Industry OverviewIn 2005, the U.S. produced 42 percent of the world’s corn. Over 50 percent of the U.S. crop is produced in Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska or Illinois. Other states in which corn is grown include Kentucky, Ohio, Indiana, Wisconsin, South Dakota, Wisconsin and Missouri. In 2005, over 58 percent of the U.S. corn crop was used for feed. The remaining U.S. crop was split between exports (25 percent) and food, seed or industrial uses such as ethanol production (17 percent).
Other major corn producing countries include China, Brazil, Mexico and the 25 countries that make up the European Union.
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Much of the corn now grown around the world is genetically modified for herbicide and/or pest resistance.
Major ProductsCorn oil, which is extracted from corn germ, has high polyunsaturated fatty acid content and oxidative stability. Its largest single use is in bottled oil for consumer use, followed by margarine and industrial snack-frying operations.
By removing free fatty acids and phospholipids from crude corn oil, the oil refining process gives corn oil one of the qualities consumers value most: its excellent frying quality and resistance to smoking or discoloration. It also has a pleasant taste, resists developing off-flavors.
In addition, refiners produce starches, sweeteners and ethanol -- all made from the starch portion of the corn.
Corn starch, which is derived from the endosperm of the corn kernel, is a mainstay of the corn refining industry. It has a wide range of industrial and food applications. Over 90 percent of the starch Americans used is produced from corn.
Corn sweeteners supply more than 56 percent of the U.S. nutritive sweetener market. Corn syrup is a sweetener made by processing corn starch with enzymes or acid to create a dextrose solution. High fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is further processed to increase its sweetness. Since HFCS is stable and cheaper to produce than ordinary sugar, it has largely replaced sugar in processed foods and soft drinks; in recent years, consumer watchdog and health groups have increasingly taken food manufacturers to task for their widespread use of HFCS, claiming that the product contributes to obesity.
Ethanol is another major refined corn product; refined from the starch of the corn kernel, ethanol is an alcohol that has many industrial uses. In recent years, it has become an increasingly important source of fuel for internal combustion engines.
Common Processes UsedThere are two basic methods employed in processing corn kernels. They are known as “dry milling” and “wet milling.”
Dry milling is the process in which corn is separated into flour, corn meal, grits and other products by soaking corn kernels in water, then removing the germ for processing into oil. The remaining parts of the kernel are ground and sieved into various fractions.
Wet milling is the process by which corn is separated into starch (syrup, ethanol, corn starch), germ (oil), and fiber and gluten (animal feed) by soaking corn kernels in water (and often sulfur dioxide) before separating them into the components above by grinding and centrifuge.
Leading CompaniesMajor processors of corn in the U.S. include A.E. Staley Manufacturing Company, Ag Processing Inc., Archer Daniels Midland Company, Bunge Ltd., Cargill, Inc., Corn Products International, Inc., National Starch and Chemical Company, Penford Company, Roquette America, Inc. and Tate & Lyle PLC.
Other important U.S. processors include Consolidated Grain and Barge Company, SunOpta Grains and Foods Group, SK Food International Inc. and Agricor, Inc.
Further ResourcesAmerican Association of Cereal Chemists: www.aaccnet.org
American Corn Growers Association: www.acga.org
Corn Refiners Association: www.corn.org
National Corn Growers Association: www.ncga.com
North American Millers Association: www.nama.org
U.S. Grains Council: www.grains.org
Information for this Corn Facts page was provided by the Corn Refiners Association.
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