The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Why are wheat berries so expensive?

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davec's picture
davec

Why are wheat berries so expensive?

Where do those of you who grind your own flour buy your grains?  I have only found one source who doesn't charge more for wheat berries than for flour ground from those same berries, and that source was 2000 miles away, so the shipping costs are prohibitive.  Just this week, I got another price list from a buying club I can join locally.  They have several brands of stone ground whole wheat flour at around 40 cents a pound in 50# quantities.  The best price they have on wheat berries in bulk is nearly twice that.  Even their King Arthur fancy bakers' flours are cheaper than the plain old wheat berries.


Does this make any sense?


Dave

xaipete's picture
xaipete

I buy mine from Bob's Red Mill, 25 pounds at a time. My neighbor buys from Wheat Montana. I think a lot of us who grind don't do it because of saving money so much as wanting freshly milled flour, wanting to use different types of wheat berries, and wanting 'to it ourselves'.


--Pamela

davec's picture
davec

I can relate to all that,  but I resent paying more for the raw ingredients than for the finished product.  Maybe those of us who want whole grains should band together, and buy them by the ton.


Dave

boilerbaker's picture
boilerbaker

Our Walmart sells Wheat Montana white wheat berries for about $12 for a $25 lb bag.  Before finding that, I had talked to our local chain, Harvest Bread Co, into ordering both wheat berries and rye berries, 50 lb each, but that reduced the price considerably for me since I live in the So. Midwest.

beeman1's picture
beeman1

I buy mine from a local reseller that has them drop shipped from Wheat Montana. They do this about four times a year. I understand Azure Standard does this on the west side of the US. You might check into Bread Beckers Co-ops.

davec's picture
davec

Thanks, I'll check into it.  What kind of prices are people on here getting?  I'm in VA, and I don't thinke there is much wheat grwown nearby.


 

LeadDog's picture
LeadDog

Last time I checked my local feed and grain store sold 50 pounds of wheat for $12.50.  I'm need to get some more wheat soon so I'll see if the price is still the same.

Cabbage Hill Farmstead's picture
Cabbage Hill Fa...

Know your grain farmer! In our area, and it is becoming the norm nationwide, many "burndown" their crop. This means spraying with chemicals to kill it (ripen it) to harvest in a faster manner. This affects the germ, the LIFE of the seed. Do you want to eat a "dead" product?  Also, when grain is sold to a local grain company, many times it is sprinkled with a powdered insecticide to protect from infestation during storage. Some growers may do it with on-farm storage, too. Do you want poisons in your flour?


Sometimes paying a bit more for quality and assurance is worth it. Buy all raw products from a grower you know and trust if you want an end result of which to be proud.

janij's picture
janij

Do you know any Mormons?  They have canneries that sell white and red hard wheat for fairly inexpensive.

flourgirl51's picture
flourgirl51

They have them at www.organicwheatproducts.com

subfuscpersona's picture
subfuscpersona

davec on March 10, 2009 wrote:
Why are wheat berries so expensive? ...Where do those of you who grind your own flour buy your grains? I have only found one source who doesn't charge more for wheat berries than for flour ground from those same berries...Does this make any sense?

I agree. It makes no sense to me why whole grain is *at least* twice as expensive as an equivalent flour. I'm glad to meet someone else who is equally puzzled.


What a paradox! One would think that the costs of storing grain, cleaning grain, transporting grain, preparing grain for milling, milling grain, storing flour, packaging flour and transporting flour would *surely* outweigh the cost of storing grain, cleaning grain, packaging and transporting it.


Personally, I suspect it has to do with the scale of commercial flour milling, which is a huge, international business. A high percentage of a country's projected yeild of grain (wheat, corn, whatever...) can actually be "purchased" before it is ever harvested (think futures markets). The lowly home miller is an infinitesimal afterthought in this context.


