By Frank Witsil
Detroit Free Press
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Deirdre Ortiz, a global expert on cereal at Kellogg’s headquarters in Battle Creek, Michigan talks about the science of food and what makes Michigan’s wheat so distinctive
Detroit Free Press
Deirdre Ortiz or as her colleagues call her, “Dr. Wheat” — is shaping the way people eat breakfast and snacks by helping to develop Michigan’s role in filling America’s breadbasket.
A global expert on cereal at Kellogg’s headquarters in Battle Creek, Ortiz leads research on making healthy — and tasty — snacks for the cereal company, specializing in wheat and flour quality, as well as baking and technical troubleshooting. She likely had a hand in preparing something you eat.
“Food science has, in general, provided a safe food source for American consumers for a long time,” Ortiz, 55, said. “One of the things people should know about food science is that we generally start out as people who like to cook and like to give people food that is wholesome and nutritious and add value to their day-to-day life.”
Michigan is home to thousands of farms — about 8,000 wheat farmers — that grow wheat along with corn, soybeans and other row crops like dry beans and sugar beets, according to the Michigan Wheat Program. Farmers in Michigan plant an annual average of 500,000 acres of wheat in the state, with sales of about $218.5 million.
And as anyone who has been there knows just from the smell in the air, Battle Creek is Cereal City.
In an edited conversation, Ortiz talked about the science of food and what makes Michigan’s wheat so distinctive:
Question: Where did the name Dr. Wheat come from?
Answer: My area of expertise is in wheat, and I’ve led the Kellogg global wheat program for more than 15 years. I’m sort of the go-to person globally for Kellogg wheat. Everybody just started calling me Dr. Wheat or the Queen of Wheat because I’m all about wheat all the time.