The Van Trump Report

“Orange Corn” Aims to Boost Both Poultry and Human Health

Torbert Rocheford, the Patterson Endowed Chair in Translational Genomics for Crop Improvement in the Purdue College of Agriculture’s Department of Agronomy, has spent over two decades working to improve the nutrition profile of corn. The result, a variety with boosted carotenoid levels known as “orange corn,” was meant to help improve nutrition in developing countries. Now, Rocheford and his company “NutriMaize” want to bring those same benefits to the poultry industry.

NutriMaize in late March received a $650,000 Phase II Small Business Innovation Research grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to demonstrate  that the corn can deliver the health benefits of carotenoids to poultry and consumers on a commercial scale. Carotenoids are natural antioxidant pigments that give many fruits and vegetables, such as carrots, their orange color and health-benefiting reputations.  

According to Rocheford, the company’s previous research shows when used in poultry feed, NutraMaize Orange Corn can reduce the incidence and severity of footpad dermatitis, a common health problem for poultry, and significantly enhance the depth of color and health-benefiting antioxidant carotenoid content in egg yolks. “This means that orange corn has the potential to improve animal welfare and reduce disease-related losses for producers while simultaneously improving consumer well-being by enhancing the nutritional quality of one of America’s most important protein sources – eggs,” says Rocheford.

In conjunction with researchers from Purdue University and USDA, NutriMaize will conduct studies at Purdue’s Animal Sciences Research and Education Center and partner with grain farmers and commercial poultry producers to conduct field studies. Rocheford said they are particularly interested in working with organic egg producers, “since they have limited options for disease management and typically spend significantly more on expensive carotenoid supplements to ensure their yolks reach the dark color expected by their customers.” Rocheford developed the orange corn using traditional breeding techniques, so it is a non-GMO product.

Rocheford said the company is looking for more producers to partner with to conduct commercial trials over the coming years. “Our mission is to help improve the well-being of as many people and animals as possible,” Rocheford said. “So, we want to talk to every poultry producer, feed mill, grain handler, farmer and seed company who sees the potential value NutraMaize Orange Corn can provide at scale.”

Orange Corn is what you might consider Rocheford’s “passion project.” He began working to increase the amount of carotenoids in corn more than 20 years ago to help decrease vitamin A deficiencies in Sub-Saharan Africa. The human body converts certain provitamin A carotenoids, such as beta-carotene found in carrots, into vitamin A, an essential vitamin that promotes eye health and supports the immune system.

When his orange corn variety was introduced in Africa, some asked if it was also grown in the US. The answer was “no,” which Rocheford said made some question why, if it was so good, don’t Americans eat it? That led to the founding of NutriMaize, which Rocheford started with his son, Evan, to commercialize the corn in the US.

The corn is sold as milled products such as cornmeal, grits, and polenta under the brand name “Professor Torbert’s Orange Corn.” I’ve not seen it at any grocery stores but it is available on Amazon and numerous other online sellers, as well as the company’s website To learn more about NutraMaize or to reach out to the company, visit (Sources: Purdue Research Foundation News,

Evan Rocheford, at left, and his father, Torbert Rocheford, the Patterson Endowed Chair and professor of agronomy in Purdue University’s College of Agriculture, founded the company NutraMaize to bring the benefits of orange corn to the United States. (Godaddy photo/Kelly Ngo)

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