If you live in the USA, you can realize competitive costs if you live in or close to the major wheat growing regions (or in CA, where everyone seems to be able to purchase everything).


Trying to live low down on the food chain frequently turns out to be more expensive than living on mass marketed, processed foodstuffs.


 

asicign's picture
asicign

Add me to the list of people who are upset at the cost of wheat berries.  I live in Houston, and $0.99 / lb is the cheapest price I've seen.  I understand the economics of milling, and I'm not sure that volume of berriy sales would increase much if they were cheaper.  I belong to a vegetable coop, but don't know anyone else that mills their own flour.

sybram's picture
sybram

A little off topic here, but I need help finding bulk flours in the Fort Worth, Tx. area.  I've googled and checked with restaurant supply stores to no avail.  KA site shows WalMart as carrying their flour, and it does, but just in a small package.  Shipping prices are prohibitive for me.  I'm interested in at least 25 lb. bags of unbleached white, wheat and rye.  Any Foat Wuth bakers on here?  Syb 

hsmum's picture
hsmum

Do you live anywhere near where wheat is grown?  Depending on the regulations governing sale of grain where you live, it is probably easiest to befriend a local farmer.  As a wheat farmer's daughter, I can assure you that farmers are paid a minute fraction of what you buy wheat berries for.  It's quite shocking, actually.  I think most grain farmers would be absolutely delighted at your appreciation of their wheat and would be happy to sell you it to you for very cheap.  But...again....this would depend very much on local laws governing grain farmers.


Karen

Susan's picture
Susan

If you were a 50-lb bag of flour, where would you be?  Here are a few suggestions:



  1. Look in the Yellow Pages for a baking goods distributor.

  2. Ask a bakery or pizza place where they buy their flour.

  3. Call the milling company for the flour you want and ask for the name of their local distributor.

baltochef's picture
baltochef

As well as I recommend those concerned with the high cost of whole grains and milled flours to read my post titled, Get Together & Form Some Kind Of Cooperative on the Arrowhead Mills discontinues organic rye thread..


As I mentioned in that post, baking at home is a marginalized activity in the United States, with far more than half of the population purchasing their breads / desserts from either a grocery store, or some form of bakery..Statistically, this is the case, although the popularity of forums such as TFL (and many, many others) would seem to belie those statistics..


For hard-core bread bakers, such as those populating this forum, that want the best selection of organic grains and flours at the best prices per pound,  it is my belief that we are going to have band together to form cooperative purchasing organizations in order to achieve the goal of best price per pound of flour or grain..


There is no gainsaying that the best possible prices for flour are to be had by purchasing direct from the miller by the full pallet load..A full pallet load is forty 50# bags weighing a total of 2000 lbs..The best prices for grains are to be found at the farmer that grows them, with the miller running second..


The majority of serious bread bakers simply are not fortunate enough to live within easy driving distance of either a grain farmer, or a miller, where purchasing direct from either is a possibility..We have to depend on internet retail sources for our grains or flours if we cannot cadge a local bakery into selling us product..As many have pointed out, shipping heavy items long distances is often cost prohibitive..


That is why I am urging members here at TFL to consider setting up some kind of cooperative purchasing group to remedy these concerns..


Bruce


 

Richelle's picture
Richelle

Over here in Andalucia, Spain, organic berries are cheaper to buy then organic flour. Wholewheat is the cheapest flour and high extraction almost white flour the most expensive, which makes perfect sense to me, as it involves more labour.


Richelle

flourgirl51's picture
flourgirl51

We grow our own certified organic wheat  and other small grains. In order to have the wheat berries cleaned and bagged we have to have semi loads of wheat taken almost two hours from here to a certified organic plant. They charge for cleaning and bagging the wheat berries into 60 lb bags. We have to pay the trucking to and from the place that does this. Organic farming is very labor intensive as you have to use a tractor to control weeds as we can't use chemicals. The price of diesel fuel has not come down around here.  We have to pay for organic certification, certificates and inspections etc. If you end up with a crop of low protein wheat you basically are stuck with it as other organic farmers near here have come to find out.


