I get several newsfeeds as part of my market research every morning. (Isn’t it an amazing thing that I get paid to scan and notice stuff?)
And increasingly I’ve been noticing that we’ve been shifting too much of our economy and food production to corn.
So why is this a big deal? Corn is the least efficient of all grains to grow. Corn takes a tremendous amount of input in fertilizer, weed-killers, and just plain ‘tractor gas’ to grow it. There are lots of other grains that are more ‘Eco-friendly’ than corn.
Corn as a basic food is good for you as a vegetable. It has vitamins, nutrients, and fiber. The original maize strains are nutty and tasty and they’ve been hybridized into some really “good eatin'” varieties. Some of the ‘sweet corn’ of today is so good you can eat it raw. But with increased hybridization comes an unfortunate choice: Do you replace the elements in the corn that makes it good for you with the ones that makes it sweeter by capturing more sugars?
Meanwhile, we’ve figured out in the last couple decades that you can make all kinds of products from corn. We have all kinds of stuff, everything ranging from corn sweeteners to corn-based animal feed.
These two are something we should be concerned about. Too much processed corn isn’t good for you. Corn sweeteners for instance aren’t good for you in high quantities; yet manufacturers of ‘junk food’ insist on using them as the primary ingredient – because it’s cheap. And corn as an animal feed makes no sense, except from a profit standpoint.
Corn will put meat and fat on an animal quickly so you can get them to market sooner. Sooner to market is more profit per year in your pocket. Problem is, the weight gain you get from feeding corn is more fat than meat.
…And now you can guess why corn sweeteners are bad for people.
One last thing about feeding corn: The meat products from 100% corn-fed animals will have a slightly dusky taste, and the flavor profile is just plain flat. So if you bring home that steak and cook it, yet don’t seem to enjoy it as much, this is why. When you feed animals on grasses and hard grains (as opposed to soft ones like corn) then you have meat that is flavorful and has a flavor profile that speaks the same language as a really good red wine.
Let’s go back to the economy of corn. Right now, far too many farmers are growing corn instead of soy; this is because ethanol production guarantees a certain ‘buy’ of corn every time. You really can’t fault these guys for wanting to make a buck; hey, this is America. When I was growing up, some of the farmers I knew were the worst-off of all of us.
The problem is, when you grow corn, it has to have a certain minimum amount of water because it’s really a fragile crop. Now with the massive droughts, we have no crops from many fields. Had these guys been growing true grains or even soy, it would be a different story. All of these crops are far more drought-tolerant than corn.
So this is a long ways to go to make a couple points:
First, we have to get off this corn kick. Quit diverting the stuff to ethanol, now. Put it back into the food chain and let’s feed the world. Yes, this will mean higher gas prices. But our cars will get better gas mileage (because of the energy content of gas versus ethanol), and we should be able to make up the difference. (Personally, my pickup truck went down 3 MPG with the introduction of ethanol blends.)
Second, we have to quit putting so much farmland into corn. We have to put it into other hardier grains. This global warming crap (or normal nature cold-and-heat cycle) will be with us for a few years and to continue to plant corn is ignoring oncoming crop losses. Somebody has to step up and say ‘Screw the obscene profit; I’ll choose to make a little less and feel better about myself’.
Third, we have to get all this processed corn out of our diet. It’s not good for us anyway.