The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

ConAgra as King Arthur?

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Anonymous's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

ConAgra as King Arthur?

I posted about buying 50 lbs. of KA Sir Lancelot flour here: http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/18983/they-sold-me-50-lbs-king-arthur-sir-lancelot-higluten-flour


Yesterday, I happened to glance at the bag of flour I bought and saw this on the bar code tag:



Sir Lancelot


CC 06252010 21:32 B2


Wheat Flour, Malted Barley Flour, Niacin, Reduced Iron, Thiamine Mononitrate, Riboflavin, Folic Acid


id- MFG by ConAgra Foods Omaha, NE 68102


ER


Net WT 50 LB


Bar Code: 0081787ER



Question: What exactly did I buy? I thought I bought a bag of hi-gluten flour from the King Arthur Flour Company, Inc. in Vermont, not from ConAgra Foods in Omaha, NE.


 

mrfrost's picture
mrfrost

King Arthur has long contracted out the bulk of their milling operations.


In other words, they do not grow or mill most of the products they sell. They buy grains that meet their requirements and milled to their specifications.


They make no secret of this.

wwiiggggiinnss's picture
wwiiggggiinnss (not verified)

This displeases me somehow.


Should it?


One hopes the contract stipulates a certain level of quality control, especially considering I see the same label with the same ingredients on ConAgra Bread Flour at Costco (for half the price).

mrfrost's picture
mrfrost

Hope you didn't miss the part about grown and milled to their specifications.


They probably have the strictest quality standards out there. That is also why regardless what the labels say, KA is able to tell you and pledge to precisely what their flours contain(precise protein levels, etc). And yes, that is why some are willing to sometimes pay 2 or 3x the price of some other brands.

wwiiggggiinnss's picture
wwiiggggiinnss (not verified)

That part you added later.


I missed it only because it wasn't there. 


Damn you and your edits! I object! ;D

lynnebiz's picture
lynnebiz

This has been discussed at length on the Pizza Making forum.


There're many people there voice their displeasure with KA flour, some who believe that their main thing is marketing, and who think the quality is lacking. (I think that they're as much as, dedicated as we are [maybe even more, if that's possible] - love it!)


Now I got a bag of the ConAgra Bread Flour at Costco,and I love it. I also love the price - I live on a fixed income, and am always looking for ways to stretch my meager dollars.


I took photos of some of my creations, but of course, I can't find them right now. Crumb was great, taste really good. First pizza I made w/the flour was incredible - and when I made some for my daughter who was visiting from New Haven, she told me I surpassed all my other pizzas, and that it had to have been the best thick crust pizza she's had. (We finally settled for me not trying to compete with the New Haven icons, and by that I mean when she visits, I make thick crust for her. :D)


So you can see - I have no need to go back to KA prices!


Lynne


 

mrfrost's picture
mrfrost
Peasant Baker's picture
Peasant Baker

We used ConAgra pumpernickel flour in our rye at work. It was nice, and the only 50lbs of pumpernickel they could source. 

todkaf's picture
todkaf

At King Arthur our guiding motivation is to provide the highest quality flour to bakers both in the home and in production bakeries all across the US.  If you look at the milling landscape in the US it is dominated by 3 large companies: ADM, Horizon Milling/Cargill, and ConAgra.  The capital requirements to mill and sell flour all across the US are well beyond the means of a small company like King Arthur Flour.  And the idea of competing against these companies is not a pleasant thought, either.  So, instead, we work with them as partners in milling our flour in markets all around the country.  We set the specifications of the flours we want to deliver to our customers (and ensure that they are maintained) and they mill it. These companies are really good at milling flour and King Arthur is really good at meeting the needs of our customers in terms of quality standards, tech services, and support. It is a great partnership not only for King Arthur and the mills we partner with, but also for our customers. 


 


If you ever have any questions regarding King Arthur Flour feel free to email me at tod.bramble [at] kingarthurflour [dot] com.


