Ethanol doubles corn's food production value

By Susanne Retka Schill | November 20, 2012

Saying ethanol has been demonized for too long, Orrie Swayze, a farmer from Wilmot, S.D., and past president of the S.D. Corn Growers Association, has sent a letter to the editor to a number media outlets offering a new perspective, which he summarizes as “Ethanol doubles corn’s food production.”

He argues in the letter that the ethanol coproduct, distillers grains, needs to be properly evaluated in how it fits into livestock feed values. “To date, few have considered that a bushel of corn produces ethanol, plus nearly 18 pounds of 28 percent protein distillers grains, or a bushel can produce 9 pounds of  20 percent (uncooked) protein pork or beef,” Swayze reasons. “Compared to meat production, arithmetic reveals that ethanol doubles corn’s food production and nearly triples corn’s protein production.”

“Critics will argue that meat can be used for direct human consumption where distillers’ grains cannot,” Swayze continues. He argues the ethanol industry is a major supplier of protein, producing the protein equivalent of nearly half of the entire U.S. soybean crop. That makes “soy’s high-protein flour, meat and milk substitutes more available and at lower cost,” he said. “This direct human consumption of plant protein rich foods is by far the lowest-cost pathway to deliver proteins to diets,” he writes, adding that distillers proteins are beginning to enter that market also.

“Importantly, distillers and soy proteins are easily transported to impoverished populations,” Swayze says, pointing out that starches are typically more available, while protein is expensive and in short supply. “It should surprise no one that the food chain is critically short protein,” he says, “as evidenced, also, by protein supplement prices that are approximately double the price of starch-based grains.”

Swayze said that to date, the Sioux Falls Argus Leader has run his letter. He was expecting some response in the comment section, he added, “But there wasn’t a single comment.” He figured the protein based on 9 percent protein corn and 34.5 percent protein beans, using the numbers for 2011.




5 Responses

  1. Stephanie



    This is great article stating the facts and importance of ethanol not only for fuel but as a high quality feed product. People across the world need to better undertand and be educated of ethanol's benefits.

  2. stan



    If it is so good,end the mandate and let the consumer decide. That is the way American markets are suppose to work.A mandate is a UN american way to market a product.

  3. brian



    I have no problem ending the mandate and allowing free markets to decide this. I'd also then end the subsidies for various oil and petroleum manufacturers to be "fair" in kind (as this word is so often tossed around). There are more details this article does not get in to such as the bran production, and corn oil production that comes from ethanol technology. Its not perfect, no, and it wont solve the energy problems we face solely on its own. But it can and is a partial solution and one in which, if used wisely in conjunction with other technologies, can help greatly. PS> As long as we're ending mandates, how about getting rid of Obozocare mandate. I guess its ok to screw up free markets there but not elsewhere.

  4. Mel Harnett



    This is a great article and we should have more people and associations from the corn/ethanol industry promoting the pattern of generating more product streams from the corn that is processed for ethanol. We can produce even a higher protein ddgs in the range of 38%+- and as well extract Corn Germ and Bran from the natural corn feedstock which can be further processed for "human consumption". The extraction process of the germ will produce corn oil and defatted corn germ meal/flour (DCGM). The DCGM will have 18%+- protein/ glutein free. This all can start with the addition of simple dry "Corn Fractionation" to the existing/new ethanol plants Make the "Industry Sustainable"

  5. Chuck Quist



    Hopefully Mr. Dinneen has read this article. The ethanol lobby needs to go to work on California and their CARB rules. When they study land use and figure that into the polution attributed to ethanol production they miss the fact that ethanol also produces distillers grain, so that part of the equation needs some thought. The gross production of distillers grain should be deducted from the land use in the production of ethanol. Also, I wonder if California has figured in the polution caused by destroying the rain forest in the production of sugar cane ethanol and the polution caused by shipping US produced ethanol to Brazil and then sending sugar cane from Brazil to Calif. It's nuts. Brazil


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