Have your fuel and eat it too: Ethanol grain makes bread

By Larry Kusch

— WINNIPEG FREE PRESS — RESEARCHERS in Manitoba are trying to turn the food versus fuel debate on its ear by developing foods using a by-product of the ethanol industry.

The Food Development Centre in Portage la Prairie has made dark rye bread, cereal bars, molasses ginger cookies, vegetable crackers and chocolate confection products using the high-fibre, high-protein leftover grain from the ethanol manufacturing process.

“We’re looking at entering the (fuel/food) debate and demonstrating that, yes, you can do both,” said product development manager Alphonsus Utioh.

The ethanol industry, and its insatiable appetite for corn and wheat, has been blamed by many for rising food prices and increased global hunger.

But Utioh and other researchers say there is great potential for a win-win solution to the divisive debate.

“Right now, the world, without letting scientists enter the fray, (is) saying you cannot feed the human tank and the gas tank off the same acre. You’re going to starve to death. And I say “Whoa,” said Curtis Rempel, research development manager at Winnipeg’s Richardson Centre for Functional Foods and Nutraceuticals. “What’s going through the ethanol plant into your gas tank you don’t want in your body.” The ethanol industry uses the starch from the corn or wheat kernel, producing a high-fibre, high-protein byproduct known as Distillers’ Dried Grain and Solubles (DDGS). Right now, the main market for DDGS is the livestock feed market, but both the Richardson Centre and the Food Development Centre, a special operating agency of the provincial agriculture department, are convinced that there are potentially important food uses as well.

For example, the Food Development Centre has used distillers’ dried grain obtained from Husky Energy’s ethanol plant in Minnedosa to boost the fibre content of dark rye bread.

Utioh said the product could qualify for a ‘high-in-fibre’ claim under Canadian food labeling rules.

But Utioh said that for distillers’ grain to be considered acceptable by health authorities for food use, processors would have to adjust their manufacturing processes as there are different standards for food and livestock feed. “I think that industry has to take the lead,” he said.

So far, there’s been little research done on possible food uses for distillers’ dried grain, and the Manitoba efforts are believed to be on the cutting edge in Canada.