Gluten-free push doesn’t prevent shortage
From the Winnipeg Free Press
With gluten-free foods so fashionable these days, it’s ironic one of the biggest issues facing Canada’s wheat industry in recent times has been a shortage of it.
Gluten is one of the main proteins found in cereals such as wheat, barley and rye. In bread-baking, the quality of the gluten has a lot to do with how bread absorbs water, traps gases from the fermenting yeast and how well it rises.
Customers started complaining a few years ago they were seeing a decline in the quality and consistency of gluten in Canada’s premium milling wheat class, Canada Western Red Spring Wheat (CWRS). In the world of food processing, consistency is synonymous with quality. Millers and bakers want to get the same results from their ingredients every time with a minimum of adjustments to their equipment or recipes.
Canadian wheat has historically been famous for both the quality and the quantity of the protein in its premium processing wheats. Connie Morrison, a senior executive with Canada’s biggest bread-baker Canada Bread, recently told reporters in Winnipeg that gold standard reputation is losing its lustre. Her company, which buys about 300,000 tonnes of Canadian wheat a year, spent $1 million last year buying gluten to add to its recipes because the wheat it was processing was subpar.
These complaints started surfacing around the time the former federal government demolished the Canadian Wheat Board, leading many to assume that was the reason. It appears the change in the wheat-marketing system was a factor, but only one of many. The biggest cause by far has been a gradual shift in farmers’ choice of wheat varieties.