Barley Overview

Barley is a type of cereal grain plant. It can be ground into flour and used for many food and drink products for humans. Grocery stores usually sell barley in two forms: unhulled and pearled.

Pearled Barley

Pearled barley has the hull and the bran removed so it is not whole grain and not as nutritious.

Unhulled Barley

Unhulled barley is considered whole grain. It undergoes minimal processing to remove only the inedible outer shell, but leaves the bran and germ.

History of Barley

Barley has been used in food products, including bread, for thousands of years. Barley was used in Egypt and Greek cultures, and the Middle ages in Europe. Roman gladiators were called ‘barley men’ because they ate barley. They believed that barley gave them greater strength.


Roman gladiators were called ‘barley men’ because they ate barley, which was believed to give them more strength.

In the early 17th century, barley and other small cereal grains were brought to Canada by European colonists. The barley was used for beer making, which lead to the first brewery being built in Quebec City in 1668. Canada is a major exporter of malt and malting barley, which are used to make beer.

Barley can be ground into flour and used for many food and drink products for humans.

Growing Barley

Barley is a cereal crop that grows well in the black and dark brown soil zones of Saskatchewan.

This graph shows the major soil zones across the Prairies.

Barley should be seeded early to help improve protein levels and overall quality of the grain. The soil will have more moisture the earlier you can seed the crop. During the summer, the field is sprayed if needed for weeds, insects, and pests.

This green, unripe barley crop still needs to grow longer before the farmer can harvest it.

During harvest, the farmers are able to swath the field into rows for the combine to pick it up, or straight cut combine (where the swathing and combining are done at the same time).

This barley crop is turning a yellow colour and is nearly ready for harvest.

Barley Nutrition

Barley is rich in protein, vitamins, minerals, fibre, and essential amino acids that help us stay healthy. Barley also has qualities that can reduce the risk of heart disease.

Barley is nutritious for our bodies.

Barley Products

Barley is used to make a variety of food and beverage products.

Farmers grow ‘malt’ barley to sell for making beer and high quality food products. ‘Feed barley’ is grown to feed animals and farmers do not get as high of a price for feed barley.

Sometimes barley that farmers grow for malt is not high enough quality and gets sold for livestock feed instead.

A cow is eating barley out of a trough.

This cow is eating feed barley.