (HFC) is planning to submit an application for the Food and Drug Administration Center for Veterinary Medicine to get hemp seed, meal, and cake approved for use in chicken diets. Hemp products are currently not approved for use in animal feed. HFC claims large scale hemp productions are creating by-products that could be utilized in animal feed. Hemp seed is high in essential fatty acids – the omegas, omega-3, omega-6, omega-9, and GLA, as well as being high in protein that contains amino acids. Specifically, this application will seek approval for hemp as feed for broiler and egg-laying chickens.
Research Shows Hemp in Chicken Feed Improves Egg Quality
Recent feeding trials with chickens have confirmed that hemp seed is an excellent source of nutrition for laying hens. The omega fatty acid profile in the eggs was favorably influenced after feeding hemp seed meal. Hemp seed meal is the product that remains after the seed has been crushed and the oil extracted. Hemp seed meal still contains 25% protein and provides an excellent dietary source of fiber for humans and animals. This is in agreement with empirical observations over thousands of years in China and other Asiatic nations. Because of its proteins, beneficial fatty acids, and overall cannabinoid profile, hemp-derived feed offers an array of nutritional benefits for the livestock consuming it.
Studies Throughout the US Confirm
In 2017, Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper signed a bill to create a working group under the Commissioner of Agriculture to study the feasibility and benefits of hemp as animal feed. Since then, ranchers in Colorado have begun to introduce hemp to their livestock’s foodstuffs. HFC is currently working with Colorado State University on a study for hemp seed meal and cake feed for lambs and has plans to work with Minnesota State University on a study using hemp as swine feed and the University of North Dakota on a trial with beef cattle.
Feeding Livestock Hemp Creates Healthier Meat
Ultimately, the most complete way to reintroduce hemp to our diets involves feeding our livestock hemp, thus bringing the traditional diet full circle to reap the nutritional benefits of this plant. Because these animals are being reared for eventual human consumption, some of those benefits are passed down to the end consumer. Basically, eating meat from healthier animals is good for whomever consumes that animal. Approval for this application will take another 18 months from date of submission but hemp feed advocates indicate this is just the beginning of reintroducing hemp to diet.