 


Tod Bramble


Bakery Flour Sales - US

wwiiggggiinnss's picture
wwiiggggiinnss (not verified)

Thanks for the response, Tod.


The KR Sir Lancelot I bought from Dawn Foods, milled by ConAgra, is a very nice flour that makes wonderful bagels.


I'll simply have to trust that King Arthur can maintain its high quality assurance through these partnerships, even if I trust the partners not at all.

LindyD's picture
LindyD

Tod, there are two things I admire about KAF:  it is excellent flour and it is consistently excellent flour. That's why I use it exclusively.


Well, maybe there's a third:  the bags always open neatly without tearing.  Terrific packaging.

Crider's picture
Crider

They'll sell you a 50 lb bag for $12.10. How much did you pay for your bag of Sir Lancelot?


 

wwiiggggiinnss's picture
wwiiggggiinnss (not verified)

I paid $26.70 (or 220% of) for KA Sir Lancelot hi-gluten.


I think it was worth it.


Correction: I can't say if it was worth it not, at least not objectively. I've not used the flour you link to, for bagels or anything else.

Chuck's picture
Chuck

I fear you missed the point that flour from the Con Agra mill made to KAF's specification is not the same as flour sold under the Con Agra brand.


You'll often find a similar thing where all the soda brands in a region share a single bottling plant. Just because they came off the same manufacturing line still doesn't make Coke=Pepsi.

wwiiggggiinnss's picture
wwiiggggiinnss (not verified)

I didn't miss that point at all. That you felt it pertinent to point out something so completely obvious is something I'm sure we can both overlook.


That we are allowed to buy flour at all, I imagine, is merely a corporate allowance. Let them eat cake and all. It would not surprise me in the least to wake up one day in the not to distant future to hear that, if you want flour, you'll have to grow it yourself (and you'll have to buy seeds from one of a handful of huge agribusiness conglomerates and sign a contract the size of book limiting what you can and can't do with said seeds and the flour they may or may not produce). If you want bread? HA! You can buy it from a supermarket owned, staffed, and merchandised from top to bottom by said agribusiness.

lynnebiz's picture
lynnebiz


That we are allowed to buy flour at all, I imagine, is merely a corporate allowance. Let them eat cake and all. It would not surprise me in the least to wake up one day in the not to distant future to hear that, if you want flour, you'll have to grow it yourself (and you'll have to buy seeds from one of a handful of huge agribusiness conglomerates and sign a contract the size of book limiting what you can and can't do with said seeds and the flour they may or may not produce). If you want bread? HA! You can buy it from a supermarket owned, staffed, and merchandised from top to bottom by said agribusiness.



 


Boy, I really agree with you. In fact, I have to avoid reading too much about it, or I get so frustrated. Good thing, though, we have a slow food movement that's reached the US.


It's also good that people are now realizing that joined together, we are powerful. I'm an older lady who has gone back to college, and a program in Sustainability is really looking more & more attractive to me. Way I figure it, maybe I can play a small part in trying to make this world a bit better for my children and grandchildren - but if I do all I can, I can have a smile on my face when I close my eyes for the last time. (Along with having had a great meal with fantastic bread!! ;D)


 

wwiiggggiinnss's picture
wwiiggggiinnss (not verified)

It frustrates me too, and it's not just in food.


I thought I was using an all-natural toothpaste (It was when I first started using it!) only to find that the company was acquired (seized being the preferred term) and the formula changed to include chemicals like sodium lauryl sulfate, zinc citrate trihydrate and other things that didn't even exist in my grandmother's day.


Did the marketing change? Nope.


The design of packaging? Nope!


The size of the tube? Yup! It's smaller. Less being more where Food, Inc. is concerned, and the more chemicals the better


It's almost as if you don't have a mass-spectrometer in your kitchen and fail to read about the latest mergers and acquisitions, the bag of X you thought you had in your kitchen, the tube of Y in the bathroom, is suddenly something completely different, even if the packaging is the same.

