Is there anything hemp can’t be used for? This wonder plant is being integrated into the production of clothing, food, paper, and so much more. Now farmers are using it to feed their cows. But are cows fed hemp cake producing foods safe for human consumption? Read on to find out.

Cows eating lush grass on the green field in front of Fuji mountain, Japan.

Why are Farmers Feeding Cows Hemp Cake?

Hemp is a highly sustainable crop. It does not require a lot of water to grow. It’s biodegradable, it’s strong, and it can grow in small areas.

With so much demand, there’s been a boom in hemp production. Farmers are seeing a lot of byproduct that can be compressed into cakes. Theoretically, it could make the perfect food for their cattle.

But are the foods cows fed hemp cake producing safe for human consumption?

The Study on Cows Fed Hemp Cake

A study from the U.S. Department of Agriculture shows that meat products produced by cows fed hemp cake are safe for human consumption.

The study, conducted by researchers at North Dakota State University (NDSU) and USDA’s Agriculture Research Service (ARS) and published in the Journal of Food Additives and Contaminants, looked at the cannabinoid concentration in various body parts of cows fed hemp cake including their kidneys, livers, muscles, and fatty tissues. Scientists checked for levels of THC and CBD at different metabolic stages.

“Scientists found that the concentrations in meta products contributed only a small fraction of the total amount global regulatory organizations consider safe for consumers,” the department stated in a press release.

The study on cows fed hemp cake also found that hempseed cake is “highly nutritious” and could be a “viable alternative feed source for cattle”.

“According to our exposure assessment, it would be very difficult for a human to consume enough fat from cattle fed with hempseed cake to exceed regulatory guidelines for dietary THC exposure,” said David Smith of USDA’s Animal Metabolism-Agricultural Chemicals Research Unit.

“From a food safety viewpoint, hempseed cake having low cannabinoid content can be a suitable source of crude protein and fiber in cattle feed while offering industrial hemp producers a potential market for this byproduct of hempseed oil extraction,” he went on to say.

Another study showed that cows fed hemp cake experience less stress. Research has also been conducted on CBD’s potential to relieve stress in horses.

Hemp and the FDA

Growing cannabis or hemp plants for alternative medicine.

Although the study on cows fed hemp cake shows that hemp could be a promising food source for animals, it is not yet authorized by the FDA.

Last year the organization sent a series of letters out to businesses that sell CBD animal products warning them that there’s “a lack of data on what levels of potential residues are safe for a person consuming foods that come from CBD-treated animals”.

The FDA is also frustrated by industry stakeholders who have not enacted rules regarding CBD in human food and dietary supplements. The organization noted that congressional action was necessary and bipartisan lawmakers have filed bills that would enact these rules if passed.

The press reached out to the FDA for a comment on the recent USDA study, but a representative was not available.

Other Research Concerning Cows Fed Hemp Cake and Related Matters

Cows-fed hemp cake is a trend that has evolved since hemp was federally legalized for growing under the 2018 Farm Bill. The USDA surveyed thousands of farmers to find out how the market changed since the bill went into effect.

The survey found that the crop was growing in value reaching $824 million in 2021. However, farmers reported that regulations were needed to promote future growth.

A federal rule was since approved that laid out regulations for the cannabis industry although some provisions were challenged by advocates.

Other advancements include the organization updating the survey to provide “unbiased, timely, and accurate data” on the hemp industry.

The organization also made moves to improve hemp business insurance policies to make them more responsive to stakeholder feedback.

The USDA also announced in 2021 that it would be partnering with a chemical manufacturing company on a two-year project that would expand the hemp cosmetic industry.

On the downside, the USDA announced in December that it would be delaying the enforcement of a rule requiring hemp to be tested at DEA-certified laboratories due to the facilities’ “inadequate” capacities.

Why Hemp is a Farmer’s Favorite

Farmer walking through a golden wheat field

While there are setbacks in forward movement, there are many reasons hemp is a farmer’s favorite. It’s no wonder cows fed hemp cakes are a growing trend. Here are some benefits to consider.

Carbon Sequestration: Carbon sequestration involves trapping carbon dioxide, a common air pollutant, into the soil so it’s not released into the atmosphere. Cambridge University research shows hemp Is more effective in trapping carbon than trees and other crops. It absorbs carbon from the moment it’s planted making it instrumental in reducing the greenhouse effect.

Cleans Soil: Bioremediation is a process in which living things are used to clean soil. Hemp is known for its ability to nourish and decontaminate soil. It was even used to absorb contaminants at Chernobyl, an area previously labeled as unsafe for growing due to a nuclear disaster.

Good Rotation Crop: Hemp has a deep taproot that turns over soil allowing nutrients to move through it. Its taproots also help it absorb water and nutrients, so it is drought resistant. It infuses the nutrients into the soil, loosening it and aerating it to ready it for the next crop.

It Saves the Bees: Bees pollinate plants making them essential to farming. They are also a natural source of honey for humans. Unfortunately, there has been a recent decline in the bee population. Hemp pollen serves as a food source for bees when no nectar is available.  Hemp also does not require pesticides that are dangerous to bees. This makes it a good option for farms wishing to maintain a bee population.