Disclosure: This Post was sponsored by The Quaker Oats Company, but all opinions are our own.
Last week we toured the Quaker Oats plant in Cedar Rapids Iowa, to learn more about how oats are made and milled. The trip showcased Quaker’s “Seed to Spoon Journey,” which highlights how oats go from a seed to your delicious bowl of oatmeal. We even met one of Quaker’s oat farmers, Al, who is part of Quaker’s Direct Growers program. The program started in 2009 and is made up of about 400 farmers who grow nearly 50% of Quaker’s oats. Overall the trip was a blast, and we learned a lot of interesting facts about oats during our time with Quaker (some of which surprised us).
In this post, we’ll highlight 5 things we learned during our trip to the Quaker plant. But first, here is a photo of us getting geared up before we took a tour through the plant. Hello, hair nets.
Okay, so on to the lessons…
1. Old Fashioned, Quick 1-Minute, Original Instant and Steel Cut oats have the same nutrient value. Contrary to popular belief, all oats have the same nutritional properties. The only difference is the way they are milled (which we’ll get to shortly). Many people find this hard to believe because of the fact that steel cut oats take longer to cook. But the difference in cooking time has more to do with surface area of the oat, than its nutritional value. Just read the nutrition facts label. You’ll see that ounce per ounce, steel cut oats provide the same amount of fiber and nutrients as traditional oats- and they are all 100% whole grain.
2. The way oats are milled is fascinating (especially for a foodie and nutrition nerd). During our tour, we learned that all Quaker Oats start out as a groat, which is the inner part of an oat without the protective outer hull. Here’s what a groat looks like:
The groat can be milled in a variety of ways, and this will determine what kind of oat product it becomes. For example, with Quaker Old Fashioned Oats, you simply take the groat and roll it between two circular flaking rolls to flatten it out. Like so.
With Quaker Steel Cut Oats, there is no rolling involved. You simply take the groat and cut it with steel blades, as implied in the name. See here:
With Quaker Quick 3-Minute Oats, you use steel cut oats, roll them, and chop further to create more surface area. This, in turn, leads to quicker cooking. The same process is applied for Quaker Instant Oats with even more chopping for more surface area that allows for quicker cooking. Neat huh?
3. Quaker Oats go through a rigorous testing process to ensure they are of the highest quality. As we toured the Quaker plant and oat grading lab, staff experts highlighted the testing process that a sample size from each batch of oats must go through before reaching the consumer. We would have never thought the process was this intense or high tech.
4. The Quaker employees we met are really passionate about their jobs. Throughout our tour we met a lot of employees and managers at Quaker. Almost all of them have been working at Quaker for over 25 years, which needless to say, is a really, really long time. The night before we toured the Quaker plant, we went out to dinner at a farm-to-table restaurant. Our waitress at the restaurant said that her father has worked at Quaker since he was 19-years-old. He’s now 63.
5. People in different parts of the world consume oats in different ways. Quaker has plants in many countries all over the world. And the interesting part is that not all oats are consumed in the same way. For example, in China, oats are cooked into more of a porridge consistency commonly known as congee. In some European countries, like Spain, oats are typically consumed cold, or mixed with yogurt. In some Latin American countries, oats are often added to smoothies or soaked in water and consumed as agua con avena.
And there you have it. We met so many cool people along the way and it was fun to learn some interesting facts about one of our all-time favorite foods. We have been long-time advocates of oats because they are really affordable and have a plethora of nutrition benefits. Oats are naturally low in fat and sodium, no added sugar and are a good source of important vitamins and minerals. Oats are also a 100% whole grain and a good source of fiber, which helps support digestive health.
What about you? Were you surprised at all with the way oats are milled? What is your favorite type of oat?
Let’s continue the conversation in the comments below.
See you there! Xo