DougMagic's picture
DougMagic

I appreciate your observation. I don't buy KA unless it is their organic products. I will now scrutinize their label a little more to see if they source from Con Agra. Who in my opinion is as responsible for terrible dietary habits in our country as someone would be responsible for theft if they spied an open cash register and just helped themselves. Mega corporations just help themselves to whatever subisdies they can, use and abuse farmers as much as they can and are the only ones profiting from commodity agricultural products. 


Bob's Red Mill is great flour. I believe it is an employee owned company. I consider it the ultra premium of wheat is available here in Florida. I use primarily Arrowhead Mills which is owned by Hain Celestial, which would be the mega corp of organic foods. So in effect I choose the lesser of two evils in two accounts; I choose the lower quality more affordable and I choose the organic product of a mega corp... Having actually put these words to paper (well electronically in a way) I may have changed my buying decsion.


I don't want to get all political on this forum but it's in my nature. I just hope that others will read this and take a trip down the natural foods rabbit hole. I did and the quality of my life has improved with only minor dietary changes.

Chuck's picture
Chuck

Quote:
... source from Con Agra. Who in my opinion is as responsible for terrible dietary habits ...

Thanks for telling us explicitly just what it is about "milled by Con Agra" that's objectionable.


Maybe I'm the only one that just didn't "get it" without this explicit explanation (but maybe not). I'm so poor at reading between the lines that all too often something that should  have been "obvious" didn't even occur to me:-(

wwiiggggiinnss's picture
wwiiggggiinnss (not verified)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ConAgra_Foods#Criticism


Past actions being the most reliable predicator of future actions, I think it speaks for itself. Note that these are sourced.

sphealey's picture
sphealey

=== It would not surprise me in the least to wake up one day in the not to distant future to hear that, if you want flour, you'll have to grow it yourself (and you'll have to buy seeds from one of a handful of huge agribusiness conglomerates and sign a contract the size of book limiting what you can and can't do with said seeds and the flour they may or may not produce). ===


That's sadly very close to the case today in the United States; there are several crops that it is almost impossible to grow, even from heirloom seed, that won't get cross-contaminated by patented genetically-engineered versions being grown somewhere in your county.  Which will then earn you a lawsuit from the engineered seed producer when you try to sell your crop.


sPh


I will note however that it is not clear to most people in the US how far the concept of "contract manufacturing to spec" has taken over our entire consumer goods manufacturing and retail world.  I happen to know that there is one manufactuer of men's button-down oxford shirts that makes upwards of 90% of all such shirts sold on the face of the earth regardless of brand.  But I doubt many consumers who haven't worked in the fashion industry know that whether they go to Expensive Boutique or the Dollar Store the  shirt they are buying is made in the same factory (often, but not always, to the different specs of course).

sphealey's picture
sphealey

I was deeply disappointed to find that, at least here in our metro area, almost all of the flour sold by Costco is not only bleached but bromated.  Shocking that the use of bromate is still allowed at all in the US, and deeply disappointing that an organization that does seem to have at least minimal concern for quality (Costco) specs bromated flours.


sPh

wwiiggggiinnss's picture
wwiiggggiinnss (not verified)

And what are the odds that unbromated and unbleached King Arthur flour is produced at the same facilities (or even on the same machinery) that produces the bromated and bleached bags for sale at Costco?


That's really the crux of my problem: I've been buying a brand of flour all these years thinking it was apart from mass-manufacture only to find that it's produced by the same company that produces bromated and bleached flours in mass quantity.


It's like I'm being asked to trust that, somewhere deep inside ConAgra, King Arthur has a pristine manufacturing operation that's apart from ConArga's other milling operations.


What are the odds its more like this: "This flour has processed on machinery that may have been used to process bromated and bleached flour."


I'm essentially being told that I should trust that it isn't.


Trust?


ConAgra?


 

LucyBee's picture
LucyBee

 


So the Sir Lancelot is the same as the Conagra bread flour at Costco but priced at 220% more? 


