2018-07-11 / Opinion

In My Opinion

Gluten
BY BLAKE GORDON,
Croswell farmer

Last year I wrote about wheat, and since wheat harvest is right around the corner again I thought I would talk about wheat again but shift gears a little bit to gluten. Yes that scary thing that is in wheat products that so many people would tell you is bad for you, but is it? And before I continue on I would like to point out that celiac disease is a very serious issue for those that have it. And for those that don’t know, it is estimated that celiac disease affects about one percent of America’s population. The gluten will tear up the small intestine leading to severe digestive issues, and the later it is diagnosed there becomes a greater chance of contracting another autoimmune disorder. Fortunately it is a rare disease and even those that have it only have a one in ten chance of passing it on to their kids.

So what is gluten? Simply put, gluten is the proteins found in wheat, rye, barley, and triticale; oats do not have gluten but are often processed in facilities that also process these other cereal grains, and so may have gluten. But gluten is a little different than other proteins because it is strong, like physically strong. This gives wheat some neat properties when it comes to cooking; to use bread as a simple example, the yeast is what causes all those small air bubbles in the loaf, but gluten is what traps the air there making sure that the air bubble doesn’t just rise up and out of the dough. This stretchy yet strong property of gluten in the kitchen has been used to make many modern goodies. Besides bread and pastries wheat is used in many things and it’s not always easy to tell at first glance what might contain gluten, I was most surprised to learn that Twizzlers contain gluten. And so do many vegan meat substitutes, remember gluten is strong and stretchy, it holds together meat substitute.

Now I take a bit of an issue with the labeling/ marketing tactics of some food companies. And I really think it’s a great thing that bread substitutes are labeled gluten-free, I take issue with something being labeled gluten free that does not have a gluten alternative. What brought all this about to me was a can of canned tomatoes that was labeled gluten free. Earlier I listed what contains gluten, it is those few cereal grains that have gluten neither tomatoes, or potatoes, contain gluten. To me, labeling these tomatoes as gluten free indicates that there are other canned tomatoes that may contain gluten. I would rather see products labeled as “contains gluten” or “naturally gluten free”

But this is all a symptom of a larger issue; people are disconnected from the farm and how their food is grown. There are less people to grow food and so our method of planting, weeding, and harvesting the crop has changed. Because of the disconnect, some people question the way we farm, all the farmers I know take pride in growing a safe and healthy crop, but consumers have a right to know where their food comes from, how we produce a bountiful yet safe crop and why we do some of the things we do. The farming and agriculture industry needs to do a better job of telling our story and educating the consumer on where their food comes from and how it is produced. And I know we will never get through to the radicals, but there are sane rational people that are willing to listen; and to those that are curious and willing to hear our story I sincerely thank you! And many thanks to our farmers especially those that tell their story to others even if it’s only a couple people.

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