Corn Commentary

Corn Bran Takes the Cake

cakeYou can have your cake with more fiber and less fat and eat it too – with corn bran.

USDA’s Agricultural Research Service reports that white layer cakes can be made healthier by replacing some of the flour with finely ground corn bran without significantly undermining many of the qualities of this favorite treat.

Experiments done by USDA food technologist Mukti Singh determined that purified, finely ground corn bran can be used as a substitute for up to 20 percent of the flour called for in the American Association of Cereal Chemists’ “gold standard” test recipe for white cake.

The experiments found that using 20 percent corn bran fiber had no significant impact on qualities such as color or springiness and volunteer taste-tasters who sampled cake made with that amount of the fiber rated it as “acceptable” – which is good.

One slice of an 8-inch, 6-slice, two-layer white cake made with 20 percent corn bran fiber would provide about 5 grams of fiber, compared to about 1 gram from a conventional white layer cake. The USDA researcher say the corn bran recipe can be added to cakes that are prepared at commercial bakeries or to the boxed mixes sold for home bakers.

How to Write Like an Angry GMO Expert

judeDr. Jude Capper is a livestock sustainability consultant, professor of animal sciences, and a “bovidiva” according to her blog of the same name.

Last week she did a great post entitled “Activism 101 – How to Write Like An Angry Internet “Expert” on GMOs.” An asterisk after the word “expert” points to a footnote:

*Note that being an “expert” does not involve education, higher degrees or being employed within the industry in question. Nowadays you can only be an expert if you are entirely impartial, third-party, and preferably know nothing whatsoever about the system in question. On that basis, I’m off to write a book about Zen Dentistry.

She offers nine points on how to write like an angry GMO expert, the final one being – “If all else fails, invoke the name of the evil that must be named….ahem, Monsanto. If you say it three times into a mirror, an ancient agricultural god will appear and wreak vengeance upon the earth. Honestly, I saw it on Oprah.”

Jude is hilarious, satirical, and often outrageous and if so much of this blog post were not sadly true it would be a lot funnier.

Read it and weep or LOL – or both.

Chick-Fil-A Makes a Bitter Blunder

Chick-Fil-A announced that, like so many others before it, the company will make the myth-based marketing maneuver to remove high fructose corn syrup from its sauce. Instead of standing for sound science and maintaining the current quality of its astoundingly popular products, these big chickens have bowed to the bogus peer pressure cited by brands when hitching their image to the anti-HFCS hype.

As Corn Commentary has pointedly examined so many times before, all sweeteners, whether they come from cane, corn or beet, are equally safe when consumed in moderation. No reputable research proves HFCS poses additional problems. No well-informed person would believe the haters’ hype after thoughtfully dissecting the data.

Yet Chick-Fil-A portends the play to be a result of consumer concerns. Whether their marketing mavens foolishly fell for the sugar industries’ self-interested simulation of actual angst or they generated the faux fears to mask the fatty truth, Chick-Fil-A is slipping on the Spanx and donning the holier-than-thou anti-HFCS halo to make itself more attractive.

Let’s show them that consumers won’t fall for their mock makeover. Tweet @ChickfilA today letting to let them know that American diners won’t be duped. Just because Chick-Fil-A doesn’t sweeten their sauce with HFCS their profits won’t grow fatter. #BitterBlunder.

World Food Prize Overload

wfp-flagI’m still suffering from World Food Prize sensory and information overload. If you have never been to this event, you really should go. It is amazing to see and hear farmers, philanthropists, entrepreneurs and researchers from so many nations gathered together for the central cause of feeding people.

World Food Prize Foundation president Ambassador Kenneth M. Quinn says the event has grown so much from the first one-day symposium held in 1987. “We had more people registered this year for the symposium,” he said. “After we got beyond 1200 I almost stopped counting because I wasn’t sure where we were going to put folks!” In addition, there were 350 students and teachers at the event and over 700 attended the Iowa Hunger Summit earlier in the week, a new record.