Did i understand this correctly?

mrfrost's picture
mrfrost

They are not the same. The CA flour is bleached. There is probably no way of knowing the true, precise protein level of the CA(although, I think somewhere in these forums, there is a CA flour protein list). Many prefer not to have their flour bleached.


Sir Lancelot has about the highest protein % of any flour a typical consumer can get. Too much protein for most breads.

sphealey's picture
sphealey


=== So the Sir Lancelot is the same as the Conagra bread flour at Costco but priced at 220% more? ===



That's not how contract manufacturing (necessarily) works.  A good contract manufactuer who truely understands its business can take any specification and produce a product that exactly meets its customer's design, cost, and quality targets  whether those targets are high, low, or a combination in between.  For example there is a very large beer manufacturer in the US you have heard of that fills its excess capacity with contract brewing that includes both very low-quality generic beer and very high-quality "craft" beer for microbreweries that have out-marketed their internal brewiing capacity.  It is a point of pride to the brewmasters there that they can duplicate any recipe exactly and produce brews that taste the same as the prototype whether good or bad.  Similarly one company maufacturers around 90% of the personal computers sold in the United States whether they carry a generic Best Buy label or a premium brand.  That's the way consumer goods are marketed and made today.


The problem comes in when a historically strong and high-quality company decides to "brand-o-fiy" itself, outsources its manufacturing, and then either (1) loses its ability to innovate as it no longer has in-house understanding of its own products (2) takes the opportunity to cut quality while maintaining price.  Pitfalls which just about every brand I know of has fallen to in the last 15 years.


sPh

wwiiggggiinnss's picture
wwiiggggiinnss (not verified)

That's my concern, stated better than I could state it myself.


I'm being asked to trust that King Arthur flour is not the latter.

sphealey's picture
sphealey

In the modern world you have to trust someone when you acquire food; even in Thoreau's day self-sufficient subsistance farming was practially impossible and it is generally even less possible today.  The question then becomes who is setting the specifications and doing the quality control, and do you trust them?  At least with King Arthur I know there is a reasonably small, family-owned (transitioning to worked-owned now I think) organization that might be trustworthy.  If KA didn't exist then I would probably be buying "artisan"-branded flour that was actually an internal product of one of the giants without knowing it (happens all over the beer market where people think they are buying craft beers but are just buying brands). 


I do know of a few local grain growers and millers, but sadly almost every small miller needs to grind and sell nuts to survive and we can't eat nut-contaminated food.  And what happens when the local crop fails (as the Missouri grape crop did 2 years ago)? Well, the "local" guys have to order raw material from...


sPh

LucyBee's picture
LucyBee

Thank you mrfrost


You have answered many questions for me today

LindyD's picture
LindyD

Instead of publicly dissing King Arthur Flour (which is an American company in existence for 220 years and is owned and operated by its employees),  or General Mills, ConAgra, or any other company for that matter, there's a simple solution:


Don't buy their products.


We all have free choice about the products we purchase and as to flour,  there are many good organic mills around which sell to the public.  Heartland Mill is one; another is even owned and operated by a TFL member: Country Creations


Do your homework, find a mill you approve of and, as the old saying goes, put your money where your mouth is. 


Edited to add the following link for those questioning the integrity of KAF and its products:  http://www.kingarthurflour.com/about/goodworks.html

wwiiggggiinnss's picture
wwiiggggiinnss (not verified)

Yes, this is what's know as burying your head in the sand.


Oh, as children do sometimes, put fingers in their ears and say la, la, la, la, la, la, la.


Both, of course, solve everything but the problem at hand.

Dillbert's picture
Dillbert

deleted

wwiiggggiinnss's picture
wwiiggggiinnss (not verified)

It comes down to trust in the end.


You have to trust that they have sufficient quality-control over the process. To have a standard operating procedure is one thing, to be able to enforce it is something else entirely. Testing the end-product, even random-testing by an independent authority, couldn't begin to cover the volume manufactured. As a customer, then, it comes down to trusting the parties and, when one of them is ConAgra, it's really just full stop for me. 


