Barley's Blog

  • Diggin' In - What Is the Nutritional Value of Spent Grain?

    Hello, pals! After my pappy’s video on how barley becomes spent grain through the beer brewing process, we decided to – ahem – dig a little deeper.

    A lot of dog parents we meet at events ask if there is any nutritional benefit to barley spent grain. While we certainly are not food scientists or nutritionists, we never like simply saying, “We don’t know.” That’s why we asked our Events Specialist Megan to dig up some research on the nutritional value of spent grain. Here’s what she learned…

    Grasping Grain
    By Megan Painter, Barley Labs Events Specialist

    For the non-home brewers who are still beer lovers, brewers’ spent grain (BSG) may be a mystery to you—I know it was for me. Simply put, BSG is barley that has been soaking in water. This part of the brewing process is called “mashing.” Brewers take the water (now full of the sugars and proteins from the barley[1]), and Barley Labs takes the grain for dog treats. Brewers’ spent grain is what makes Barley Labs products unique—not only do the pups get to eat tasty treats, but also they are locally made from all-natural ingredients!

    Now, let’s get into the science. Ever wondered what the inside of a barley kernel looks like? Well, today’s your lucky day:

    Photo from Tom Young. "The Barley Kernel." Brewing. By Michael J. Lewis. 2012: n.p., n.d. 156. Print.

    According to some very smart scientists, both the husk and pericarp layers are the cell walls of the grain, and they contain a lot of cellulose (dietary fiber), polysaccharides (which can store energy in animals), protein and fat.[2] 

    Because of this, brewers’ spent grain is rich in protein and fiber, even though some of it goes into the water while steeping. In fact, the protein accounts for 20 percent and fiber accounts for 70 percent of BSG dry matter (the part of barley that is left over if all its water content were removed).[3] This is particularly relevant to Barley Labs dog treats because our process very nearly creates BSG dry matter. We oven bake our treats to kill off any bacteria and then dehydrate them to make them shelf stable, leaving them with very little moisture content.

    In our quest to uncover answers on the nutritional value of BSG, we obviously tried to find research specific to canine consumption. While we didn’t have much luck, we did find studies related to other, slightly larger animals.

    In our experience, brewers tend to be friends of both man and animal. Instead of just throwing away that leftover BSG, many of them donate it to local farmers to use as feed (our pals at Fullsteam do this). Because of this trend, there are more studies on cattle eating BSG than on our fur-kids. Additionally, there have been a few studies on the nutritional value for humans. Because dog stomachs are a tad bit more similar to human ones than cattle, let’s talk about the findings from the studies related to humans.

    Studies show that when the addition of BSG into a food product (meant for humans) is at around 15-20 percent, the color and texture of the food remains mostly the same BUT contains a higher amount of fiber and protein in the human body (like your own natural BeneFiber!).[4]  Furthermore, in 2009, a study proved that various sizes of BSG (ground finely or unground) can be used effectively in food for human consumption.[5]

    In a nutshell – or shall we say, barley kernel – BSG seems to be high in both fiber and protein, and the process we use to make our Barley Labs dog treats (oven baking/dehydrating) doesn’t affect those qualities. While we need more research on the nutritional value specific to dogs, we are confident that as long as your dog doesn’t have a grain allergy, giving them a beer-grain treat every once in a while is a fine tasty indulgence—just like my tasty indulgence is drinking a Foothills Hoppyum.

    _________________________________

    Sources:

    [1] Smith, Brad. "Steeping Grains for Extract Beer Brewing." BeerSmith Home Brewing Blog RSS. N.p., 22 Mar. 2009. Web. 28 July 2015.

    [2] Mussatto, S. I., G. Dragone, and I. C. Roberto. "Brewers' spent grain: generation, characteristics and potential applications." Journal of Cereal Science 43.1 (2006): 1-14.

    [3] McCarthy, Aoife L., et al. "Brewers' spent grain; bioactivity of phenolic component, its role in animal nutrition and potential for incorporation in functional foods: a review." Proceedings of the Nutrition Society 72.01 (2013): 117-125.

    [4] McCarthy, Aoife L., et al. "Brewers' spent grain; bioactivity of phenolic component, its role in animal nutrition and potential for incorporation in functional foods: a review." Proceedings of the Nutrition Society 72.01 (2013): 117-125.

    [5] McCarthy, Aoife L., et al. "Brewers' spent grain; bioactivity of phenolic component, its role in animal nutrition and potential for incorporation in functional foods: a review." Proceedings of the Nutrition Society 72.01 (2013): 117-125.

     

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