Quinn marvels at what the World Food Prize has become. “We’ve been able to get to where people now say it’s the Nobel Prize for food and agriculture, and some people say it’s the premier conference in the world on global agriculture and one of the most unique programs to inspire young people,” he said, adding that the Prize was sponsored by General Foods in the very beginning and taken over by Iowa businessman and philanthropist, John Ruan. Interview with WFP President Kenneth Quinn

The 2013 event brought speakers such as Former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair and philanthropist/farmer Howard G. Buffett who joined in announcing new initiatives to address conservation, hunger and poverty issues in Africa.

wfp-13-buffett-blairFor one, the Howard G. Buffett Foundation has formed a partnership with John Deere and DuPont Pioneer to promote conservation agriculture adoption and support smallholders and sustainable farming in Africa. The effort will be piloted in Ghana and include a conservation-based, mechanized product suite developed by John Deere; a system of cover crops and improved inputs from DuPont Pioneer; and support for adoption and training on conservation-based practices by the Howard G. Buffett Foundation.

Additionally, Blair announced a collaboration between his Africa Governance Initiative (AGI), the Howard G. Buffett Foundation, and the World Food Prize Foundation to launch the 40 Chances Fellows program – inspired by Buffett’s book, “40 Chances: Finding Hope in a Hungry World” – to encourage innovation in developing market‐based approaches that address food insecurity.

40 Chances Panel discussion
Blair and Buffett Press Conference

They tell me there were a handful of activists outside protesting the World Food Prize honoring of biotechnology, but I never saw them. What I did see inside was lots of positive energy focused on new ways and ideas to feed people. Not “the world” or a “growing planet” – it’s about feeding PEOPLE in the best, most efficient, most productive and most sustainable ways possible.

2013 World Food Prize photos

Sugar Spins a Scary Story, but Science Sheds Its Less-than-Sweet Trick

costumed pug dogA new study released just yesterday  confirms what many have already known for a while now – There’s no need to look for candy labeled “No HFCS” in your little trick-or-treaters sack of loot this year. It’s fine to let them enjoy their bounty of colorful candies not matter which sugar makes them sweet: corn, cane or beet.

The timely tome, released in Nutritional Journal, found that consumption of fat and glucose increased in the United States between 1970 and 2009, but the consumption of fructose accounted for only 1.3 percent of the rise in calorie intake in that period.  Thus, the study again pulls the mask off of the myth that fructose is in some way uniquely tied to the rising trend toward obesity in this county.

HFCS isn’t the dietary boogeyman. Instead, creepy corn-haters have whipped up an illusion that tricks people into believing that avoiding HFCS would drive a stake through the heart of obesity. Much like vampires though, the entire story is nothing but a whimsical fairytale concocted to keep those who would believe it right in the palm of the storyteller’s hand.

No one demon can be exorcised to cure the problem of obesity because, like most things in real life, it is complex and action requires real work and knowledge. Moderation and exercise may not conjure the same fascination as a titillating tale of dietary demons, but they do get results that last long after the last candy corn finally makes its way out of the dish.

This Halloween, don’t fear your food. Enjoy the fruits of hard-earned trick-or-treating labors as much as the corny jokes with which they were earned. HFCS doesn’t cast some magic spell on your metabolism. That story is as false as the little vampire at your doors fangs.

Controlling Aflatoxin in Africa

DSC_1615Behind this pretty, innocent face is the mind of a brilliant researcher who was honored last week at the World Food Prize for her work in helping to make the maize crop in Africa safer for animals and humans.

Dr. Charity Kawira Mutegi, a 38-year-old researcher from Kenya, received the 2013 Norman Borlaug Award for Field Research and Application in recognition of her efforts to find the cause and a solution to a 2004-05 outbreak of aflatoxicosis in her country which killed 125 people who consumed contaminated grain.

Dr. Mutegi is leading efforts for the development of a biocontrol product in Kenya that can be used to significantly reduce aflatoxin levels in maize by introducing naturally occurring non-toxic strains of the fungus, which have a competitive advantage over the strains that produce the deadly aflatoxin. The technology was developed by USDA’s Agriculture Research Service and locally adapted for use in several African countries. The microbial bio pesticide she and her team are developing – “aflasafe KE01” – is affordable for farmers, is natural and environmentally safe, and once applied to a field, the effects last multiple growing seasons, making it extremely effective.