We charge .50 per pound for our organic wheat berries. Our hard wheat berries are 14% protein, the soft berries are 12% protein.  I also have a small commercial stone mill and sell freshly ground flour for .60 per pound. Last time I checked these prices were lower than the store brand of non-organic flours, which by the way are a year old as there is still a large amount of flour being stored in the conventional mills from last year. There are not many organic farmers who sell wheat berries to the general public because of the extra costs and hassels of doing so. My guess is that you are paying the middle man if you being charged high prices for wheat berries.


www.organicwheatproducts.com

Troy Larsen's picture
Troy Larsen

I live just north of Minneapolis and finding bulk quantities of wheat is difficult.  I am a mormon and did resort to buying from a "cannery".  But I would like to branch outside of wheat and get bulk of other grains. 


When we lived in Vermont, getting bulk flour (KA) and grains was not a problem - the local food service supply would sell us anything we wanted that they had.  But that was Vermont.


It would seem that with the state the economy is in right now, that it would be easier to purchase bulk grains (more demand).

flourgirl51's picture
flourgirl51

We are in northern Minnesota and have organic grains available. We can also ship via SpeeDee delivery as you are in Minnesota. They are cheap and fast. Check out the website at www.organicwheatproducts.com

Troy Larsen's picture
Troy Larsen

We are looking for grains like oats, semolina, etc.  In general, things to add into bread or make into flour for other baking needs.  


 

taramacon's picture
taramacon

I have a very strange bent in the thinking process so it seemed that the only way that I was going to get the kinds of grain that I wanted was to grow it for myself. OK so I have some rather unusual friends and one of them let me farm a small corner of one of his fields. There is a lot that goes into the farming of wheat. and what comes out of the combine is not ready to be put into the grinder. It needs to be cleaned and that is more time and expense. If you are going to do it for yourself then there is getting the use of a cleaner. All this said this is truly the only way that you are going to know what you are eating. I would like to get to the point that I could offer some for sale but for now I don't have the cleaning to the point that I would want it to represent me to you. There may be a time when that might be able to happen but not for now. The first time that I went looking for wheat berries of a known variety I went to a certified seed dealer and talked them into selling some of the seed untreated. I got it for $40.00 dollars for a hundred pounds not bad but still had to hand pick the berries to make sure that there wasn't any ergot in the grain. Trust me ergot is not something that you want in your food. Salem is a good example of what can happen. There is a group of farmers that have banded together to sell grain in a known variety, they can be found on the net as shepherds grain. They use sustainable yield farming practices and for me that is at least as important as is organic. They sell to top-end bakeries that produce top-end artisan breads. I don't know if they sell the grain or just the flour.

enaid's picture
enaid

Baking from 'scratch' is almost always more beneficial healthwise and taste-wise. If we  plant a seed and go through all the stages until the finished 'product' arrives at our table, we are rewarded tenfold.  However, in this day and age, for many, it is impracticable. For those who live on or near a farm or mill, have lots of time and bake lots of bread every day, it is  probably no great effort to grind the wheat.  When I had children at home, I also had a full time job and was only able to bake bread about once or twice a month. When we moved to a village which had a mill with a shop, there was no point in me continuing to make bread myself when I could buy better bread every morning a few steps away from my home, which backed on to the field where the wheat grew. Those days are long gone and I now live in suburbia with the closest mill about 2 hrs. drive away.  I now bake my own bread and am starting to buy my flour at this mill.  Now I have more time, retired with no children at home, I have been contemplating grinding my own flour.  Although the cost is no problem, it is worth considering all the facts.  A good home grain mill  seems to be about $400-$600. How often is one going to use it before that money is recouped?  At the mill here, their hard wheat berries are $18.48 Cdn. (about on par with US right now) for 12kg. (26 1/4 lbs). Their hard whole wheat flour is $20.88 for 12 kg. My question is, "Do the ground wheat berries result in the same weight of finished flour?

