4 Ways Soy Transforms Our Food

For such a small bean, Illinois soy is extremely versatile, especially when it comes to fueling our food supply. Sure, there are the more obvious uses of soy in food – like as a viable milk alternative in the form of soy milk – but there are many other surprising uses, too.

Feed: One main use for Illinois soybeans is in animal feed, especially for pigs, which eat about 75% of the soybean meal fed in Illinois. Meal also contributes to the diets of poultry, fish, cattle, and cats and dogs.

Soy lecithin: An emulsifier, soy lecithin has revolutionized stability and shelf life in many products we know and love. From chocolate and granola bars to salad dressings and cake mixes, soy lecithin helps water and oil mix together, reduces stickiness and gives food products a smooth texture.

Oil: Take a look at the vegetable oil stocked in your kitchen pantry. Chances are, soybean oil is a main ingredient. In fact, the oil from soybeans provides 55% of U.S. cooking oil, most commonly used for sautéing, baking, salad dressings and sauces. It has a global demand, too. Exported U.S. vegetable oil is valued at $227.6 million, according to U.S. Census Bureau data.

On the global table: Because of their high quality, U.S. soybeans are a major export to other countries, which often end up as meal for livestock and food-grade products. Mexico is a top customer for U.S. soybean meal to feed to pigs while countries like Indonesia and Taiwan import our whole beans to process into Tempeh and other food products.