Keeping It All in Perspective

The soybean industry will prevail. Soy protein is a bright spot of food and feed growth. As we head to the fields this spring, we are seeing the world continuing to change around us. Even during times of uncertainty and pandemic despair, people still need to eat. And they rely on farmers to provide safe, nutritious and available food for them. I know Illinois soybean farmers are doing what they can in their communities to provide help to those in need.

The soybean industry will prevail. Soy protein is a bright spot of food and feed growth. Perhaps now more than any time, you don’t have to look too hard to see where soy has found its place among food trends both as a plant-based protein source and as a feed ingredient for animals.

The Kerry Health and Nutrition Institute shared what they consider “mega-trends” for foods in 2020: naturally functional (healthy) and sustainable products. Three of their 10 key trends in food, nutrition and health involve soy: plant-based, protein and meat reimagined categories.

Notes Denise Wilkes, nutrition scientist with the institute, regarding protein, “An adequate protein intake is important for optimal health; however, when we talk about protein, ‘more’ does not mean ‘better.’ The main challenge of the trend is to deliver high-quality protein in convenient formats (without falling into excessive consumption) by providing all of the essential amino acids and good protein digestibility, regardless of whether it is plant- or animal-sourced protein.”

The Illinois Soybean Association (ISA) has long recognized the many values of soy protein as human food and animal feed. ISA’s long-range strategic plan has four focus areas: marketplace, farmer profitability, stakeholder value and organizational excellence. Within marketplace, our goals are to retain and grow animal agriculture in Illinois and in close proximity to Illinois and ensure and grow export markets for meat products.

As part of that effort, we are focusing on the protein content of soybeans. On my farm, I seem to always have below-average protein levels. My yield is going up, but protein content is going down. Through the High Yield + Quality program (HY+Q), ISA stresses that seed selection isn't just a yield decision. It's also a quality decision that drives demand for soy protein.

If farmers select high-yielding soybean varieties that have a high livestock feed value score as found in the HY+Q database, livestock feeders can use that information to increase animal performance. It is a change of mindset, but one that can pay dividends for our industry.

So, what can you do? Reserve a sample kit for 2020 at to learn your livestock feed value score following harvest. It’s free, easy and illustrates your checkoff dollars at work.

This issue of Soy Perspectives shares other soy protein news, along with some practical farming advice from ISA’s recent Soybean Summit. Read on for insight into protein composition research, the global soy protein scene and soy protein uses closer to home.

And as you are in the field this spring, remain optimistic and be safe.