Forest Preserve District of Cook County, Illinois
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Corn Products
Nature Bulletin No. 500-A    September 29, 1973
Forest Preserve District of Cook County
George W. Dunne, President
Roland F. Eisenbeis, Supt. of Conservation

Corn is the most important plant grown in America. It is the most efficient cereal for trapping energy from the sun and using that to convert fertile soil into food. Corn is the backbone of our agriculture, just as it was for the Incas, Mayas, Aztecs and Indians who preceded us. Flint corn, soft corn, sweet corn and popcorn are types which have their uses but dent or "field" corn is most widely grown and by far the most important.

About 80 percent of the field corn grown in the United States is fed to livestock. From those animals we obtain meat, milk, eggs, fats, leather and other-products. A small amount is used to make hominy, corn meal and breakfast foods. Most of the remainder is processed into other foods, starches, innumerable products derived from starch, alcoholic beverages, alcohol and raw materials for many industries. Chemists have discovered ways to make corn, originally a simple food for man and beast, serve a vast number of purposes.

At Bedford Park adjoining Summit, here in Cook County, stands the huge Argo plant of the Corn Products Refining Company, the world's largest manufacturer of corn starches, dextrose, corn syrups, dextrin and a host of by-products. Some of its brand names -- such as Karo syrup, Mazola Oil, Argo, Niagara and Linit starches -- are familiar to every housewife. The plant was located here in 1907 because Chicago, blessed with a plentiful supply of water, is America's greatest transportation center and at the heart of the Corn Belt -- nine midwestern states where the bulk of our corn is grown.

A kernel of corn, within its horny hull, is filled with white raw starch - - called the endosperm -- surrounding the embryo and germ of a new plant. The hull produces bran, which, mixed with gluten, is fed to cattle. The germ contains corn oil and after this is squeezed out there is a residue or "cake" valuable as cattle food. The oil is processed for use in the manufacture of soaps, glycerin and nitroglycerin. Further refined, it produces salad and cooking oils.

Five principal types of products are obtained from the raw starch in the endosperm: corn syrups, commercial sugars, edible and industrial starches, dextrose -- a simple sugar -- and the sticky dextrins. They have a seemingly endless variety of uses and, in addition to distilleries and breweries, are employed in more than 30 big industries such as those that manufacture cotton goods, rayon, paper products, adhesives, explosives and steel.

Corn syrup is used in candies, ice cream, baking, making rayon and curing tobacco -- more than on pancakes. It is delivered to some Industries in tank cars and trucks. Corn sugar is used in diets of infants and diabetics but a few of its more important industrial uses are for making vinegar, brewing, spinning rayon and tanning leather. Edible starch goes into puddings, jellies and candies. Industrial starches, which include laundry starch, are essential ingredients of baking powder, textile sizing, cosmetics and explosives. They may be used as "filler" in paper to make bags, boxes, envelopes, etc. Dextrins are used in sauces, sizing, glue, mucilage and sand molds for foundry castings.

Perhaps the most important products of corn are the remarkable civilizations it has made possible.

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