Defining U.S. Wheat’s Comparative (Competitive) Advantage: Hard Red Winter
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.
Let us start with the value that the largest wheat class, hard red winter (HRW) wheat, brings to the global market. With annual average production over the last five years of 22.64 million metric tons (MMT), or more than 831 million bushels, U.S. HRW accounts for more than 41 percent of the total wheat produced in the United States.
Mills that only use one class of wheat in their grist are few and far between in the world. Blending classes or wheat from different origins is a standard and crucial for the mill and their customers. Blending adds consistent quality in mill operation and, in the resulting flour products, to the wheat foods processor. It helps the mill produce the most valuable flour at a lower cost and, of course, blending is needed to produce the range of flour products for specific end uses.
For these reasons, the quantity and quality of U.S. HRW produced annually creates an optimal foundation for any wheat procurement strategy. From the miller’s perspective, U.S. HRW brings consistency to the grist. For a mill to perform optimally, it needs to be well-balanced. Constantly changing mill grist creates a milling environment that is difficult to keep balanced. A balanced mill optimizes flour extraction and helps maximize milling efficiency. Maintaining U.S. HRW as the foundation of the mill grist allows the miller to blend local wheat, other U.S. wheat classes or wheat from other origins as cost advantages or product differentiation opportunities develop in the market.
U.S. HRW is available in a wide range of protein levels, which is excellent for making a variety of wheat foods alone or blended with flour from other classes to optimize performance and flour cost. It is also good for producing an all-purpose flour that can be used in a wide range of products. Medium protein flour from HRW can be used for a several types of yeast and flat breads and noodles. Low protein HRW flour can be used in a blend with soft white (SW) or soft red winter (SRW) to make some types of biscuits (cookies). Higher protein HRW can be used for pizza crust, artisan breads, or non-durum pasta as a 100 percent grist or blended with high protein hard red spring (HRS) wheat to reduce wheat cost and optimize the quality characteristics of the finished products.
In the end, the greatest benefit to the baker is the same as the miller: consistency when used as the sole wheat type or used in a blend to improve the baking characteristics, such as dough stability or water absorption, of local wheat or wheat from another origin. U.S. HRW is always available to the market and provides the most reliable foundation for the formulation of nearly any wheat-based product.
U.S. Wheat Advantages
As we highlight each specific 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. Each region, country and culture have wheat-based food products that are uniquely their own. With six distinct classes of wheat, the U.S. has the right wheat class to help 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.