It's almost silly when I think about it: I've lived all over the country and I've always been able to find KA flour. That I thought they were a small, vertically-integrated mill from Vermont, able to insure the quality of the product from end to end AND be able to distribute nationwide is a testament to my lack of thinking on the subject.


The price I pay for that is a decade of expenditure on flour that may or may not be what I thought it was.

Chuck's picture
Chuck

Without commenting at all about the general gist, I do have one quibble about one particular detail:


Quote:
Testing the end-product, even random-testing by an independent authority, couldn't begin to cover the volume manufactured.

This is simply not true.


There's a whole branch of statistics about how and how much to do spot checks to be fully effective. One of the general results is an extremely small number (far far smaller than "common sense" would lead one to expect:-) of spot checks can be fully effective.

wwiiggggiinnss's picture
wwiiggggiinnss (not verified)

Did you just invent this branch of statistics?

sphealey's picture
sphealey

Let's remember to be respectful and friendly here on this forum, even when we disagree. 


And no, the concept is known as statistical process control; it was codifed by Shewhart and Deming in the 1950s and perfected by Toyota in the 1970s (leading to Toyota's emergence as a world manufacturing power in the 1980s).  Also used extensively by Motorola, Samsung, Siemens, and just about every high-volume manufacturing entity.


sPh

amolitor's picture
amolitor

Especially when the number of units being manufactured is very large, you can use INCREDIBLY small sample sizes to get really good results.


You generally assume that the 'quality' or whatever other metric you're using is normally distributed (i.e. a bell curve) and then there are standard tables that tell you how many samples you need to take to get such-and-such percent certainty that the sample tells you with such-and-such accuracy what's going on.


So, for instance, you might say 'I want to be 99.99% certain that my ash content is between 0.53 and 0.57' so you consult your tables and find that you need to pull 17 bags of flour at random off the line, measure them, and if you find that they average 0.55 you're in great shape.


This is covered in any introductory course in statistics, and the sample sizes necessary for really useful results are in fact shockingly small.


 

sphealey's picture
sphealey


===


Especially when the number of units being manufactured is very large, you can use INCREDIBLY small sample sizes to get really good results.


You generally assume that the 'quality' or whatever other metric you're using is normally distributed (i.e. a bell curve) and then there are standard tables that tell you how many samples you need to take to get such-and-such percent certainty that the sample tells you with such-and-such accuracy what's going on. ===



In fairness, there is also a somewhat hidden assumption in basic SPC that there is no large-scale, diabolically clever process of deliberate fraud going on in the background.  That is, classic SPC works pretty well in a single factory where the entire machine is under the plant manager's control and the QC guys know which foreman might be, ahem, "adjusting" the results a bit, but not necessarily so well in an environment where skilled people are cooking up clever fraud unobserved.  As in the chemists who came up with the idea of contaminating vital wheat gluten with powdered melamine to juice the protein percentage tests. 


There are more sophisticated tests for detecting fraud, but then you get into the question of how much the buyer really cares in an outsourced environment (for the record I would bet that King Arthur _does_ care about things like that).


sPh

Yerffej's picture
Yerffej

One of the truly unique aspects of The Fresh Loaf is the ongoing civility, friendliness, and helpful nature of the vast majority of the TFL members.  It would be a sad sad day were that to change for the worse.


Jeff

DougMagic's picture
DougMagic

I am a poor speaker because I assume everyone knows what I do, so I apologize. I was going to go off on some long drawn out diatribe about farm subsidies, the enrichment of food processors at the expense of farmers and taxpayers, the ignorance of free market principles in farming, and the lack of a defining cuisine in the United States, but I typed out about 1,000 words, thought a few thousand more and said that this is no place for such a discussion.


