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'Soy' much to be thankful for this Thanksgiving

Article cover photo
Brent Daufeldt checks a group of turkeys at one of his barns near West Liberty. Soybeans are behind many of the items we enjoy during Thanksgiving. (Photo: Joseph L. Murphy/Iowa Soybean Association)

By Kelly Visser, ISA consumer engagement manager

From the pilgrims at Plymouth, Massachusetts to President Abraham Lincoln declaring a national day of Thanksgiving in 1863, Americans have steadfastly created traditions that today include family, football and a feast of roasted turkey, stuffing, potatoes, pumpkin pie and other delicious favorites.

When setting the Thanksgiving table this year, be sure to save a seat for an extra guest – soybeans! On the surface, the legume may seem unrelated to your celebration. But soybean meal, oil and soyfoods are key to making some of your favorite family traditions possible and keeping Iowa communities strong.

Gobble This Up

Did you know soybeans are an essential ingredient in a turkey’s diet? Soybean meal is rich in protein, amino acids and minerals, making it a vital feed source for pigs, turkeys, poultry, dairy and fish.  

Turkeys gobble up around one-third of a bushel of soybeans – about 20 pounds or half their body weight. According to a soybean utilization study funded by the Iowa Soybean Association (ISA), Iowa turkeys consume about 4 million bushels of soybeans each year. 

“Iowa farmers raise soybeans that provide key nutrients to keep turkeys healthy. This diet allows for delicious turkey all year long,” said Gretta Irwin, executive director and home economist for the Iowa Turkey Federation (ITF).  

According to ITF, Iowa is home to more than 130 turkey farmers who raise approximately 12 million birds each year. The state’s turkey industry contributes about $10 billion to the Iowa economy. Most turkeys raised in Iowa are processed into deli meat for Jimmy John’s and Subway

Grow Oil in the Soil 

No Thanksgiving feast is complete without the sides. Soybean oil is used to make hundreds of foods, including mayonnaise, peanut butter and ranch dressing. These special ingredients may be the secret to pulling off the perfect pumpkin pie, casserole and stuffing. 

If you’re deep frying your turkey this year, select an oil with a smoking point above 425 degrees to ensure a safe and tasty meal. Refined soybean oil is the perfect choice with its smoking point of 495 degrees. Plus, it’s a heart-healthy option, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)

Believe it or not, soybean oil may also be part of your Thanksgiving tablescape. Soy candles are made from soy wax, which is a processed form of soybean oil. You can also find soy-based crayons for the artists at the kids’ table.  

Put Pods on Your Plate

While most of the soybeans you see growing in Iowa’s fields are crushed into soybean meal and oil, some varieties of soybeans are food grade and can be found right on your plate. Soybeans can be processed into soyfoods such as tofu, miso, soy milk and edamame.    

Soyfoods are rich in protein. Edamame, a popular appetizer and addition to salads and soups, serves up a significant 11 grams of protein in just half a cup. Add this Edamame Corn Casserole recipe to your Thanksgiving menu and your family will be ‘soy’ impressed with this protein-packed version of traditional corn casserole. 

You can also put a soyfoods twist on Mashed Potatoes and Maple Pumpkin Cheesecake Tart.

Buckle up with Biodiesel

Long before your turkey hits the Thanksgiving table, soybean oil is working to power many of the semi-trucks that transport food across the farm-to-fridge supply chain. Biodiesel, a cleaner-burning renewable fuel for diesel engines, is made from diverse agricultural byproducts and co-products, such as soybean oil and animal fats.  

“Biodiesel increases the demand for soybean oil, which lowers the cost of soybean meal, a key ingredient in animal feed,” said Grant Kimberley, executive director of the Iowa Biodiesel Board and ISA market development director. “This helps reduce the cost of raising livestock which can, in turn, help lower prices at the grocery store.” 

National Biodiesel Board report shows soybean, corn and livestock farmers all benefit from biodiesel production. This includes lowering feed costs, increasing returns to the livestock sector and creating an additional feedstuff.

Build Vibrant Communities 

Beyond the nutritious protein and affordability of our favorite food products, the soybean industry and farmers who raise the commodity help create vibrant communities across Iowa.  

There are more than 42,000 soybean farmers in Iowa, contributing about $5.2 billion to our state’s economy each year. From volunteering in their communities to purchasing products from local businesses to creating a legacy for future generations, Iowa’s soybean farmers are critical to the success of rural and urban communities in Iowa.  

Give Thanks

It’s clear. There’s ‘soy’ much to be thankful for this year. Between the Thanksgiving Day parade and football games, we hope you take time to give thanks for our founding fathers as well as the food, family and farmers who make this day special.  

This article was originally published on the Iowa Food & Family Project website. Established in 2011, the Iowa Food & Family Project is funded by the soybean, pork, beef, egg, corn, turkey and dairy checkoffs, as well as non-checkoff resources. The unique program celebrates the continuous improvement of Iowa’s farm families and their dedication to providing wholesome food for everyone.

Iowa Soybean Association Communications Team members Carol Brown, Lauren Houska and Katie Johnson contributed to this story. Contact Kelly Visser at

For media inquiries, please contact Katie Johnson, ISA Public Relations Manager at or Aaron Putze, ISA Communications Director at

For permission to republish articles or to request high-res photos contact Aaron Putze at Iowa Soybean Association | 1255 SW Prairie Trail Pkwy | Ankeny | IA | 50023 | US

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