|Looking for new uses for dried distillers' grain|
|Thursday, 26 July 2012|
Padu Krishnan, a food science professor at South Dakota State University, thinks he has a recipe to help Americans eat healthier. He has been cooking up treats using a novel ingredient — dried distillers' grain or DDG — which he believes can make baked goods and snacks more filling and nutritious.
His superfood of the future is the stuff left over from turning corn into fuel ethanol, or into alcoholic beverages. Cows and pigs love it — even widely-farmed tilapia fish have developed a taste for the substance made from mashed up corn kernels. It is protein-packed and full of fibre, after ethanol production strips out the starch.
In raw form, it tastes like coarse sawdust and smells like a saloon, due to fermentation.
"I'm about changing people's food habits," says the 57-year-old professor. "There's no reason why it shouldn't take off." But he concedes there is a "barrier of perception".
Still, for nearly 20 years on and off in his lab he has been refining recipes to slip small amounts unnoticed into cookies, pizza dough and bread. He has corralled students, colleagues and loved ones into taste tests.
In a nation where over a third of adults are obese, eating healthier is a common goal. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg wants to restrict sales of large-size sugary drinks, and Walt Disney plans to turn away junk-food advertisements.
Krishnan says replacing a portion of traditional flour in a recipe with DDG can give foods a healthy boost.
The potential for DDG has long been known in the food industry, he says. Yet no major company is believed to have made the investment needed to render DDG suitable for human consumption — let alone tackle the marketing problem.
Archer Daniels Midland, for example, says it is trying instead to find better, cheaper ways to use DDG in animal feed. But consumers could baulk at eating a fuel by-product typically fed to farm animals.
"It can be really tricky if it's something with a background that's associated with livestock," says Jacquelynn O'Palka, chair of the department of nutrition and dietetics at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis. In addition to the image issue, she said the cost of processing DDG for use in food for people is a factor.
O'Palka studied the material years ago at a distillery, since it also gets spat out from making vodka or bourbon. Wives of distillery employees baked with it, she says, and she used it in oatmeal cookies. "They were great," she says.
Krishnan — whose current research focuses on ways to boost the nutrition value of wheat — first got grants from South Dakota farmers to study using DDG in food in the 1990s, when corn prices were low.
He turned up the heat on his DDG research after a 2005 government mandate to blend ethanol into gasoline led to a glut of the stuff. The ethanol industry recently produced roughly 35 million metric tons of DDG a year, though the current Midwest drought is driving up corn prices and cutting ethanol production.
Much of the nation's DDG is used in livestock feed, and large volumes are exported to China.....
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