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Waste not, want not (Bob Pass - Diageo)

In the latest in his series Richard Jones talks to Bob Pass marketing and technical manager, animal feeds for Diageo
By Richard Jones
There’s not really a pattern to my job,” begins Bob Pass, marketing and technical manager for animal feeds at Diageo. One day I might have a meeting with government representatives on legal
matters, the next I could be visiting one of our grain drying plants to discuss process improvements. Today I’m in the office, but last week I was showing a delegation from the Susuki Beef Cattle Farm in Japan around our distilleries in Speyside.“Using the draff (left over grain from the mash tun) and pot ale (the protein-rich residue from the wash still) from all the Diageo Scotch whisky distilleries, we produce around 200,000 tonnes of animal feed a year, more than enough to feed the entire dairy cow industry in Scotland.“The amount of draff and pot ale produced at our distilleries varies from around 800 tonnes a year at a small facility like Royal Lochnagar, through to nearly 90,000 at our giant grain distillery, Cameronbridge.“A number of distilleries such as Glenkinchie, Lagavulin and Talisker sell moist grains (untreated draff) direct to local merchants. However we also operate three grain drying facilities, which help to
improve the shelf-life of the product and reduce transportation costs, which means it can be sold over a much wider area.”According to Bob, the Scotch whisky industry as a whole produces around 750,000 tonnes of animal feed annually, and the vast majority finds its way into the dairy and beef industry.“This figure represents approximately 25 per cent of the United Kingdom’s requirements for manufactured sheep and cattle, or about 10 to 15 per cent of the total dietary requirements for the
cattle population.“The feed we produce is an extremely useful source of nutrients, protein and energy for an animal, an important part of a balanced diet. It’s a simple, wholesome food, derived entirely from cereal and yeast – with complete traceability back to the distillery where it originated. It’s known as dark grains and normally sold in compressed pellet form.”Turning a by-product of the whisky making process into something useful that can be sold for hard cash is a pretty nifty idea but it’s hardly original.“Draff in its moist form has been used direct from distilleries as animal feed since at least 1788,” Bob observes.“The first drying plants were introduced in the early 1900s, but they really took off in the 1960s. Dark grain plants were built to cope with the large volumes of pot ale being produced, which you obviously can’t just flush away in rivers. It’s a very dilute material containing around four per cent solids, a bit like a beer but without the alcohol.“In our two dark grain plants it’s evaporated into a Marmite-like substance known as pot ale syrup. The syrup is then combined with the dried grain to produce a feed with a higher nutritional value than wheat grain alone.”Because of the scale of Diageo’s animal feeds operation, it is not normally sold direct to individual farmers.“I’m responsible for all the contract negotiations and I usually deal with local merchants on the moist grains (direct from the distilleries) side of the business, and national distributors for the dried products.“However our dried feeds also find their way further afield, barley dark grains are popular in Belgium for their Belgium Blue breed of cattle, and the Susuki Beef Cattle Farm in Japan (whose visit to Speyside I mentioned earlier) supply them to their Kobe beef cattle.“The animals themselves are a cross between the indigenous Wagyu and, would you believe it, the Aberdeen Angus. Kobe beef is famed throughout Japan for its high quality and no expense is spared in their production (including, according to tradition, actually massaging the animals), so it’s a real sign of the quality of our product that it has been chosen to feed their cattle.”Although he’s too modest to admit it, Bob is one of the leading figures in this unique area of the whisky industry and has recently co-written a chapter on this field in the comprehensive book Whisky:
Technology, Production and Marketing.“I advise people on technical and legal matters relating to whisky production and animal feeds,” he remarks.“In many ways animal feeds are more tightly regulated than foods destined for human consumption. There’s a lot of legislation, particularly from Europe and I try to ascertain what the consequences of proposed initiatives will be on the industry as a whole.”Despite his defiantly English accent, Bob has been working in this position and based in Scotland for more than 25 years.“It’s been jolly good fun,” he declares, “Even after all this time things are always moving. I’m currently involved with some trial work with the Scottish Agricultural College looking at ways to add
value to dried feeds. It’s an absolutely fascinating business.”