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Food waste in the grain industry

Closeup of chaff spreader on combine harvester harvesting cornfield. Corn trash of cobs, stalks, and debris thrown from rear of combine

Did you know there is very little food waste in the grain industry, and specifically, very little waste on a grain farm? Across Ontario, grain farmers are working hard to harvest Ontario’s soybean and corn crops this fall. And, after harvest, grains will be sold to be used in our everyday lives in many different ways that help eliminate any grain wastage.

How do grain farms limit their food waste?

Food waste is food that is not eaten and can occur throughout the food chain including on a farm. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) estimates that one-third of food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted worldwide.

The grain industry and grain farmers can use many parts of a grain plant to minimize our food waste on and off the farm.

During harvest, a combine will separate the seeds from a plant and spread the leaves, stalks, pods, and other plant parts on the field. This leftover material is used as a natural fertilizer for the soil. The leftovers from barley, oat, and wheat crops are also sometimes gathered up to be used as straw bedding for animals.

After harvest, grains are made into a variety of food, household goods, and other everyday items. There are a lot of uses for all parts of the seed to again minimize food waste!

For example, in ethanol production, corn kernels are used to create the ethanol, and the leftover kernel parts are saved, dried, and sold as dried distiller’s grains (DDG). Basically, these DDG are sold to feed mills to be used as part of animal feed!

Furthermore, when wheat seeds are being milled into flour for bread, pastries, and cookies,  there are a lot of left-over parts of the seed that go unused in the flour process. The wheat bran, wheat germ and oil, and wheat shorts are removed during the milling process and can either be added back into the flour mixtures, sold as-is (wheat bran) or added to animal feed.

Ontario grain farmers, and the grain industry involved in the food chain, are working hard to ensure the food or grain products are used and not wasted. There are constant innovations to use more and more of the plant parts to ensure extra or leftover pieces of grain don’t end up in landfills or go unused.

These practices and priorities are examples of how Ontario grain farmers and the grain industry are working hard to protect our environment.