Hulless Barley Potential Opportunities

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  Economics and Competitiveness
Barley is a multi-purpose crop grown for food, malting and general purposes (feed) across the Canadian Prairies. Barley is the second largest cereal crop in Alberta. The purpose of this report was to research the potential of hulless barley as malt, feed and food.

Despite the availability of hulless barley varieties with exceptional malt quality potential, commercial demand has been limited. Large commercial maltsters and brewers remain skeptical due to potential processing concerns, such as stickiness of hulless barley during processing and acrospires loss. Brewers tend to be very traditional and they don’t like any change that might alter the character of the beer. The brewing industry has spent years developing barley varieties that perform well in the traditional brewing process and give them the results they want. It is unlikely they would be very open to moving to other varieties, such as hulless barley, without a very compelling economic incentive for them to do so.

Livestock feed
There may be a potential to use hulless barley as sprouted fodder. The main benefit of sprouted fodder in comparison to feeding grain is “improved protein, starch and sugar” profile. Nearly all of the starch present in the grain is converted to sugar by sprouting, which is better utilized by the rumen than the dry grain. This reduces acidosis problems, as the rumen pH stays more stable without the constant input of starch. Mineral and vitamin levels in hydroponically-sprouted barley are significantly increased over those in grain; in addition, they are absorbed more efficiently due to the lack of enzyme inhibitors in sprouted grain. Sprouts provide a good supply of vitamins A, E, C and B complex. The vitamin content of some seeds can increase by up to 20 times their original value within several days of sprouting. Barley sprouts the best, grows the fastest and is most cost-effective in extensive experiments compared to wheat and oats.
As cereal grains go, barley is a winner when it comes to human nutrition. This centuries-old grain is packed with fiber, contains important vitamins and minerals, is low in fat, and cholesterol-free.

Barley already has the ability to use the Heart/Stroke symbol. There are rules and regulations that need to be followed for it to be used.

Since barley is a healthy grain with a lot of fiber there could be opportunities to work with the food industry to create recipes or with the food processing industry to create products.

There has been a lot of research done on the health benefits of barley. Major health concerns are obesity, heart health, high cholesterol, which barley being high in fiber, maybe able to help. One interesting product is barley pasta. Research done by University of California researchers showed that high fiber (15.7g) barley pasta blunted insulin response, and four hours after the meal, barley pasta eaters had significantly lower cholesterol concentration than those fed wheat pasta.

There may also be an opportunity to supply sprouted grains to the bread baking industry as this is another area of interest by consumers.

There are opportunities to use hulless barley but a few obstacles need to be overcome.
  1. Either better yields so farmers will grow it or premium pricing to make up the difference in yield and potential returns.
  2. Work with chefs to encourage more use of barley on their menus.
  3. Work with the processing industry to encourage more product innovation using barley.
  4. Increase the availability of hulless barley. If work were to be done on something like barley pasta and a pasta company such as Catelli were to become interested a consistent supply would be needed.
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For more information about the content of this document, contact Rosalie Cunningham.
This document is maintained by Erminia Guercio.
This information published to the web on October 27, 2015.
Last Reviewed/Revised on November 6, 2017.