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Corn among most versatile foods in world

PHOTO SUBMITTED

Corn has withstood the test of time. Native Americans recognized its value hundreds of years ago, and its use has only grown since then.
PHOTO SUBMITTED Corn has withstood the test of time. Native Americans recognized its value hundreds of years ago, and its use has only grown since then.

By Justin Webster, Ledger sports editor

Luke Bryan once said that rain is a good thing because it makes corn and corn makes whiskey and whiskey makes his baby feel a little frisky.

But was it really the whiskey that helped Luke’s lady get her groove back? Maybe it was the masa mixed into her whiskey sour that gave her the bolt of energy.

Horses don’t need much corn because it gives them too much energy, other than when it’s 20 below the way it has been this winter.

Cattle, sheep and the rest of the species that eat corn have it supplemented with soy and other vitamins and minerals to give them a well-balanced diet.

“Corn is the most universal food supply in the world and even eating a steak is second-generation corn consumption,” said Dave Reiff, president of Reiff Grain, located on the north edge of Fairfield.

“It’s been around for hundreds, if not thousands of years since the Native Americans embraced its abilities,” added Reiff, who bought the business from Harvey Condon four decades ago. “It’s a good commodity that rarely gets lambasted.”

It’s one of the most usable commodities in the world for people and livestock, so it has a world wide following.

Reiff said that 98 percent of corn is gold ol’ standard No. 2 yellow corn with sweet corn making up less than 1 percent of acres grown and decorative corns much less than that.

“Corn has 100-plus uses including clothing and more than we really know because when you take any compound down to its amino acid makeup, you can do amazing things with those derivatives,” explained Reiff, who sought to clarify that he is not a scientist. “People are shocked at how many things corn is in, and it’s usually a cheaper option than many other food fillers.”

Super Bowl commercial

That is why Reiff and the rest of the corn-loving world were so surprised by the “national concern” created by Anheuser-Busch during its Super Bowl LIII ad that suggested that their company, founded in neighboring Missouri back in 1852, brewed a superior product due to its lack of corn syrup used in their process.

Andy Goeler, Bud Light’s vice president of marketing, said in a statement, “We brew Bud Light with the finest ingredients and we’re happy to proudly display them on our packaging. When people walk through a store, they are used to seeing ingredient labels on products in every aisle, except for the beer, wine, and spirits aisle. As the lead brand in the category, we believe increasing on-pack transparency will benefit the entire beer category and provide our consumers with the information they expect to see.”

What is coincidentally the main difference between the way Bud Light is brewed compared to Miller Light and Coors Light? Corn syrup.

“It’s really sad,” said Reiff, who reiterated that, “Nobody ever knew there was a tussle here. Ketchup and things with high-fructose corn syrup are sometimes chastised by the food police while many scientists say sugar is sugar.”

He says that some people want to see native prairie across Iowa instead of corn, because they think it’s just more beautiful, “but it isn’t productive and the world eats corn.”

Around the world

Reiff said that we could be guilty of having blinders on, but “corn is used around the world and starving countries are happy to be utilizing corn and some developing countries still grind it by hand.”

Reiff added that, “It’s so universal and affordable that only a purist would question something with corn in it.”

Grain in dog food has become controversial, too, but that hasn’t stopped dogs and humans alike from enjoying it.

Many speculate that the reason that the No. 1 beer producer is adding ingredient lists on the side of its boxes is because shipments dropped nearly 7 percent last year alone and the company claims they only have 110 calories in each 12-ounce can. The company is also highlighting the fact that Bud Light only has four ingredients: water, barley, rice and hops.

“If you are spending $5 million a minute why would you attack corn and kick a dog that doesn’t need attacked,” questioned Reiff.

Kinds

There are surprisingly very few kinds of corn that are mass produced. While they have created corn varieties with high levels of oil containing more energy and carbs, as well as being high in protein, those varieties are not produced on a large scale, according to Reiff.

“Consumers want large amounts of commodity corn that gets used everywhere and is grown by most farmers,” Reiff told The Ledger.

Other kinds of corn include white corn, which is grown mostly in Mexico and used for masa and decorative corn along with sweet corn.

Non-GMO

Reiff estimates that about 5 percent of corn grown in the county will be raised for a premium and could be any brand.

“They will contract with somebody to grow organic or non-GMO and generally they come out OK, but this year we had some wind damage to their stalk quality, but that is the exception,” he said.

Labeling

Recently, a multimillion dollar case in Nebraska involved a farmer selling crop as organic for premium although he was buying non-organic feed, and he got away with it for years.

“It’s trackable but anywhere there is a premium, people will cut corners,” suggested Reiff, who added that getting caught usually ends the business and results in jail time.

Enemies

Hard winters like this make everything tough to do on the farm.

“This really makes us appreciate the other nine months,” said Reiff. “Spending all day doing something you shouldn’t even be doing like pushing snow. Half of this place won’t run on a 20-below day, but if our customers need or want the services, we have to figure out how to get things processed and out to them. We’ll sleep in the summertime.”