Table to Farm: Where is the world’s grain produced and how is it used?

This week’s Table to Farm questions focus on U.S. corn, soybeans and wheat.

Where is most of the world’s food produced? How much of the world’s grain do we produce? What about China, Brazil and other countries? How is the U.S. grain crop used? How much goes for human food, animal food, and biofuels?

According to the National Corn Growers Association, the U.S. produced 38.7% of the world’s corn in 2011 with almost 12.5 billion bushels of production. The next closest single country in terms of corn production was China, with 20.6% of the world’s corn. This is followed by the European Union countries that produced 6.8% of the world’s corn and then by Brazil that produced 6.2% of the world’s corn. Japan is the top importer of U.S. corn, followed by Mexico, South Korea and Taiwan.

Livestock feed is the top use for U.S. corn with 5.9 billion bushels of consumption. The next largest area of consumption is food, seed and industrial use that accounts for 4.8 billion bushels. In 2010, 3.7 billion bushels were used for ethanol. With ethanol use, it should be noted that, the ethanol production process produces dried distillers grains as a by-product that is also used to feed livestock. High fructose corn syrup and other sweeteners account for 260 million bushels and 250 million bushels are used for starch. Just under 200 million bushels of corn go into cereals and other food items, and 135 million bushels are used for making alcohol.

It also should be noted that these numbers are for field corn, which is a very different crop than the sweet corn you eat on the cob. Field corn is not eaten fresh or whole kernel; it is processed into cereals, sweeteners and other food ingredients.

For more about corn production and uses, the NCGA’s World of Corn is a great Resource.

According to the American Soybean Association, in 2010, soybeans represented 58% of world

oilseed production, and 35% of those soybeans were produced in the United States. China was the largest customer for U.S. soybeans with purchases exceeding $10.8 billion. Mexico was the second largest market for U.S. soybeans with purchases of nearly $1.5 billion. Domestically, soybeans are used to make soy meal, soy oil (vegetable oil), livestock feed, and biodiesel.

In terms of wheat, here are some interesting facts from the National Association of Wheat Growers:


Wheat is the primary grain used in U.S. grain products — approximately three-quarters of all U.S. grain products are made from wheat flour.

Wheat is grown in 42 states in the United States.

Six classes bring order to the thousands of varieties of wheat. They are: hard red winter (HRW), hard red spring (HRS), soft red winter (SRW), hard white (HW), soft white (SW) and durum.

In 2008/2009, U.S. farmers grew nearly 2.4 billion bushels of wheat on 63 million acres of land.

In the United States, one acre of wheat yields an average of around 40 bushels of wheat.

About half of the wheat grown in the United States is used domestically.

In 2008, the state of Kansas was the largest wheat producer in the United States with North Dakota a close second.

Kansas is number one in flour milling in the United States.

Kansas produces enough wheat each year to bake 36 billion loaves of bread and enough to feed everyone in the world, over six billion people, for about 2 weeks. An acre of Kansas wheat produces enough bread to feed nearly 9,000 people for one day.

One bushel of wheat contains approximately one million individual kernels.

One bushel of wheat weighs approximately 60 pounds.

One bushel of wheat yields approximately 42 pounds of white flour OR 60 pounds of whole-wheat flour.

A bushel of wheat yields 42 one-and-a-half pound commercial loaves of white bread OR about 90 one-pound loaves of whole wheat bread.

There is approximately 16 ounces of flour in a one-and-a-half pound loaf of bread.

A bushel of wheat makes about forty-five 24-ounce boxes of wheat flake cereal.

Per capita consumption of pasta in the United States was 22 pounds in 1996 and in 2005 was at 19.52 pounds.

A bushel of wheat makes about 42 pounds of pasta or 210 servings of spaghetti.

If you eat pasta three times a week, it would take 70 weeks to eat all the pasta made from one bushel of durum.

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