CROWLEY - Changes are under way at the family-owned Falcon Rice Mill. The new third-generation owners are overseeing an 8,600-square-foot expansion to make its operations more efficient.

“We are adding more space to make our packaging process more efficient,” said Robert “Robbie” Trahan, one of the four new owners, along with his sister, Christine Fulton, her husband, Dwayne Fulton, and his wife, Jennifer Trahan. “We will be expanding our offices as well. The rest of the mill is about 32,000- to 35,000-square feet.”

When paddy rice, or rough rice as it’s commonly known, arrives from the fields, it’s stored in one of the company’s 10 giant bins, or silos, that hold 48,800 barrels of rice. A barrel equals 162 pounds.

During a tour of Falcon Rice Mill, Robbie Trahan explained that the rough rice arrives in hopper bottom trucks which are weighed. The rice is dumped into a pit and picked up by an elevator for sending to one of the storage bins. The empty truck is weighed again to determine the net weight of the rice. But, before the truck is emptied, employee Mitchell Fontenot samples the rice. He probes for live bugs and fumigation.

“He’s looking for milling, for head rice (whole kernels) and the quality,” Trahan said.

Fontenot takes the hull off and then the bran, then separates the rice, checking for how much of the load is broken (half) kernels or brewers (quarter kernels).

“Brewers got that name because that rice is used for making beer,” said Robbie’s father, Charles Trahan. “The half kernels, or broken rice, will be sold to the pet food industry. The hulls, which are deep tan, go to horse racetracks for bedding and to Kleinpeter (Farms Dairy) for its cows.”

The Trahans explained that rough rice is composed of the hull or husk, bran layers and germ. Brown rice has only the hull removed. When it is milled, it yields both white rice and the high-fiber bran.

Falcon Rice Mill sells its bran to Double K Feed in Crowley, which markets it for livestock feed and for deer hunting.

At the mill, rough rice first goes through the shellers, which take the hull off. Not all the hulls come off on the first pass, so the rice is then sorted by “shakers,” which separate the hulled, or brown rice, and nonhulled rice.

The brown rice then moves through the 10 “pearlers,” or grinders, which basically polish the rice until the bran comes off the kernel. The rice is next sent through a series of machines which sort it for color and kernel size.

“Drop scales are used to measure how much has been produced in each size,” Robbie Trahan said. “One of the scales dates back to the 1880s. That one measures the broken rice, or half kernels. The other one is for head rice, or full kernels.”

The head rice is packaged in 10 sizes from 1-pound bags to 2,000-pound super sacks.

The mill packages its own brands, including Cajun Country Rice, plus does some private label packaging on the food service side of its business.