Crop Watch Season Finale: The Best Part

As the 2013 Crop Season comes to a close, so does our Crop Watch video series. In this final episode, you’ll get details on this year’s harvest and get overall reactions on the 2013 growing season.

Find out how our four farm families fared during harvest in the finale episode of Crop Watch!

By: Garry Gard, Grain Manager at Didion Milling

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Gluten-Free, Naturally!

Corn is naturally gluten-free right off the stalk. That makes it the perfect ingredient in a wide variety of gluten-free applications. Corn can help increase protein levels and replace wheat protein functionality. Various grains and starches can be used to get gluten-free products closer to the desired functionality and taste profile of gluten-containing foods, but few are as cost effective and label friendly as corn.

Corn’s naturally gluten-free properties don’t guarantee that all corn products on the market are gluten free. Some are processed in a facility that handles gluten materials. Grains can become mixed to some degree in the distribution channel. It’s difficult for multi-grain manufacturers to make sure their products are wheat free. Corn, because of its distribution channel, has minimal risk of cross contamination; especially when manufactured in a gluten-free facility. Our quality assurance team tests products to make sure they’re within gluten-free guidelines as well as customer specifications.

Corn flours are a great candidate for gluten-free recipes, bringing protein and starch to the recipe. That makes it a great ingredient for pasta applications. Viscosity-controlled corn flour provides a more uniform product in kneading machines and automated dough processing equipment. Our pregels – corn flour that’s been heat and moisture treated to give it specific properties – have great binding properties and provides stabilizing functionality. It all depends on the formula you’re putting together.

Corn bran brings fiber to the label and aids in moisture retention with its high water-binding capacity. It binds water more efficiently compared to carbohydrates. It also keeps starch from leaching out during boiling.

What about corn gluten? It contains different proteins than wheat gluten. Wheat, like other cereal grains, contains more than 100 different proteins.  Two specific wheat proteins, gliaden and glutenin, have been shown to cause sensitivity. These two proteins are not found in corn. While there is a corn gluten protein, it has not been associated with the health issues caused by wheat gluten.

By: John Deininger, Quality Assurance Manager at Didion Milling

Thank You, Farmers!

The holiday season is the perfect time to recognize those that help put food on America’s table. November 20 is “Thank a Farmer” Day, a time to honor the 22 million Americans who work on farms or in farm-related jobs.  Our farmers are extremely efficient – today the average U.S. farmer feeds 155 people a day, both in the United States and abroad.  They achieve this while also using sustainable growing practices to preserve their cropland for the next generation of farmers.  At Didion, we are proud to partner with our producers to help feed and fuel the world.

For more information about Thank a Farmer Day, visit www.thankafarmer.org.

By Garry Gard, Grain Manager at Didion Milling

Crop Watch Season Finale Trailer

Its harvest time in Wisconsin! Our Crop Watch farm families are busy combining their corn and we’re excited to share the results with you soon. With the close of the 2013 growing season comes the close of the 2013 Crop Watch video series. Stay tuned for the finale episode of Crop Watch coming soon! In the meantime, check out the finale episode trailer:

By: Garry Gard, Grain Manager at Didion Milling

Corn Milling 101 Part 3: Cleaning, Cracking & Sifting

The first step in corn processing is cleaning. We remove any cobs or stalks and sort out broken kernels using a screener and separator. Then the corn goes through a magnet to pull out any remaining foreign material. When the cleaning process is finished, the whole corn kernels should be all that’s left.

The clean, whole kernel corn is then sent to the tempering system to loosen the skin, otherwise known as bran or pericarp. A small amount of water is added to the corn and then it sits in a holding tank for a period of time.

After the skin has been loosened, the corn goes to Didion’s degermination system. The corn is cracked into large pieces. During this process, the loose skin comes off the kernel and the germ pops out. For more information on the parts of the corn kernel, check out Milling 101 Part 2: Where Our Food and Fuel Products Come From.

The fractionated pieces are sifted to sort out any fine, floury materials. These soft, starchy pieces are sent to our ethanol plant because they are optimal for fermentation. For more information on how we maximize every kernel of corn through the partnership between our dry corn mill and ethanol plant, check out Milling 101 Part 1: A Fresh Look at Corn Milling.

Next, the bran is removed using an aspiration system. Then it is transferred to its own system within the mill. The remaining starch goes through a series of grinding and sifting. Pieces are sorted using wire screens of various sizes to separate “unders” or “fines” from the “overs” and “select” pieces. These terms refer to where the pieces sit on the wire screens during sifting.

