Growers’ Insights: Rice is an affordable gluten-free grain

Farmers from six states are supplying rice at home and abroad.

Published in FSD Update

Government food policy and the popularity of healthful foods are helping America’s rice growers. “The USDA now requires more whole grains, like brown rice, for school meals and the WIC program,” says Katie Maher, a promotions manager for the USA Rice Federation.

“Over the last six years brown rice sales increased 60%, as part of the demand for whole grains,” Maher says. “We’ve also seen an increased interest in brown, red, black and wild rice in foodservice.” 

Rice is also a good value and a gluten-free option. “Nearly 21 million Americans must, or just want to, follow a gluten-free diet,” she says. “According to Mintel Menu Insights, gluten-free menu claims have increased 275% from 2009 to 2012.” 

These healthy attributes of rice have long been marketable for Lundberg Family Farms, one of the first to popularize brown rice 40 years ago. Now, Lundberg offers 19 varieties, the most popular being organic short-grain brown rice, organic brown basmati and whole-grain black japonica. 

“About 85% of our rice and rice products are sold in the U.S., with the remainder being sold in countries that have a demand for high-quality organic rice, including Canada, Mexico, Japan, other Asian countries and some Middle Eastern countries,” says Todd Kluger, Lundberg’s vice president of sales and marketing. 

Cost factors

There are a variety of elements that affect the price of rice. 

For Lundberg Family Farms, Kluger says growing organically can be a costly challenge, without chemicals to avert some of the crop damage caused by pests or disease. 

For fourth-generation farmer Robert Petter, it’s fuel. Petter plants more than 800 acres of long-grain white rice—what he describes as, “good cafeteria rice, that doesn’t get sticky,”—in DeValls Bluff, Ark. “Although water for irrigation is expensive, it’s largely fuel—in the form of diesel for tractors, gasoline for trucks and the energy used for irrigation—that greatly affects our bottom line,” Petter says. 

For one Texas farmer—Texas is one of six states (Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri and California) that grows rice—the global marketplace greatly affects price. Linda Raun, an owner operator of LR Farms, in Texas, says, “Many countries grow rice for their survival, like Thailand, Vietnam, India and China. They export any excess to other countries that rely on rice. These countries are able to grow rice much cheaper than we can in the U.S. Their governments highly subsidize their rice production and they have less regulation and cost of production than we do here.” 

Growth opportunity

Despite the competition from abroad, Raun says growing rice in the United States is vital, and the outlook is good at the USA Rice Federation.

Rice prices have been steady in recent years. Statistics from USA Rice indicate that this year farmers received about $14.56 per centum weight (cwt), or a hundredweight, which is about 2.2 bushels. 

Petter explains that rice farmers deduct 3 cents from every hundredweight to donate half to farming research and the other half to promoting their crop. 

More From FoodService Director

Sponsored Content
boston college acai bowl

From Dannon Foodservice.

Catering to the go-go-go lifestyle of university students is a challenge, and it’s one that Boston College dining representatives wrestle with daily.

“Students don’t just want to eat dinner between 5 and 7 p.m.,” says Beth Emery, the school’s director of dining. “They may want to eat dinner at 9 o’clock. We’ve been trying to come up with creative solutions.”

Those creative solutions include everything from offering breakfast items throughout the day to providing healthier late-night choices to trolling social media for trendy new menu ideas...

Sponsored Content
savory yogurt parfait

From Dannon Foodservice.

What consumers eat and, most importantly, when they’re eating it has changed significantly in recent years, signaling opportunity for operators able to capitalize on this evolution.

For example, some 83% of consumers said they were daily snackers in 2016, according to Technomic’s Snacking Occasion Consumer Trend Report . That’s up from 76% just two years earlier. Snacking is growing across many channels from retail prepared foods to bakery and coffee cafes, fast-food locations and more.

Busy lifestyles, smaller households with greater meal...

Industry News & Opinion

Labor secretary nominee Andy Puzder has officially bowed out of consideration for the cabinet position, according to the Associated Press .

Puzder, CEO of CKE Restaurants—the parent company of Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr.—was tired of being under fire for hiring an undocumented immigrant as a nanny and being accused 26 years ago of physically abusing his wife, an unnamed source told CBS News . The agency reported that Puzder was unlikely to show for the start of his confirmation hearings tomorrow.

Puzder has also been attacked by organized labor for comments suggesting that...

Industry News & Opinion

Risley Dining Room at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., has just become 100 percent gluten-free, 14850.com reports.

For the past two years, the university has slowly phased out gluten in the dining hall’s menu by eliminating it in its stir fries, biscuits and brownies.

Instead of offering gluten-free versions of typical college fare, including pizza and pasta, the dining service team aimed for more sophisticated restaurant-style items.

Along with being gluten-free, Risley is also peanut free and tree-nut free.

The dining room is the second college eatery...

FSD Resources