Ethanol Co-Products

Distillers grains and other valuable components of the global animal feed market are “co-products” of renewable fuel production—and a vital contributor to the industry’s bottom line.


Sophisticated grain ethanol production facilities have been utilizing engineering and design enhancements, new process technologies, automation upgrades, and other advances to make remarkable gains in efficiency  to extract more out of each bushel of corn.



U.S. ethanol biorefiners produce distillers grains, gluten feed and gluten meal. These bio-products are valuable corn and soybean meal substitutes in rations used around the world to feed beef and dairy cows, pigs, chickens, turkeys, fish and other animals. In addition, ethanol plants extract corn distillers oil – an important market underpinning the production of biodiesel and animal feed.

Now fully under the regulatory oversight of the U.S. Food & Drug Administration, ethanol plants are required to comply with preventive controls requirements as mandated by the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA).

This federal rule requires covered facilities to follow current good manufacturing practices for animal food production and have a written food safety plan that includes an analysis of hazards and risk-based controls. These preventive controls provide a formal assurance to buyers around the world that American ethanol co-products continue to be safe feed ingredients.

Ethanol Plants Capturing Carbon Dioxide

Biogenic carbon dioxide (CO₂) is captured by about a quarter of U.S. ethanol producers and is used for everything from beverage carbonization and meat processing to wastewater treatment and dry ice production. In 2021, RFA's member producers unanimously pledged to produce ethanol with net-zero carbon emissions, on average, by 2050 or sooner. Lowering carbon emissions can be achieved with workable improvements both on the farm and at the biorefinery, especially with renewable energy use and carbon capture and sequestration.

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