The fines go to the ethanol plant for fermentation while the overs and select pieces are used to make food products in the dry corn mill. Our millers prefer the select size pieces, which is a nice center cut of the kernel. These “center cut” pieces are made from the hard starch. This enables our millers to make a very consistent finished product for customers and product consumers. This is part of the Didion Difference.

By: Curt Miller, Corn Milling Operations Manager at Didion Milling

Going Whole Grain

Consumers are increasingly seeking healthy food products and food manufacturers are continuing to invest in research and development to meet this need. Why? Many people consume too calories and too much sugar, fat and sodium.

Among these changing product formulations is the use of whole grains. The USDA recommends that half of all grains consumed be whole grains but most Americans are barely eating one serving of whole grain per day and nine out of ten Americans aren’t getting enough whole grain.

Research shows that eating whole grains as part of a healthy diet can improve heart health, weight management and diabetes management, while reducing risks of some cancers. Additional studies have shown that children and adolescents that eat cereal for breakfast have a lower Body Mass Index and waist circumference than those who don’t eat cereal at breakfast or who skip breakfast.

Many cereal companies are trying to include whole grain more than any other ingredient at a minimum level of 10 grams per serving up to 16 grams per serving.

Another area American diets fall short is in fiber consumption. Dietary fiber is important to digestive health and can help curb hunger. Some research suggests that people who have a higher intake of fiber also tend to have a healthier body weight.

The FDA and USDA are creating new goals to improve health and nutrition claim criteria for food products. Food reformulations are also changing because food processors are responding to USDA standards for K-12 school meals, which include meeting whole grain requirements.

Consumers are reading food labels more than ever, so food manufacturers are asking for more recognizable, label-friendly ingredients, like corn.

In response to this, Didion Milling has added whole grain to their family of corn products, specifically made for the cereal market.

Another emerging whole grain need is adding fiber from whole grain ingredients into foods that people are already eating, rather than creating new whole-grain-based foods. This is especially prevalent in cereals and snack foods, both popular applications for Didion’s dry milled corn.

Whole grain corn is an economical, label-friendly way to add whole grain to products. To learn more about Didion’s whole grain corn flour visit our website.

By: Riley Didion, Sales Manager at Didion Milling

Corn Milling 101 Part 2: Where Our Food & Fuel Products Come From

Food and fuel start with the corn kernel and its four unique parts: the endosperm, pericarp, germ and tip cap. We use those four parts of the corn kernel to make grits, meals, flours, brans, pregelatinized flours and whole grain corn flours; as well as ethanol.

Parts of the kernel

Endosperm – The endosperm carries most of the dry weight of the kernel. This part of the kernel contains starch, which is commonly used in food. The endosperm provides the starch necessary to produce sugar molecules for ethanol production. Products that come from this part are grits, meals and flours. Flour is the finest out of all three products made from the endosperm and grits are coarsest.

Pericarp – This part is the outer covering of the kernel that shields it from bugs. It also preserves the nutrient value of the inside. The pericarp is used for corn bran found in everyday foods.

Germ – The germ is the only living part of the kernel and is the centermost piece. This part stores genetic information, enzymes, vitamins and minerals for the kernel so it can grow when it is on the ear. Twenty-five percent of the germ is oil, making it one of the most valuable parts of the kernel.

Tip cap – This part attaches the kernel to the cob. Water and nutrients flow through here to help the kernel alive.

Whole kernel – We grind the whole corn kernel down to a specific granulation to make our whole grain corn flour.

By: Dow Didion, President of Didion Milling

Crop Watch Episode #3: Where Corn is Comfortable

In this episode of Crop Watch, we will visit all four of our farmers to learn how their crops are faring this summer and get an update on crop pollination.

Our next episode will feature all four farms and their on-farm storage systems and corn marketing plans.

Listed below are definitions to some of the terms that will be brought up in this episode:

  • Tasseling – Emergence of the male flowers at the top of the corn stalk that pollinate the ear, creating corn kernels
  • Pollination – The transfer of pollen from the male flowers on the tassel to the female silk to form corn kernels
  • Silking – Pollinated silks form from the ear to fertilize each potential corn kernel. Each corn kernel on the cob has its own silk strand

For more information about corn pollination visit the UW-Extension website.

By: Garry Gard, Grain Manager at Didion Milling