In 2018 when the Hemp Farming Act passed and allowed for the legal cultivation of hemp in the US, the optimism was unbridled and the approval of hemp as an animal feed seemed right around the corner. At the time, whenever I spoke about the regulatory approval process it seemed like I was always the bearer of bad news that no one wanted to hear… that federal approval for hemp as an animal feed ingredient was going to be 3-5 years away.
Now it is 2023 and wow have I learned a lot. Inevitably, the more you learn, the more you come to understand what you do not know as well. My goal in hosting the upcoming ASTM hemp as animal feed workshop is to bring together animal scientists, analytical chemists, regulators and the feed and hemp industries to have a candid discussion about what we know, where we need to develop resources and to acknowledge what we still need to investigate to ensure the safety of hemp as animal feed ingredients and the resulting animal feed products intended for human consumption.
The ASTM workshop will host researchers and experts from the US, Canada, Australia, and Germany for two days of presentations and panel discussions. The aim is to build partnerships to develop standards and appropriate regulatory guidance for quantifying cannabinoids in feed and animal by-products. This may seem redundant; but for many of us the challenge for achieving regulatory approval has not been understanding nutrition or contaminant content, (allow there are still some gaps to be addressed), but the difficulty in measuring very small amounts of cannabinoids in hemp seed products and animal tissues. While many private labs and Universities have developed methods to investigate trace amounts of these compounds, what remains missing are standard methods and comparable limits of detection that can be utilized by feed manufacturers and public labs charged with ensuring the safety of our feed and food supply.
My hope is that by the conclusion of the ASTM workshop, partnerships between researchers and labs, industry and regulators and the agencies and standardization bodies will culminate in a commitment to work together to close method gaps and recommend standards. We continually hear that there is a desire for zero cannabinoids and THC free products; but in a world where quantification limits can be achieved to part per trillion and we accept solvent residues and small amounts of heavy metals in our food; zero is not an appropriate goal. There is much to be done to create confidence in hemp feed ingredients, the animal products that result and to finally create consistent, achievable regulatory standards that the agencies and consumers can rely on.