Duck Feathers

By Karl Kupers on October 28, 2013

In previous newsletters we have talked about the high quality of Shepherd’s Grain flour and the difference in some lower quality flours and the need for additives to allow them to perform as a higher quality flour. We talked about caring where your gluten came from noting the large increase in vital gluten that is added to many commercial bread lines as well as in many processed foods that contain flour. Vital gluten are proteins “washed” off the flour and is primarily sourced from outside the United States.

I received an email a couple weeks ago that I could have just laughed at and treated it as a joke but it came from a customer and that meant I take it seriously. The email asked if we used duck feathers in our pizza dough flour line. I know, “really” was my first reaction as well. But after investigation I found it to be a very real question. It was not necessarily duck feathers that were being used in certain flour lines, it was a product derived from duck feathers called L-cysteine. This product has had some research done suggesting it can be a dough enhancer. The alarming issue became when it was stated there are additional resources for L-cysteine and they were human hair and hog hair along with the duck feathers. Suffice it to say, Shepherd’s Grain nor ADM use any such products in either company’s flour lines. But all this got me to thinking more about the continuum of information we are learning about “additives”, “dough enhancers” or other things put into flour to make it work. My first thought was since we started Shepherd’s Grain both the cost of wheat and flour have increased by over 50% and are these “things” a way to maintain a lower cost baked good since many consumers still want a low cost baked product. I asked a baker this question last week and he said it is most likely the issue of “time” decrease for dough to process in the new machinery of today which was developed to increase efficiency. Which, when comparing thoughts, is seen as another way to decrease cost so basically saying the same thing.

In my previous discussions of caring where your gluten comes from, I can now add caring about where and how your flour is asked to act before being baked into the finished product. Again, purchase an artisan bread or pastry from a local bakery and you will know these answers and be making a wise choice for your well being.

As always, thank you for your support of Shepherd’s Grain and our family of producers.