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Missouri consumer panel rates high-quality rice

Medium grain taste tests address market preference.

By Won K. Jung, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor
University of Missouri
Delta Research Center
Portageville, Mo.
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Many Asians consume large amounts of medium grain rice as their primary staple food. Even the average Asian American consumes 70-100 pounds per year of medium grain table rice.

Gradually, demand around the world for high-quality medium grain rice has increased due to greater interests in healthy diets, food safety and taste preferences. Because of taste preference by consumers, the price of high-quality Japonica-type medium grain rice in the grocery store is more than double that of Indica type.

Currently, California produces most of the U.S. domestic Japonica-type medium grain rice. Some Mid-South states, including Arkansas and Louisiana, have in-creased medium grain rice production. It also can be produced in Missouri.

Factors Affecting Taste Preference
Increased medium grain rice production might be expected to decrease market prices, but a shift in region of production and effects of increased taste preference for Japonica-type could allow increased production while maintaining the price.

Taste preference of medium grain rice is related to factors including genetic characteristics, crop and soil management techniques and post-harvest treatments linked to cooking processes. Quality Japonica- type medium grain rice has less than seven percent protein in the grain, and the starch has less than 20 percent amylose content. Genetics of the variety is the major factor controlling grain quality. Nitrogen (N) application is essential for maintaining rice grain yield. It also increases milling quality and protein content of the head rice.

Taste And Price Considerations
The rice research team at the University of Missouri Delta Research Center produced medium grain varieties (Bengal, CL261, Jupiter and Neptune) with better rice quality. Reducing N by 30 percent reduced grain yield by 15 percent. Yet, grain quality was improved by having less than six percent grain protein and starch with less than 18 percent amylose content.

A taste preference test involved 270 consumers who regularly use medium grain rice. Based on test categories (shape, smell, taste, stickiness, texture and overall), the panel preferred Jupiter eight percent higher than the reference rice variety, Nishiki, a California variety. Taste ac-counted for 73 percent of the preference, and price accounted for only 16 percent.

Asians and other participants who eat rice more than five times a week could detect variety differences. The non-Asian group did not have a taste preference for a specific variety. The medium grain rice varieties used in this research were usually ranked higher by participants in the in-home taste test than by the first panel test in a controlled test environment.

The results indicate production of high- quality medium grain rice appeals to Asians and to other everyday rice consumers. Further study on high-quality rice varieties and their management is necessary to improve grain quality, selling price and profit for rice producers.

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