In a landmark move, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved Bovaer® – a feed ingredient that reduces enteric methane emissions from dairy cows – for use in the United States. What is the significance of this decision, and why is it so significant? Leah Wilkinson, Vice President of Public Policy & Education at the American Feed Industry Association (AFIA), shares her views.

Last month, I participated in the “State of the Science Summit” at the University of California, Davis, where more than 250 experts came together to discuss the research, applicability, and regulatory challenges in enteric emissions reduction strategies in animal agriculture. The global “who’s who” in the room collectively acknowledged feeding strategies as playing a very important part in reducing enteric emissions. However, U.S. attendees remained reluctant to get their hopes up since there were no approved feed ingredients for this intended use available in the market.  

Less than a week later, the “who’s who” was pleased to find out that the Food and Drug Administration Center for Veterinary Medicine (CVM) took action and announced its intention to utilize enforcement discretion for certain animal drug requirements for Bovaer®. Bovaer® is a feed ingredient approved in 58 other countries that can now be marketed in the United States for the reduction of enteric methane in lactating dairy cows. What a huge step forward for the animal food industry and the U.S. dairy industry!  

The summit detailed the pressure governments, companies, and ruminant producers are under to implement science-based practices to reduce enteric emissions. These practices need to be applicable to the producer, achieve the necessary reduction goal, be cost-effective, maintain food security, and most importantly, have the confidence of the consumer that the practice is safe and achieves the intended effect.  

Feed strategies are an important part of reducing enteric emissions, but they are likely not the silver bullet. The summit explored the latest in vaccines, animal breeding and genetics, grazing techniques, and animal production efficiencies.

While it was evident that no one practice alone can meet the goal of reducing enteric emissions, feed strategies stand as one of the solutions closest to being available for on-farm applications, and if these newer feed ingredients can access a clearer path to regulatory approval, they can build on other practices.

That’s where the American Feed Industry Association comes in. Back in 2020, we asked the CVM to modernize its policy to regulate products that claim environmental benefits as “foods” instead of “drugs.” Last week, the CVM officially rescinded its policy, clearing the path for Bovaer®, and we hope it will clear the way for other animal foods that can reduce enteric methane emissions.  

Legislation is still needed to provide the CVM with a clear pathway to approve these products and not live in the “enforcement discretion” gray area forever. The “who’s who” on the topic wants to live in the clear, not in the fog of unclear regulatory authority. Passing the Innovative FEED Act will give producers and consumers the clarity to know that these novel products are safe and achieve the intended effect.  

It is refreshing to see the world’s experts come together to discuss this important issue and work toward practical solutions. Humanity is looking to us for solutions, and it’s our time to step up.

Can the feed industry help reduce enteric emissions? Absolutely. Now, with the help of the CVM and Congress, hopefully, many more can see that it is possible to navigate the dark tunnel of regulatory approval to bring these much-needed solutions to animal agriculture.  

Revised from an original blog posted on AFIA Feed Bites.