News & Media
Beer is Agriculture
by Bill Young, Senior Director, Health Policy and Regulatory Affairs
Enjoying a cold beer with family and friends is a simple pleasure, especially in times like now when things we once considered routine, like restocking the beer supply in our fridge, no longer seem quite so easy. Fortunately, the delivery of beer to retail shelves will continue through this pandemic because breweries have been designated essential to the nation’s food supply chain.
By U.S. government definition, all beverages – including beer – are considered food. Beer is an important agricultural product, and brewers and farmers have a highly synergistic relationship with a global footprint.
Brewers depend heavily on farmers because, without a consistent supply of high-quality grains and hops, one cannot ensure the production of quality beer. The primary ingredients of beer include water, yeast, hops, and fermentable grains–including barley, corn, rice, rye, wheat, oats, sorghum, and spelt. Barley is the most widely used grain in beer production, and each year barley farmers plant 3.5 million acres of barley – enough to produce 190 million barrels of beer. That’s more than 62 billion 12 oz. servings of beer.
Farmed ingredients are a complex system for every brewer, who must work in close partnership with an array of farmers to meet the specialty needs for every beer. The complexity even extends to working with growers on fermentable grain and hop breeding programs. Over the last decade, Anheuser-Busch alone spent more than $5.5 billion purchasing ingredients directly from hundreds of U.S. farms.
Farmers also depend on brewers. The livelihoods of thousands of independent farmers around the world depend on supplying beer’s ingredients. Farmers also rely on scientific support from brewers to improve farming techniques and crop yields. For example, Molson Coors Beverage Company has invested more than $20 million over the last decade, working with farmers to future-proof their crops and ensure they have the tools and resources to adapt to changing conditions.
Brewers and farmers also have a strong tradition of working together to improve farming. Brewers and farmers work closely together on many sustainability initiatives, including soil and water quality improvements, water measurement technology investments, and weather monitoring. Brewers also help farmers adapt to changing conditions and ensure they have the tools and resources to mitigate the effects of climate change.
This relationship between beer and agriculture is not new. In fact, archaeologists believe that in some regions of the word, brewing was the initial underlying motivation to cultivate cereal grains, which now feed populations across the globe.
So, as your crack open your next refreshingly cold beer, take a minute to toast the farmers and brewers who help bring us little moments of joy in a time when simple pleasures mean so much.
The Beer Institute
440 First Street NW
Washington, DC 20001