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Do you want a slice of celery pizza … anyone?

PD Editor Walt Cooley Published on 31 December 2013

Pizza can have some weird toppings.

In South Korea, I saw Koreans sprinkle corn kernels on top of their pizzas. Even in the U.S., I’ve tasted some weird dessert pizzas, including one garnished with Reese’s pieces. And I’ve also seen long wedges of potato baked into the dough of the fast-food legend’s circular crust.



But who would really swap pepperoni or sausage for celery as a topping?

That’s basically the trade-off that the corn-based ethanol industry has been selling the American public. And few are calling them out on it.

Two years ago, the Renewable Fuels Association published a press release in response to rising world food prices. Political unrest in Egypt had erupted due to rising food prices. In it, the association downplayed the role of corn-based ethanol on livestock feed and food prices, saying of grain supplies, “There’s plenty for everyone.”

Their logic to support their claim is such:

“That’s because one-third of every bushel of corn that goes in the front end of an ethanol plant comes out the back end in the form of animal feed (primarily distillers grains and corn gluten feed).


Only the starch portion of the corn (representing roughly two-thirds of the mass of the kernel) is used to produce ethanol. The kernel’s remaining protein, fat and other nutrients are preserved and remain available to the animal feed market.”

I’m not suggesting we necessarily need to repeal our corn-based ethanol blending mandates. They had a purpose to prop up a fledgling industry with artificial demand until science caught up and economically converted less-desirable products, such as biomass, into valuable energy.

(Think of turning celery, and its stringy lignin, into sausage. Now wouldn’t that be cool?) We’ve reached the peak of that artificial demand. And science still has a way to go to catch up.

We need to have a discussion about how much longer we will commit to propping up demand for biofuels made from food sources. We’ll likely need a mandate to force the production of non-food biofuels.

For example, in an upcoming issue, you’ll hear about renewable diesel soon being made from dairy manure. The farm producing it will be one of our video farm tours at World Ag Expo. (Learn more about our seminars to be held at the show and new products to be on display.)

Meanwhile, the tide recently turned a bit more in favor of livestock producers when the EPA trimmed the required number of gallons of ethanol to be blended with gasoline in 2014. (Read more about the ethanol situation in an article by Ryan Miltner ).


Now is a good time to start setting the record straight because corn-based ethanol is on its heels. Still, in 2013, the USDA estimates the corn-based ethanol industry will take 4.9 billion bushels of corn, seize its valuable starch and re-sell the byproduct of their heist as animal feed.

(Ethanol plants are even careful to call distillers grains a “co-product” rather than a byproduct of their processes to try to convey its value to the marketplace.) That’s 35 percent of the estimated final corn harvest. And I’m not counting back in the re-sale of the distillers grains produced, like the ethanol industry does.

To be clear, I’m not attempting to ding wet or dry distillers grains. They have their place as animal feeds. And they will continue to be available feed options based on current levels of mandated corn-ethanol production. But dairymen and nutritionists know that the starch that is missing from distillers grains is the magic that makes milk.

Enough is enough. We’ve been force-fed enough celery on our pizzas.

Some will suggest we roll back the Renewable Fuels Standard altogether. I think the livestock industry should support the EPA’s approach of slowly backing down from corn-based ethanol and not expanding its artificial demand.

We should encourage the biofuels industry to get serious about producing non-food-based biofuels, some of which the dairy industry may be able to produce itself.

And we need to talk to consumers about the differences between corn and distillers grains as a livestock feed. I think with some reason we can convince them the ethanol industry is not completely transparent.

By doing so, we can make the mandated celery they’re selling less palatable to consumers and start putting meat and cheese lovers’ pizzas back on the menu. PD

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