While inches and feet have given way to centimeters and meters in most of the world, barley is still central to the world’s food supply. In fact, it’s the world’s fourth most important cereal crop after wheat, rice and corn.
Barley is highest in fiber of all the whole grains, with common varieties clocking in at about 17% fiber, and some, such as the variety called Prowashonupana barley, having up to 30% fiber. While the fiber in most grains is concentrated largely in the outer bran layer, barley’s fiber is found throughout the whole grain, which may account for its extraordinarily high levels.
But the goodness of whole grains comes from more than fiber. Whole grain barley is high in antioxidants, vitamins and minerals essential to health, too. However, much of the barley eaten in the U.S. is pearled or pearl barley, which is missing some or all of its bran layer.
Half or more of the barley grown in the United States is used for livestock feed. As feed it is nearly equal in nutritive value to kernel corn. It is especially valuable as hog feed, giving desirable portions of firm fat and lean meat. The entire kernel is used in feed, generally after grinding or steam rolling. Malt sprouts from malting as well as brewers grain (byproducts of brewing) are also valuable livestock feeds.
In Europe barley is the most widely cultivated cereal grain used in animal feed. Barley is a cool season plant and has been adapted throughout temperate growing regions by development of specific cultivars that matched local growing conditions. Extremes in climatic conditions have been observed to alter the nutritional composition of barley, but with careful management all barley can be used as livestock feed. Feed use of barley may account for 50 percent or more of total