Defining U.S. Wheat’s Comparative (Competitive) Advantage: Hard Red Spring
By Mark Fowler, USW Vice President of Global Technical Services
In the increasingly competitive global wheat market, it is important to review the advantages that U.S. wheat delivers to millers and bakers. In a series of six articles, we will review the advantages that each unique class of U.S. wheat brings to the market.
In this post, we discuss the value U.S. hard red spring (HRS) wheat brings to the global market. With an annual average production over the last five years of 14.1 million metric tons (MMT), or about 518 million bushels, HRS is the second largest wheat class and accounts for about 26 percent of the total wheat produced in the United States.
U.S. HRS wheat poses some unique opportunities and challenges to the miller. HRS is the hardest of all the non-durum classes of wheat but also has the smallest average kernel size. Millers experienced with HRS in their grist know excellent results can be achieved with some adjustments.
First, adjustments to the screen sizes of separating equipment in the cleaning house will reduce the risk of losing good quality, but smaller kernels. Longer conditioning time is needed to assure the tempering water has fully penetrated the harder HRS wheat kernels. Optimal conditioning time is dependent on several factors, but in most cases, HRS will require a minimum 20 hours for optimal conditioning time. The miller’s reward for these adjustments will be seen in a higher than average flour yield from the harder, more compact HRS endosperm. The hard endosperm creates excellent granulation through the break system to provide an abundance of stock to the purifiers. This gives the miller the opportunity to maximize flour with low ash and excellent color throughout the head end of the mill.
Because of the high protein content and strong dough characteristic of U.S. HRS wheat flour, it is commonly used in a blend to improve the performance of a lower protein, base flour. Only a few end products such as artisan style bread, whole wheat products and bagels may be made with 100 percent HRS flour to achieve optimal performance. For nearly any type of bread or leavened bread product such as thick pizza crust, the greatest value of HRS flour comes from blending it with a lower protein, lower cost flour to create optimal ingredients for individual products. In markets where consumers are demanding a “clean label,” HRS flour blended with HRW or other wheat flour can create better water absorption and loaf volume while using less or no chemical dough improvers. And many pasta makers around the world know that when traditional durum wheat semolina is not needed, HRS wheat flour or semolina is a very acceptable alternative.
U.S. Wheat Advantages
As we highlight each class in this series, let us not forget the advantages that all U.S. wheat classes bring to the market. First, and perhaps the most important, is consistency in quality and consistency of supply. Although each new crop year brings different challenges and opportunities, U.S. wheat is always available to the global market. Second, U.S. wheat delivers variety. Wheat is a raw material manufactured into a bakery ingredient, flour. The flour made from each unique class of U.S. wheat brings value to market in the unique quality characteristics to make a variety of baked goods and noodles. It is also important to understand the value of blending flour from one or more types of wheat to optimize the flour performance at the minimal cost. Each region, country and culture have wheat-based food products that are uniquely their own. With six unique classes of wheat, the United States has the right wheat class to deliver the optimal quality and value for every variety of product on the market.
Read more about other U.S. wheat classes in this series.