Listen Dr. Mutegi talk about her research during a World Food Prize press conference: Dr. Charity Mutegi remarks

2013 World Food Prize photos

CommonGround Wisconsin Dishes on Dairy

Today, Corn Commentary features a guest post from CommonGround Wisconsin volunteer and blogger Kim Bremmer.

students with calf_8130 (2)What a fun morning in Alma Center, Wisconsin with two buses full of high school students, teachers and the school nutritionist for an informal discussion about food!  Pfaffway Farm was our wonderful host and is home to over 200 milking cows and youngstock.  Kristin Pfaff wanted to host an event about modern food production, showcase an actual farm, and be able to answer any questions the students might have about modern farming today.

The students were given donated milk, cheese curds and Craisins as they were seated on straw bale benches.  A questionaire was handed out earlier in the week at school and our discussion was focused accordingly around their answers.

We answered questions about the overall safety of food today and how technology has changed over time.  We spent a lot of time discussing GMO’s and handed out the Common Ground info-graph to everyone.  Many of the kids had concerns about the safety of GMO’s today and it was quite apparent  the influence that main stream media has. We had examples of different foods and talked at length about food labels and what they mean.  “Organic”, “All Natural”, “Hormone Free”, “Antibiotic Free” were all covered as well as r-BST, animal care concerns, and salmonella.

It was a lively group of young consumers with a lot of great questions and great discussion.  Even the adults in the group all commented on how much they learned.  Our final message was about keeping an open mind and always asking an expert when it comes to where your food comes from…the farmers and ranchers who are producing food for their own families and yours.  And more information can always be found at findourcommonground.com!

Pfaff Family _8122 (2)

A Bitter Rant with Bitter Consequences

Daily news stories rail against attempts by the foodie elite to dictate the diets of Main Street Americans. From parents protesting school lunch menus to New Yorkers rallying in defense of the Big Gulp, average citizens stand firmly in support of their right to make decisions and ardently defend their personal freedoms.

Yet, with carefully crafted theories and a plethora of plausible-yet-false facts, New York Times writer Mark Bittman gets away with forcing his theories about the redistribution of wealth, land and scrapping the basic ideals of the right to property and freedom of choice. He wants Americans to buy into his supposed “paradigm shift,” a regressive jump back to a pre-specialization of labor economy, and therefore aide in his effort to dictate diets not just to Americans but also to the rest of the world.

Bittman’s bitter tirade represents not only an agenda-driven, slanted view of modern agriculture heavily reliant upon idealized imagery but also an ongoing intellectual trend toward a world of pseudo-imperialism that would allow cultural dictators to rule over Americans and the international community alike. Displeased with how a dispersion of power and innovation has left their theoretical musings impotent, Bittman and his self-aggrandizing elitist posse cunningly plot to play on fear of the unknown, of all things “big,” of change, to gain support which, once firmly garnered, they would use to create their own utopia of the urban and urbane literati.

Know that this utopia does not take into account the realities of life most Americans face. It does not account for a lack of land, a lack of time or even a climate lacking the conditions needed to actually grow a crop. It does not account for land ownership, the ability of either farmers or consumers to make choices or the economic reality that those who grow food and those who purchase it know intimately.

While he hits on many touching topics, invoking the plight of the poor, the disenfranchised and the unjustly treated, he does these groups no substantial good. In forming his fix for a system he knows little about, he ignores the deeper issues surrounding food waste and productivity. He ignores personal choice and takes the idea of food security for granted in a way which early Americans never possibly could.

So, stand up! If each of us rallies against these covert attacks on the freedoms which make our country and our lives great as hard as we stand up in defense of their more obvious counterparts, we can make a difference. Theory and idealism have a place, but they do not put food on the table when they fail to account for reality and value the rights of individuals.

Tell the foodie elites like Bittman to close the doors on their intellectual imperialist dinner party. Tell them Main Street refuses to accept their invitation.

Newspaper’s Credibility At Issue

In 36 years of being directly involved in agriculture and the issues that make it so…interesting, frustrating, rewarding, and painful…I have only seen one positive story written about the issues effecting the profession, especially ethanol, in the Chicago Tribune. I remain convinced to this day that it was a mistake that slipped by editors and that the cub reporter responsible is driving a cab in the Loop and speaking in tongues.