My beef with Con-Agra, ADM, Cargill, Monsanto, Coca-Cola, McDonald's, Kraft, Dole, and just about every other multi-national involved in the putrification of the United States' food supply is that they are killing us with cheap food. Whole foods; fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and quality meats are out. Ultra-processed meals in boxes are in and if you don't want to go through the hassle of eating a meal you can just eat a meal replacement bar. We are a nation that is obsessed with health and dieting, yet we are one of the most unhealthy. Why? ...because our food chain is faulty.


I highly recommend doing a little research in to our food chain. A great jumping off point would be Michael Pollan's "The Omnivore's Dilemma", he does a great job of covering the facts without being all militant about like I am! Or if you want the crazy diatribe just email me and I will wax organically about Slow Food and regaining our culinary identities.

Rodger's picture
Rodger

The term "trust," which has been tossed around in this discussion, is freighted with shifting cargo.  Are you entrusting your confidence in a brand to produce a reliable, high-quality product?  Or are you trusting it to represent a moral code? 


When I use King Arthur AP, I am confident that it will behave in a consistently proven way, and I trust that if I do my part it will produce magnificent bread.


Occasionally I use small-mill flour (Weisenberger, for one), but King Arthur is widely available and, uh, trustworthy.


By the way, primed by this discussion, I examined the ConAgra bag in Costco yesterday.  It is indeed bleached and bromated, not the same as KA.


Rodger


 

ananda's picture
ananda

Hi


There are a great many pertinent and interesting comments in this thread; thank you to all those who contributed, especially those seeking to truly enlighten the debate on food policy.


I am UK based, so do not have direct experience of using King Arthur flour.   However, I think mr frost's opening comment holds good, and is backed up with a direct contribution from a KA employee.   This company makes no secrets of how it goes about its business.   My perspective suggests the company takes a great deal of pride in this.   They also charge a lot more for their flour than a lot of suppliers!


Why?   Simple: you really do get what you pay for!   I fully agree with much of the questioning going on here about ethically sound flour supply.   Trouble is, that King Arthur are probably the epitimy of the wrong company to single out.   Regarding Quality Assurance, this firm's products probably meet the standards closer than most other flour suppliers in the US.   That's my guess, but I'll stick my neck out on that.


Respect to all


Andy

steelchef's picture
steelchef

 


So, KAF sells their diastatic malt powder for $ 5.95 lb.


 


Here is what I paid!


 -----Original Message-----
From: Amazon.com [mailto:order-update@amazon.com]
Sent: September-10-10 9:02 AM
To: cobatoma@telus.net
Subject: Your Amazon.com order of "Diastatic Malt Powder, 1 lb." has shipped!


 


 


Dear Colin,


 


Barry Farm Foods shipped the following item(s) in your order


103-6600224-6761007, placed on September 08, 2010.


 


Delivery Estimate: October 06, 2010


 


This shipment was sent to:


 


Left blank for personal reasons


 


This shipment will be delivered by USPS.


 


You have been charged for the following items shipped today:


 


Diastatic Malt Powder, 1 lb.


Sold by: Barry Farm Foods


Condition: new


Quantity: 5


$2.09 each


Item subtotal: $10.45


 


---------------------------------------------------------------------


Item Subtotal                   :  $10.45


Shipping & Handling             :  $24.49


 


Total                           :  $34.94


 


Paid by Visa:  $34.94


 


---------------------------------------------------------------------


 


No more changes can be made to this order. If you have questions about


this order, including the seller's refund policy, you can visit


http://www.amazon.com/wheres-my-stuff.


 


LEAVE FEEDBACK ON THIS ORDER


Sellers appreciate feedback from buyers on their shopping experience. Once


your order is complete, please leave feedback for Barry Farm Foods on this


order by going to http://www.amazon.com/feedback.


 


Thanks for shopping at Amazon.com.


 


---------------------------------------------------------------------


Please note: Do not reply to this message, this e-mail address does not


accept incoming e-mail.

LindyD's picture
LindyD

You paid $25 to ship $10 worth of merchandise. 


I paid six bucks for a pound of DMP two years ago - still have half in my freezer and the shipping was free (KAF had one of their sales going on then).


How will you use five pounds of DMP?