Canary seed, Not Just For The Birds, Anymore

Traditionally, canary seed in Canada has been used exclusively as birdseed. This changed in January, when Health Canada and the USDA approved the cereal crop for human consumption.

The Canaryseed Development Commission of Saskatchewan funded the research of food scientist Carol Ann Patterson, who led the work necessary for food approval. Patterson conducted extensive compositional, nutritional and toxicological work on glabrous (hairless) canary seed varieties. This research was also backed by the work of Dr. Pierre Hucl, the canary seed breeder at the University of Saskatchewan, whose breeding of glabrous varieties opened the door for food approval. In addition, his team did the initial analysis to show CDC Maria, the first glabrous variety, was similar to other cereal grains.

The Development Commission is also working to get expanded registration for crop protection products that are important to canary seed production. Many of the herbicides used on canary seed for birdseed, do not automatically have their registration extended for food use.

To date, the canary seed market has been limited by the size of the market for birdseed. With the novel food approval, it is expected the market will grow. A key feature of canary seed for human consumption is the fact that it is gluten free.

Canary seed flour can be used to make bread, cookies, cereal and pastas. Whole seeds can also be used in a number of applications. "Gluten free" is the fastest growing food intolerance category in Canada1, and the global gluten-free market is projected to reach US$6.2 billion by 20182. The market is expected to slow in its growth by 2016, but even so, the demand for “gluten free” is a legitimate trend. While canary seed is gluten free, people with allergies to wheat may also be allergic to a protein found in canary seed. Products with canary seed will need to be labelled as such.

CDC Calvi, a new glabrous canary seed variety from CANTERRA SEEDS, is now available to farmers. Its impressive yield results (127% of CDC Maria) are creating a lot of interest, and seed supplies may be tight. You can visit to find a supplier near you.

Is it canaryseed or canary seed? Both! Canary seed is used for human food approval, while The Canaryseed Development Commission of SK is registered with just one word used for the crop.

1 = Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (2013): Food Intolerance Products in the United States: Lactose-free, Gluten-free and Diabetic Food. Market Analysis Report.

2 = MarketsandMarkets (2013): Gluten-Free Products Market By Type (Bakery & Confectionery, Snacks, Breakfast Cereals, Baking Mixes & Flour, Meat & Poultry Products), Sales Channel (Natural & Conventional) & Geography — Global Trends & Forecasts to 2018.

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