JBeddo's picture
JBeddo

I looked around for a long time before I found an affordable source of wheat berries too. I found some at the nearest Whole Foods store; they would also order 50 lbs bags for me. Then I found a better price at a food co-op in nearby town.  I live in a very rural area of Northern New Mexico. Breadbeckers.com that someone else mentioned is a good source but shipping for me was issue, but they are who I purchased my WonderMill from. They also have a free CD on the benefits of freshly ground grain called something like “Do Not Eat the Bread of Idleness” plus for $6 there is a collection of recipes that is really great. Then when I was searching online for food grade buckets to store wheat berries in I found several more places that would ship 6 gallon buckets with 45 lbs of grain in them. The moral of the story is keep looking. A great many of the vitamins and minerals in the wheat are oxidized with in the first 72 hours after grinding so freshest whole grain flour you can buy is still without the nutrient dense vitamins and minerals that can be had from whole wheat berries. Even if the nutrition were not an issue though I would still grind my own flour now because once you have tasted the difference in bread made from freshly ground flour you will never go back.


 


 

LindyD's picture
LindyD

Glad you found a good source of wheat berries.  I used to live in Taos, NM - at the ski valley - great country.


BTW, you might want to look into using FireFox or Google Chrome for a browser instead of IE - or updating IE so it doesn't leave all those tracks!  ;-)

JBeddo's picture
JBeddo

Actually I do Firefox and Google Chrome. I don't like IE either can't figure out what happened there.

gary.turner's picture
gary.turner

It appears that the reply was written in Word or another word processing application in the MSOffice suite, then exported to html.  This is a particularly bad idea.


Rather than do that, and assuming you don't know html, you should use BBCodes, and type directly into the editor window.


cheers,


gary

idiotbaker's picture
idiotbaker

Look for all commodity prices to go up. As the Federal Reserve continues to destroy the dollar, you can count on it.  Stock up!


Check out Breadbeckers.com for a co-op near you. They will put in a bulk order for those in your area. The result is that ordering by the truckload saves a bunch on shipping.


Peace.


 

hanseata's picture
hanseata

carries wheat and other grain berries, if there is one in your area. Many health food stores do, too, though only the more common varieties.


I had more difficulties finding organic spelt berries, my whole grocer did carry them. But the natural food store that sells my breads was able to order me 25 lb bags at a discount - though they don't sell them in the store.


Karin


 

BerniePiel's picture
BerniePiel

$8.00 for a 25 pound plastic bin.  I've been using them, milling several scoops at a time, and I'm still no where near denting 25#'s.  Can't beat the quality or taste, either.  Check out a food coop in your state.  But, when I googled grain purveyors I found that the larger supply houses were absurd in their pricing and the cost to ship prohibitive.  Check your local state extension office for possible names of organic wheat growers and other grain growers in your region.  Good luck, inexpensive great grain is out there, just look for it.


Bernie PIel

Oldcampcook's picture
Oldcampcook

Bernie, what Coop are you using?


BTW, we still need to get together.  Now that I am fully retired I am a bit more flexible about driving up into the city.


 


Bob

cryobear's picture
cryobear

I'm not sure, but I think that it's like coffee cherries.  They can range from $0.50 to $700.00 a pound.  The average price we get is $20.00 a pound at the farm/roasted.  As with wheat, they blend the cheap with the the top dollar grain to sell you "flour", but if you want the best or even want to know what you are really buying, you must pay top dollar.  And don't complain about what we get for coffee.  We're paying $1.00 a pound for AP flour, and some times it so old that you think that you stuck your nose in a dirty cloths hampper!  After it spends 8 to 10 weeks sitting on the ocean, then weeks on the docks, it gets rank.  Hey, that's the price for living in Para-dice, you go with the roll.....


