Chris Bihn is a born educator, and while he may have left the classroom, he’s more committed than ever to teaching. These days, his lesson plans involve the production of nutrient-rich and easily digestible food through an innovative process of crushing grain.
Bihn, a former high school teacher and a member of St. Marys-based Midwest Electric, heads a family business known as Our Fathers Food, which uses a patented technique for preparing organic grain and seed for human consumption that yields unlimited shelf life without chemicals, preservatives, enrichments, or nutrient loss.
Chris’ father, John Bihn, used a background in tool-and-die-making, farming, and engineering to design and build the Bihn Incremental Crusher. He received a patent for the machine in 2014, as well as a patent for the actual grain-crushing process three years later. The process is quite different from traditional flour milling, so the younger Bihn often makes it his mission to educate the public about its benefits.
He says the innovative technique leaves cells in grains like wheat, corn, oats, flax, buckwheat, and quinoa unbroken — leaving the natural plant oils in the germ unexposed to oxidation and the nutrient breakdown that comes from it.
Traditional flour milling involves cutting and heating wheat — steps that curtail a certain amount of the nutritional value. The resulting flour is usually then enriched to restore lost nutrients. “Whatever God puts in grain, we keep it in,” Bihn says. “We don’t take anything out, so we don’t have to put anything back.”
Bihn is quick to point out, however, that the company’s whole-cell crushed products can’t be defined as “flour” in accordance with Department of Agriculture guidelines. Instead, they’re labeled by the amount of particles they contain. For instance, the crushed wheat No. 1 has the finest texture, and is a 1:1 replacement for traditional flour. Numbers 2, 3, and 4 contain increasing levels of density and sizes of particles.
“My wife, Amy, hasn’t had a bag of traditional flour in the house for at least 10 years,” Bihn says. “She uses our whole-cell crushed products in everything from bread to cookies to noodles.”
The family often hosts informational programs as a means of introducing prospective customers to the Our Fathers Food product line — they find that providing samples of bread and cookies usually satisfies any curiosity about taste and texture. They also bring products to the weekly farmers market at the Mercer County Fairgrounds in Celina.
Bihn says the majority of the company’s clients are people who want to eat healthy food and those who deal with health issues like high blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes, digestive problems, and allergies. He cites Johnson and Wales University food scientist Paula Figoni, who says in her book How Baking Works that when wheat cells are not destroyed, the proteins cannot form gluten.
“We have never claimed our bread is gluten free,” Bihn says. “However, we talk to people who are gluten intolerant who report having no problems after eating it.”
The Bihns also give crushed grain to their livestock, but they have not pursued the marketing of animal feed. Their goal is to reach people in search of quality food products without additives.
“We all need to eat better to feel better,” he says. “That’s what I’m teaching these days.”
For purchase information, visit Our Fathers Food's website or call 419-790-8868.