While perusing a “medical” magazine at the doctor’s office in Chicago, my mom came across an article lamenting the growing of so much field corn in the United States. Essentially, it pointed out all the acres of land used for corn in the surrounding states (you mean, the corn belt?). The problem, according to this rag, is that all the corn is used for animal feed. Period. And this, my friends, is precisely why we have so many hungry people. The solution for all those urban dwellers with no access to clean air, water, and outdoors? Grow your own food.
But although we knew the article was bunk, I realized that there may be a lot of people that didn’t, including the magazine’s subscribers.
So, what is field corn actually used for? A lot.
On average, each American consumes 25 pounds of corn each year. In the US, we grow 97.2 million acres of corn was planted and 10.8 billion bushels were harvested. That’s a lot of corn. But we also have the perfect soil, climate, and topography to do it.
As of 2012:
- 38% of the corn supply in the United States (5.5 billion bushels) is used as feed for livestock such as beef, pork or poultry.
- 29% is used for ethanol production. Besides the ethanol this produces, this corn also will result in approximately 1 billion bushels of distillers grains to be used as livestock feed.
- 8% is exported to other countries. The top five countries to which the United States exports corn are Japan, Mexico, South Korea, Taiwan and Egypt.
- 12% of the corn (1.3 billion bushels) goes to other food, seed and industrial uses. Field corn is a source of corn cereal, corn starch, corn oil and corn syrup.
- 5% of the total corn supply (currently 1.8 billion bushels) is carried over as a surplus for the next year. The rest of the corn (about 8%) is corn displaced by distillers grains.
According to Hoosier Ag Today, “about 200 million bushels of corn are used to produce food products, about 400 million bushels go into producing corn sweeteners, 135 million bushels for beverages and alcohol, just under 2 billion bushels for feeding beef animals, 1.5 billion to feed chickens, and about a billion bushels for producing pork.” (Source: HAT)
If you eat cereal, you’ve definitely encountered a corn product. Peanut butter? Field corn. Salad dressing? Field corn. Crackers? Field corn. Ice cream? Field corn.
And if you feed your pet on a regular basis, your pet has enjoyed some field corn as well.
Even more incredible are the non-food uses of corn. Degradable plastics, carpet, fireworks, tires, shoe polish, glue, paint, chemicals, vitamins, toothpaste, medicines, and over-the-counter pain killers.
How can anyone be against fireworks?!
For our visual learners (and probably your Facebook friends), check out this video:
So, yes, a lot of field corn goes to feed livestock. But I’m certainly not complaining about the protein that I have at every meal because it’s an important part of our diets. There’s also a lot of other food it goes to produce. And there are a whole heck of a lot of modern conveniences and comforts that utilize corn.
Let’s stop lamenting over the farmers growing just so much of it.