In the late 1960′s the US, through conventional hybridization techniques, succeeded in creating new types of corn, dramatically increasing yield per acre by reducing the space required per plant as well as increasing the number of ears per stalk. This development was seen as a phenomenal opportunity for the nation with the world’s greatest capacity of corn production. All that was needed was a way to increase demand for corn. Although shifting the Western diet to grits was not likely there were other options.
Corn fed hogs and Chicken would now become less expensive to produce in confined animal feeding operations which would later proliferate. But due to the inherent inefficiency of converting grain calories into animal calories the development of processed foods that use corn itself and not animal products would be far more profitable than selling pork or chicken.
Corn syrup and corn syrup solids had seen their uses multiply under the post WWII “better living through chemistry” paradigm. Now they would also be much cheaper to produce. In 1973, Richard Nixon’s Secretary of Agriculture, Earl Butz, altered US farm policy to permanently subsidize the increased production of corn, opening a new era in which corn-based processed foods would become far cheaper than their rivals. The convenience and fast food industries were poised to take off. Soft drinks that cost pennies to produce could be marketed at fantastic profit. Corn derivatives would find their way into virtually every processed food.