I think it is ok to say this Windy City pub never met a farm policy or ethanol issue they didn’t like to bash, facts aside. Apparently farmers are immune to the whims of business considerations like making enough to pay the bills and plant another crop. Why else would the Trib opine that farmers are getting more for their corn after a 25 year economic drought that saw farmers getting $2 to $2.50 a bushel regardless of real world cost or demand? (Let alone make such comments in the wake of prices just dropping 40 percent).

So, following their direction, I guess all of you farmers can get off your combines and retire. Apparently you have spent your entire life, not to mention several generations, involved in the most under appreciated hobby in history. No more production of food, feed, or fiber. No more ethanol fuel because we are just going to continue to depend on prickly and dangerous oil producing nations for their finite black gold.

On a more serious note, I think the Tribune needs to be called on the carpet for the sham they have been selling to the public for years that they have a pro-business/pro-jobs position.

Despite dozens of third party experts bringing them information backed by science that exposes the errors in their thinking the Trib, especially its editorial writers, remain steadfast in their spewing of misinformation and loathing of ethanol despite its emergence as a critical economic engine in much of the U.S. Are these folks not suspicious or troubled at all by the millions of dollars being spent by the petroleum industry in recent years to damage the reputation of ethanol. One of the tenants of good journalism is to follow the money in trying to understand societal issues. Clearly Goliath is trying to squash David and somebody should be asking why.

Here are a few of the factual perversions in their latest diatribe:

  • Farmers are not planting as much corn as possible. In fact we are 20 million acres shy of planting the acres we did in the 1920s.
  • The Trib notes we use 40% of the corn crop to make ethanol. Actually we use the equivalent of only 27% of the crop because only the starch from the corn kernel is used to make ethanol. The protein for livestock feed is concentrated, easier to transport and a high value product.
  • Blaming corn for higher meat prices is also off base. Declining domestic meat consumption and the outrageous cost of transportation of all food products to market – thank you big oil – has something to do with that.
  • Plant diseases and pests are nothing new. Farmers deal with them all the time and do so very well thank you. Goss’s wilt that you reference touches only 10% of the corn crop, and is far from being devastating, unless of course you fall in the 10%.
  • And did you actually criticize crop insurance in one breath while also intimating we should take away a farmer’s ability to choose what to plant? That will make the kids want to return to the farm business.

Bridging the Gap between Farm Gates and America’s Plates

Looking at the myriad of activities NCGA and so many other organizations conduct to help share the story of farming with consumers, one might wonder about the impact on public opinion. Today, a blog post by Rajean Blomquist provided clear, concise evidence that open, real conversations between the women who grow food and those who purchase it make a difference.

Blomquist attended a dinner organized by CommonGround Colorado last month. While there, she had a chance to meet the farm women who volunteer their time and share their stories to help consumers understand how their food is grown and raised.

Speaking of that night, Blomquist recounts the impression of America’s farmers she has following her conversations.

“These farm women spoke passionately about their jobs, their families, the history of their farms – most are third and fourth generation farmers. To me, that speaks volumes of their dedication to bring us the freshest, safest food.  They spoke of feeding their families what they and their fellow farming friends grow, the best proof I need to know they won’t sell it if they don’t eat it.  Their clear skin, bright eyes, nice teeth, and hair told me they appear to be healthy from the inside out. There are an enormous amount of regulations in the farm industry. No doubt, farmers work harder than most people before many of us raise our heads off our pillows in the mornings.”

To read the full post, click here.

This may only seem like one person, but Blomquist shares her story too. Through her blog, the volunteers reach women not only across Colorado but also around the world.

The world grows more connected by the day as bloggers and social media users reach a global community on the web. The conversations about food and farming in this space have a ripple effect. One person’s impression can touch many more people in further flung places than anyone could have imagined only a few decades ago.

Someone is telling your story – the story of farming in America. Working together, we can make sure that more thoughtful, concerned voices, voices like Blomquist, hear it first from a farmer.



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