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Published December 03, 2012, 09:34 AM

Ethanol doubles corn's food production

Both sides of the food versus fuel debate assume ethanol wastes food and the debate simply circles around how much food is wasted. Compared to what?

By: Orrie Swayze , Agweek

WILMOT, S.D. — Both sides of the food versus fuel debate assume ethanol wastes food and the debate simply circles around how much food is wasted. Compared to what?

Before determining informed judgments, both sides should compare corn’s food production processed to ethanol or to grain intensive meat production.

To date, few have considered that a bushel of corn produces ethanol and nearly 18 pounds of 28 percent protein distillers grains or a bushel can produce 9 pounds of 20 percent uncooked protein pork or beef. Compared with 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. We must remember that our ethanol industry is a major supplier of protein that produced the protein equivalent of nearly half of our entire soybean crop last year, making soy’s high-protein flour, meat and milk substitutes more available, and at lower cost.

This direct human consumption of plant protein-rich foods is by far the lowest-cost pathway to deliver proteins to diets with distillers’ proteins. Distillers and soy proteins are easily transported to impoverished populations, including humanitarian organizations, who typically have starches available; but more expensive proteins are in short supply. Protein malnutrition is the most common lethal form of hunger, resulting in the body essentially cannibalizing its own muscle tissue. Symptoms include bloated stomachs, small arms and legs, depression, lack of energy, susceptibility to disease, etc.

Nobody should be surprised that the food chain is critically short on protein, as evidenced by protein supplement prices that are approximately double the price of starch-based grains.

In summary, both meat and ethanol production make valuable contributions to food supplies and neither wastes food.

Editor’s Note: Swayze is from Wilmot, S.D.

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