Read full article By By Ed Avis, Contributing Editor@ Food Preocessing Photo Credit: Food Processing
Nutrition, unique flavor and consumer interest emerge from these seeds, but processing them is more complex.
Products containing ancient grains and heirloom grains can be found in nearly any section of the grocery store these days, from the bread aisle to the frozen prepared meal section to the specialty beverages cooler.
These grains, such as einkorn, spelt, barley and chia, have some nutritional benefits over modern grains, as well as more distinct taste profiles. Perhaps most importantly, they have captured consumer attention.
“Our sales have gone up significantly year over year,” says Brian Stambaugh, owner of Belle Valley Ancient Grains, a supplier of einkorn, emmer, spelt and flax.
“Over the past three years we’ve had probably triple-digit growth. It seems like there’s more interest among consumers in knowing where their food comes from, connecting it back to the source, and more interest in nutrition.”
Ancient and heirloom grains are growing in popularity, but there are many reasons these ingredients are still just a tiny seed in the bushel basket of commercial grain products. Modern wheat, grown on industrial-size farms and milled into flour, is relatively inexpensive, consistently available and designed for ease of use in commercial food operations. A few ancient grains, such as sorghum and barley, enjoy similar economies of scale, but most ancient grains are generally the opposite – they are grown in small quantities, cost more and require adjustments to recipes and production methods.
“Across the board, my yields are half of my neighbor’s, who grows wheat conventionally,” Stambaugh notes. “In a good year he’ll get 80 bushels per acre, and I average 30 to 40. Part of that is I’m organic so I’m not fertilizing, and my seeds are not hybridized for higher yield.”