Mahalo,


Bob 

drdobg's picture
drdobg

I am amazed that our local WalMart carries 25# bags of white and red wheatberries.  Can't quote the price as I don't have tha ability to mill my own grains so I haven't compared prices, but I wasn't really looking for these locally either. Seeing whole wheatberries sure made me think about getting a mill, though.  I am in a city of 50000 in Wisconsin, so others around the country might look at WalMart.

drdobg's picture
drdobg

Don't forget supply and demand.

tananaBrian's picture
tananaBrian

Check your local Feed-n-Seed type farm store ...ours carries lots of human food too, including wheat berries in bulk bags, soup mixes in bulk, etcetera. 


 


Brian


 


 

alco141's picture
alco141

a lot of folks i know are using honeyville grain as they sell the wheat in bags and cans hard white and hard red, they also have a lot of baking products powderd milk pwdered eggs, shipping is only 4.99 per odere no matter how big the order is.  i have no affiliation iwth them.


 


alex

flourgirl51's picture
flourgirl51

I know that we sell organic grains but I just wanted to put this out there for those people that are buying grains from unknown sources. Many non-organic growers wait until JUST before harvest when the grains are ripe and the seeds are the most exposed and then they spray the entire crop with Roundup to finish drying off the wheat. This means that the wheat is contaminated with Roundup or another such herbicide. This is a fact that many people are unaware of. You might want to check your grain source if you are at all concerned with this type of contamination.  


We are selling our certified organic wheat for LESS than the generic Walmart wheat.

Postal Grunt's picture
Postal Grunt

I have no idea what other WalMarts are selling for wheat berries but the local WalMart in Leavenworth, KS stocks WheatMontana berries as do other WalMarts in the KC, MO area. They aren't claimed to be organic as Flourgirl51 offers, just chemical free according to the WheatMontana website. I have no way to verify their claim.

nhtom's picture
nhtom

I just get my wheatberries from a neighbor who gets them from her local food co-op.


I get 50 lbs at a time.  They tend not to go bad.


Just as an aside: Archeologists found wheat berries in the pyramids - and they were able to sprout them!

tananaBrian's picture
tananaBrian

They keep virtually forever if you keep them dry and pest free.  Except for the container that I am currently using, I store grains for the long term in 6-gallon food-grade buckets that have sealing lids on them, but I use CO2 to kill all pests/larvae/eggs that may or may not be in them.  It only takes a 10% CO2 mix to kill the nasties (although I can't remember how long you have to treat).  The easiest way to do it is to put a few ounces of dry ice in the bottom of the bucket, add a paper towel, pour the grain in, then put the lid on loosely.  Once the dry ice has completed disappeared, the bottom of the bucket will feel warm to the touch ...no more cold spot.  That's when you can seal the lid.  Once sealed, the grain will continue to absorb CO2 and the sides of the buckets will partially cave in ...a great indicator that lets you know the lid is remaining sealed.  I've got buckets that've lasted like that for years (and continue to last to this date.)  I think you're supposed to use 1/2 oz dry ice per gallon (3 ounces for the 6-gallon bucket) but I always put in more than they say ...the stuff is cheap and there is always lots extra, so why not?


 


Brian


 

Jean6's picture
Jean6

Find the nearest Ben E. Keith distribution center.  Ben E. Keith is headquartered in Ft. Worth. You can call them and purchase 50# bags of King Arthur flour (I buy Sir Galahad flour for the artisan baker) and 1 lb. bags of SAF instant yeast and other items from the WILL CALL pick up area as an individual.


You just call the general number at one of their distribution centers and tell them you are placing a "will call" order and tell them what you need.  When you pick it up the first time, make sure they pulled the correct items.  After that, you will have their item numbers to use when calling in your order.  Also, you must pay in cash (at least the one I buy from insists on cash).


Good luck.