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Soybeans on the table

Article cover photo
Soybeans will be on the table this holiday season if you realize it or not. Breakfast sandwiches featuring bacon and eggs, like the one pictured, were provided in part by soybean farmers. (Photo: Joseph Murphy/Iowa Soybean Association)

By Matthew Wilde, ISA senior writer

Consumers may not realize it, but soybeans will most likely be on the dinner table during the holiday season.

More than 81 percent of the state’s crop is annually crushed by Iowa processors, according to a soybean utilization study funded by the Iowa Soybean Association (ISA). Most of the soybean meal and oil is fed to livestock and used in food processing, respectively.

Whether ham or turkey is the main course, a pasta salad with mayonnaise and a cake, with eggs and flour as key ingredients, are served at Thanksgiving and Christmas feasts— all the foods likely have soybean ties. Soybean meal is an integral part of pig and poultry feed rations and soybean oil is used to make hundreds of food items and ingredients.

“Soybeans are a vital food source for animals and humans here and abroad that sometimes get overlooked,” said Lindsay Greiner, ISA president-elect, who farms near Keota. “Soy protein is essential to the nutritional needs of the world.”

The checkoff-funded study released in 2016 breaks down soybean usage, providing a clear picture of a value-added success story.

Soybeans by the numbers from 2010-14:

  • Iowa produced, on average, nearly 462 million bushels.
  • Nearly 377 million bushels, on average, were crushed by Iowa processors.
  • In-state crushing generated an average of nearly 9 million tons of soybean meal and 4.3 billion pounds of soybean oil per year.
  • Iowa hog production utilized nearly 2.8 million tons of soybean meal per year (116 million bushels) or 30.8 percent of the crush.
  • Iowa poultry production utilized more than 575,000 tons of soybean meal per year (24 million bushels) or 6.41 percent of the crush. Layers consume, on average, for more than 452,000 tons of soybean meal annually and turkeys gobble up 108,000 tons.
  • Nearly 91,000 tons of soybean meal from less than 4 million bushels of Iowa soybeans are utilized in “other feed and food production.”
  • About 3.1 billion pounds of Iowa soybean oil is shipped to other states.
  • Nearly 67 percent of soybean oil shipments were used in processing a wide variety of foods. This includes snack foods, drink, flours, pasta, cakes, cereals, oils, mayonnaise, etc.
  • More than 15 percent of soybean oil shipments are used in animal feed production.

“The livestock and food manufacturing industries are vital to Iowa’s economy and the competitiveness of soybean farmers,” Greiner said. “They create jobs, bring young people back to the farm and state and support rural communities. Crops are grown here, fed here and consumed here.”

For media inquiries, please contact Katie James, 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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