What is corn refining?

corn-cob-1Corn refining is today’s leading example of value added agriculture. Corn refiners use over 1.5 billion bushels of U.S.-grown corn to produce a broad array of food, industrial, and feed products for Americans and for the world market. Corn refiners use shelled corn which has been stripped from the cob during harvesting. Refiners separate the corn into its components — starch, oil, protein, and fiber — and convert them into higher value products.

Corn sweeteners are the most important refined corn products. Last year, corn sweeteners supplied nearly 50 percent of the U.S. nutritive sweetener market.

The second major refined corn product category is feed including corn gluten feed, corn gluten meal, and steepwater.

The third major corn product — a mainstay of the industry and of the U.S. economy — is starch. Americans rely on corn refiners for over 90 percent of their starch needs.

Corn oil, which is high in mono and poly unsaturated fats, has gained attention as a top choice for reducing saturated fat and trans fat in numerous food products.

Ethanol, which is gaining increasing acceptance as a cleaner burning option for motor fuels, is another important product.  Approximately 10 percent of ethanol produced in the U.S. is made by the corn wet milling industry.

Corn refining is America’s premier bioproducts industry, with increasing production of amino acids, antibiotics, vitamins, and degradable plastics adding further value to the U.S. corn crop.