Missouri is home to nearly 100,000 farms, covering two-thirds of the state’s total acreage.

How much do you know about the food you eat? Do you know where it comes from? Unfortunately, there really are people who don’t know that milk comes from cows or that their cotton T-shirt was once a crop. 

How much do you know about Missouri farming? You might be surprised to learn that Missouri is home to nearly 100,000 farms, covering two-thirds of the state’s total acreage. On average, Missouri farms have about 269 acres and nearly all are family-owned and -operated.

So do you know what crops Missouri produces? According to the Missouri Department of Agriculture, Missouri’s Top 10 agricultural products are the following, ranked by production value.

1. Soybeans. Soybeans are the nation’s top agricultural export, and Missouri farmers plant more than 5 million acres of soybeans each year. Most soybeans are processed into vegetable oils, used by consumers and manufacturers. Some soybeans become protein for animal feeds. A smaller percentage is processed into soy milk, protein powders, tofu and other similar products. Did you know that edamame are soybeans that are picked while still green?

2. Beef. Missouri is home to 2.2 million beef cattle, and the state ranks within the Top 10 nationally for beef production. Beef provides 10 essential nutrients for our diet: protein, iron, choline, selenium, vitamins B6 and B12, zinc, phosphorous, niacin and riboflavin. Just three ounces of lean beef provides half of our daily protein needs and is a heart-healthy option.

3. Corn. Missouri farmers planted 3.4 million acres of corn that produced 552.5 million bushels of grain plus 1.05 million tons of corn silage in 2017. That’s more corn than Missouri needs, so much gets exported. Corn is a versatile grain, providing starch, fiber, protein and oil. Corn is primarily used for livestock feed, ethanol production and manufactured goods. Of course it’s in cornmeal, corn starch and corn syrup, but did you know that corn is used in thousands of products, including toothpastes, shampoos, crayons and paper products?

4. Hogs. Approximately 3.4 million hogs were raised in Missouri in 2017. Pork is 16 percent leaner than it was 20 years ago, due to breeding changes to meet consumer demands. Pork is an excellent source of thiamin, selenium, protein, niacin, B6 and phosphorus. Lean, loin cuts meet the requirements of a heart-healthy diet.

5. Broiler chickens. Missouri ranks 10th in the nation for broiler production. Broilers are chickens raised for meat, and demand is high. The average American consumes a little more than 200 pounds of chicken each year. Boneless, skinless chicken breast is the most popular cut of chicken and the most heart-healthy.

6. Turkey. Missouri’s turkey industry creates 12,736 jobs. Missouri ranks fourth in the nation for turkey production. Although 88 percent of Americans eat turkey on Thanksgiving Day, we average only about 17 pounds per person every year — which is unfortunate because turkey is higher in protein than chicken and just as heart-healthy.

7. Dairy. Missouri’s 1,190 licensed dairy herds generate $252 million in milk sales annually; however, the dairy industry in Missouri is shrinking. Each cow produces an average of 4.9 gallons of milk every day. Each Missourian consumes an average of 643 pounds of dairy products each year. Although Missouri does not produce enough milk for its residents, the country as a whole has an oversupply that has contributed to lower milk prices in stores. Missouri is also home to 30 plants that produce dairy products.

8. Eggs. Missouri is 11th in the nation for egg production, producing around 3 billion eggs a year. The average American eats 280 eggs annually. Eggs are an affordable, high-quality protein and a good source of vitamins A, D and E, plus disease-fighting lutein and zeaxanthin. Even though egg yolks are high in cholesterol, there is no need to cut eggs from your diet. 

9. Cotton. The farmers in the Missouri Bootheel region grew 297,000 acres of cotton in 2017, making Missouri seventh in the nation for cotton production. Besides being woven or knitted into fabrics, cotton seed is used for cattle feed or crushed to make oil used in such products as salad dressings, emulsifiers and cosmetics. Did you know that American currency is also made from cotton? This explains why those dollars that go through the washing machine don’t simply disintegrate.

10. Rice. Also grown primarily in the Bootheel region, more than 1,190 pounds of rice were harvested in 2016. More than half of the rice grown in Missouri is exported. The rest is used domestically, mostly for the production of beer and pet food.

Missouri is also home to a variety of other crops, including watermelon, winter wheat, hay, sorghum, grapes, peaches, apples, pecans, potatoes and black walnuts.

The next time you sit down to a meal, think about where your food comes from and all the hard work Missouri farmers invest in getting food to our plates.