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Grains: More than food!

Ontario grains are found in, or make, many of the foods that we eat on a daily basis. Whether it’s oatmeal made with oats, or pizza dough made with wheat, grains can be incorporated into almost every meal.

But did you know, grains are used for so much more than food?

Let’s take a look at the five grains Ontario grain farmers grow, and some of the non-edible products they produce!


This fibrous grain is primarily used for both human and livestock consumption. In fact, 60 per cent of barley grown in Ontario goes to animal feed (mainly for cattle), and 37 per cent goes towards food for human and pet consumption. Barley is one of the main ingredients in fish and other pet foods. It is high in protein and is easier for fish to digest and use. A small portion of the barley grown is intended to be used as seed and re-sold to farmers to plant in future growing seasons. Studies have shown that barley straw has some unique qualities that can be beneficial in limiting or slowing down algae growth in water.


Did you know there are over 2,500 items in the grocery store that contain corn as an ingredient?

Grain corn is often used to produce products such as corn flour, or animal feed, but there is actually another large market for grain corn in Ontario. Ethanol, a renewable fuel source, is produced with 30 per cent of the corn that is harvested in the province annually. Ethanol is a great option to help limit the amount of fuel being burned in vehicles to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and it is also significantly cheaper than other options. The process corn goes through to be distilled into ethanol is very similar to the process corn goes through to be distilled into alcohol- for making spirits, or things like hand sanitizer or rubbing alcohol.

Have you ever wondered when brushing your teeth, what helps get them so clean. Sorbitol is an ingredient in toothpaste that is sourced from grain corn. It is responsible for the texture and flavouring of toothpaste. For an extra fresh clean, use a mouthwash that is made using the alcohol produced with corn!


Oats are a healthy grain to incorporate into your diet, but they also serve other purposes that benefit our bodies. Oats are a common ingredient in natural body products such as moisturizers and lotions. This is due to the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compound, avenanthramide, that can help soothe skin when it is burnt, dry, or itchy. You can even make your own products at home like an oatmeal skin scrub using Ontario oats!


While producing food products such as soy sauce or tofu, soybeans are actually very versatile and can be used in many other applications. Soybeans are a great option to add a bit of colour into your life! Soybean oil can be used in the production of lipstick, and the oil found inside soybeans can be used to make wax products like crayons or candles. Soybeans are a more natural alternative to other products generally used to make crayons, candles, and lipstick.

Corn isn’t the only grain that produces a product that you can find within a vehicle. A variety of lubricants that are used to ensure that the transmission and engine run smoothly in vehicles are made of soybeans. Soybeans may also be part of some bio-diesel products – another great way to offset greenhouse gasses!

Did you know: 1 acre of soybeans can produce just over 80,000 crayons


Wheat is a common grain and can be found in many products at the grocery store, and in other non-edible products. The starch from wheat can be used to make adhesives that can be used for craft glue. Wheat starch can also make the adhesive for stamps as it is non-toxic.

Wheat straw is another part of the grain that can be used for a variety of purposes. Paper is one product that can be produced with wheat straw, either as writing paper or cardboard, it is a great alternative to using trees for paper. The fibres of the wheat straw can also be used to make reusable plates or cutlery. This means the whole wheat plant can be used, which limits waste!

We all enjoy grains on our plates from pizza to tofu to cornbread, soups, sandwiches, cookies, and more, but now you know that grains are woven into our lives in unusual ways. Ontario grain farmers work diligently to grow safe, high quality, sustainable crops!