Hemp Oil Remains a Safe and Nutritious By-Product for Animal Feed

“Hemp Oil Remains a Safe and Nutritious By-Product for Animal Feed”

Scientists from the USDA Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and North Dakota State University (NDSU) recently made an interesting discovery regarding the use of hemp seed cake in animal feed. Their research revealed that when livestock consumed hemp seed cake, there were very low levels of cannabis chemicals (cannabinoids) retained in their muscle, liver, kidney, and adipose tissue.

However, despite the potential benefits, hemp seed cake cannot currently be legally used in animal feed due to the presence of cannabinoid residues, specifically cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), in edible animal tissues.

Hemp in Animal Feed

To determine the safety of using hemp seed as a source of protein and fiber in livestock feed, a team of researchers from USDA-ARS and NDSU, led by research physiologist David J. Smith, conducted a study on cattle fed hemp seed cake. The researchers found that the concentrations of CBD and THC in the meat products were significantly lower than the levels deemed safe for consumers by global regulatory organizations.

Cannabis plants have been used for various purposes, including fiber, food, and medicine, for thousands of years. While more than 80 cannabinoids are naturally found in the plant, the most well-known compounds are CBD and THC. The 2018 Farm Bill legalized the production of industrial hemp in the United States, as long as the hemp contains less than 0.3% THC. This low THC content distinguishes hemp from marijuana or medical cannabis strains, which can have a THC content of over 5%.

As industrial hemp continues to grow as an agricultural product in the U.S., companies now produce hemp seed oil with very low THC content (<0.01%). However, finding a market for hemp seed cake, a valuable by-product of oil extraction from the seed, remains a challenge for producers.

A Safe and Highly Nutritious Food Source

Hemp seed cake is highly nutritious and has been shown to be a viable alternative feed source for livestock. A study published in Food Additives & Contaminants, led by David J. Smith, involved groups of heifers being fed either a control diet or 111% hemp seed cake for 20 days. After the feeding period, the researchers measured cannabinoid residues in the liver, kidney, skeletal muscle, and adipose tissue of the animals at different time points.

The hemp seed cake used in the study had an average concentration of 1.3 ± 0.8 mg/kg of combined CBD and THC, which is 1/3000th of the legal threshold of 0.3% THC. Cannabinoid residues were sporadically detected in the urine and plasma of the cattle during the feeding period, and low levels (approximately 10 parts per billion) of combined CBD and THC were found in the adipose tissue of the cattle tested after consuming the hemp product.

“Based on our assessment, it would be very difficult for a human to consume enough fat from cattle-fed hemp seed cake to exceed regulatory guidelines for dietary exposure to THC,” said David J. Smith, researcher at the Agricultural Chemicals and Animal Metabolism Research Unit in Fargo, North Dakota. “From a food safety standpoint, low cannabinoid hemp seed cake can be a suitable source of crude protein and fiber in animal feed, while also providing an additional market for industrial hemp producers,” Smith added.

Source: phys.org (EN)

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