What is Dent Corn?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Dent corn is a variety of corn that is higher in starch and lower in sugar than table corn, the type of corn eaten as a vegetable. There are a wide range of uses for this grain, which is one of the most cultivated crops around the world. In addition to being used as a source of food for humans, it provides corn starch and other byproducts that can be processed into an assortment of things, from biodegradable plastics to fuels. Some people also call dent corn “field corn” to distinguish it from table corn.

Some people call dent corn "field corn" to distinguish it from table corn.
Some people call dent corn "field corn" to distinguish it from table corn.

The origins of corn as a crop date back to early Mesoamerican cultures, which first tamed the wild relatives of the plant to turn them into a usable food crop. In order to be edible, the cereal grain must be processed, typically through grinding it into a flour or soaking it in lye or other substances to soften the outer shell, as is the case in corn masa. Soaking the corn in lye also frees the niacin bound up in the kernels, making it more nutritious. Other varieties of corn include popcorn, flour corn, sweet corn, and waxy corn.

Dent corn is the most cultivated crop in the world.
Dent corn is the most cultivated crop in the world.

The stalks of dent corn usually grow larger than the corn's sweeter cousin, and the individual kernels have distinctive dents along their sides, which led to the common name. The corn is often dried for processing, and is available for sale in a number of different formats including whole cobs, individual kernels, and ground flours. It may also be further refined to extract an assortment of useful compounds.

Corn oil is a byproduct of dent corn.
Corn oil is a byproduct of dent corn.

Animal fodder often includes this type of corn as a source of nutrition, and since it grows cheaply and readily, it is often used to bulk up fodder for feedlot raising. Since the firm kernel has a variety of uses, it is very important economically, especially in some regions of the United States. It grows best in regions with long, warm summers which allow the ears of corn to fully mature, and when processed properly, they can be stored for up to two years.

Corn Starch is a byproduct of Dent Corn.
Corn Starch is a byproduct of Dent Corn.

Consumers rarely interact directly with whole kernels of dent corn, but they indirectly consume or handle many products that depend on it every day. Most meats are produced from animals fed on it, many cosmetics include its byproducts, and an assortment of foods ranging from corn syrup to starches use it as a constituent ingredient.

Dent corn stalks are usually bigger than sweet corn stalks.
Dent corn stalks are usually bigger than sweet corn stalks.
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments


Reid's Yellow Dent is non-GMO it is not owned by Monsanto and, I believe, won a contest at the world fair in the late 1800's. It is a good crop. But most grains, I do believe, are not processed correctly to neutralize phytic acid, which equals sick people, which equals ignorance or malice, and thereby equals bad karma.

Cattle eat grass, correct. Cattle fed seeds while standing in their own excrement equals bad karma.

Chickens are foragers and can eat seeds. They should not solely eat seeds. Chickens that can't forage fresh grasses, herbs, and insects as well as being given a supplemental feed equals bad karma. Hope this helps.


Good comments! I know too that cows on a corn fed diet is not a good thing, especially GMO corn! It also leads to E-coli and is uncomfortable for the cows themselves. It's like feeding us a steady diet of half cooked beans.

Did you ever find out what type of grinder is good for grinding dent corn? do you know if it makes a good chicken feed, too?


Is there a dent in number 2 dent corn?


Can animals such as farm animals, but especially cows, live off a dent corn diet?

I read their stomachs were designed for grass eating, and while corn is cheap, it may not be very good for them.


No mention of the fact that in the US most dent corn is manipulated by agricultural corporations in the forms of:

- it's genetically modified (GMO) and is banned in the European Union since no long term health effects on humans studies have been completed. The US Food & Drug Administration allows the use of dent corn in American diets; but corporations have lobbied to keep our nutrition labels free of GMO identity.

- some suppliers of dent corn seed, like the Monsanto Corporation, restrict its growth and control in order to maintain a monopoly


I use dent corn for food storage. I sealed the corn in #10 cans (the usually bishop's storage can size) with oxy packs, and have stored it for about 4 or 5 years now. I just ground some, and it's great! I use a Nutrimill Grain mill. You have to move your hand around in the hopper to get the corn to go down more easily, and grind it on the coarsest setting. The mill is great! Well worth the price.


Is dent corn a good home food storage corn for families? If so, what is the shelf life if stored in sealed cans, plastic containers. What type of grinder is need to grind dent corn?

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