Soy … it’s becoming part of what’s for dinner — in a sense.

It may not be a standalone, center-of-the-plate item, but soy is a more common ingredient found in finished meat and poultry products. Soybean producers contribute to a variety of meat and poultry products, including ground meats, emulsified meats and some whole-muscle cuts.

Due to the quality of soy-protein products improving drastically over the past two decades, and the fact that meat producers that use soy protein understand the benefits and effective use of soy proteins in meat products, there has been a substantial growth in interest in soy proteins on the part of the meat and poultry industry in the United States.

Processors increasingly look at soy options for a variety of reasons.

One factor is sheer economics. With the continuing rise in meat prices, soy products in meat applications are gaining additional interest.

There are other benefits as well. For instance, soy acts as an adhesive or cohesive with its binding properties. It will hold and trap flavors. And not only can it bind fat and water to help gelatinization, it will also help to stabilize fat emulsions.

From a functionality standpoint, the inclusion of soy in a meat or poultry formulation can impart a variety of important product characteristics. It can be used to reduce lean-meat content in meat products while retaining the protein content of the finished product. Soy proteins will bind water, emulsify fat, stabilize emulsions and ensure textural integrity.

Additionally, soy offers other practical benefits to certain meat and poultry products. For example, it is perceived by consumers to be healthy. This provides an opportunity for those innovative companies to find ways to enhance their traditional products with soy protein and provide healthier meal solutions to consumers.

But, will the momentum continue?

Although our industry is looking to soy inclusion with increasing interest, biofuel production has pushed up the price of soy in several ways — through increased European (and to a lesser extent, U.S.) biodiesel production and the significantly lower amount of acreage devoted to soybeans in 2007, as U.S. farmers scrambled to plant corn.

The amount of land dedicated to growing maize in the U.S. grew by 23 percent in 2007 in response to high maize prices and rapid growth in the demand for ethanol production.

This expansion resulted in a 16 percent decline in soybean acreage, which reduced soybean production and contributed to a 75 percent rise in soybean prices between April 2007 and April 2008.

Although soybean prices have increased, the ingredient’s other benefits seem to be outweighing the means. For example, the economic and functional benefits from soy protein can allow manufacturers to optimize formulas for flavor, texture and expense — helping manage the increasing strains from beef and poultry costs. It also helps to reduce the overall outlay of the end product. The inclusion of hydrated textured soy flour in beef patties, for example, is said to reduce raw-material costs exponentially.

Therein lies the pervasive hook.

Despite the rising cost of soy, the overall outlay may be more cost-effective in the long run.

Source:, a news source for green issues and sustainable living.

The effect of biofuel mandates

Biofuel mandates in the energy bill signed last year could result in significantly higher corn and soybean use for fuel than would have occurred under pre-mandate policies, say economists at the University of Missouri.

Production of corn-based ethanol goes up 24 percent and soydiesel goes up 89 percent under one analysis of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, according to the university’s Food and Agricultural Policy Research Institute (FAPRI).

“Increased biofuel use results in higher prices for corn, soybeans and other crops,” says Pat Westhoff, senior analyst at MU FAPRI. This brings a $3.4 billion increase in U.S. average annual net farm income under one scenario. “To generate mandated levels of biofuel, prices paid to producers must be higher than they otherwise would have been. The energy bill results in a 17 percent increase in average wholesale prices for corn-based ethanol and a 37 percent price increase for biodiesel.

“The energy law will have greater impact on farm commodity prices than any farm bill being considered,” Westhoff says. “Mandates to use set levels of biofuels increase demand for corn and vegetable oil and affect market-driven prices more than current or proposed farm bills.”

FAPRI analyzed impacts of mandates using computer models of agriculture in the United States and the world. Results will be used to project agricultural baselines given to Congress annually. Those are expected by March 1, 2009.

In this analysis, economists used an implied mandate of 15 billion gallons of corn ethanol and 1 billion gallons of soydiesel. Westhoff says many assumptions are necessary for any analysis of outcomes from the energy bill.

Legislated demand increases corn use by 1.1 billion bushels annually from 2011 to 2016 relative to pre-energy-bill markets. About 30 percent of that increase comes from more corn production. Another 30 percent comes from reduced corn exports, while the remainder comes from cuts in livestock feed and other domestic uses.

In the same period, soy oil use increases by 2.7 billion pounds on average. About half of that comes from reduced food oil exports with reduced domestic use and increased soy oil production accounting for the rest.

“Strong demand for corn and soybeans translates into higher prices for those commodities,” Westhoff says.

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Source: Cooperative Media Group, University of Missouri, and