Soybeans are a type of legume that originate from East Asia and are an essential part of the cuisines of many countries. The soybean is a key ingredient in many popular soy foods items, such as soy milk, tofu, and soy sauce. It is also a crucial source of livestock feed.
The majority of soybeans grown worldwide are used for this purpose. However, soybeans have been at the center of criticism for their negative environmental impacts. Here are seven interesting things you need to know about global soy use.
The Food Industry Is the Largest User of Soybeans
Soybeans are a popular ingredient in many food products, such as soy milk, tofu, and soy sauce. However, the most important use of the crop is as feed for livestock, such as pigs and chickens. According to studies, global soy use in this industry accounts for more than 85% of global soybean production. The meat industry is an integral part of the global economy.
This sector makes up a significant share of the economies of China and Brazil. In these countries, growing consumer incomes have led to increased demand for beef and pork products. Soybeans are one of the essential ingredients used to produce animal feed used for feeding these animals.
Oxidation is Applied to Boost the Quality of Soybeans
Oxidation is one of the most common techniques used in producing soybeans. The process involves treating the crop with copper sulfate, which reacts with potentially harmful molecules in soybean seeds. Fermentation also utilizes the concept of oxidation. The process involves breaking down sugars in soybeans to produce glucose and fructose.
These two simple sugars can be used as ingredients in various food items. The essence of oxidation in soybean production is to remove harmful compounds in seeds that can reduce the quality of a product and make it unsafe for consumption.
Soybean Oil Is One of the Most Popular Vegetable Oils
Soybean oil is one of the most widely used vegetable oils. Soybean oil is a fatty acid that is produced using a process called solvent extraction. To process soybeans, they must be soaked and then fermented to remove the bitter-tasting skin and material surrounding the seeds. The oil can then be extracted from the seeds.
Americans are the biggest producers of soybean oil in the world. The country accounts for more than 70% of all soybean oil produced in North America, with China and Mexico trailing behind significantly.
Soybeans Are the Most Widely Grown Legume
Soybeans are planted in more than 175 countries, making them one of the most widely grown crops. It is also among the most important crops in terms of economic importance. The global soybean trade is worth more than $40 billion annually.
The largest producers of soybeans include the United States, Brazil, and Argentina. These three countries account for over 80% of the global production of this crop. Therefore, soybean farming accounts for a significant proportion of gross domestic product (GDP) in the areas where it is grown.
Planting Soybeans Is Among the Most Expensive Yet Profitable Crops
Although soybeans can be grown easily and on a large scale, they are significantly expensive to plant due to the farm inputs and techniques employed. For instance, farmers are required to apply costly fertilizers to the crop extensively.
However, soybeans are highly lucrative. For example, in Argentina and Brazil, soybean farmers can earn $2 or more for every dollar they invest in growing the crop. This means that small-scale farmers who plant soybeans stand the best chance of making an attractive return on this investment. Hence, soybeans are among the most economically valuable crops in the world.
Soy and Health Benefits
Even in its most processed forms, soy can provide a range of health and nutritional benefits. The protein found in soybeans is one of the best plant-based sources of dietary protein. Soybean protein has a high level of digestibility, making it easier for our body to break down than animal proteins. It also means that consuming soybeans can help people with food allergies find alternative solutions for good nutrition.
Moreover, soybeans contain various vitamins and minerals such as calcium, iron, and potassium. Our body can easily absorb these nutrients from the soybean or legumes commonly combined with soybeans.
Soy and Environment
In the broadest sense, the environmental impact of soybean farming is determined by its production method. Consequently, the ecological impact of the production method is determined by factors such as agricultural practices, conservation efforts, and other aspects of farming, such as deforestation, fertilization, and irrigation. For instance, the soybean plant requires a high fertilizer input to grow successfully and produce end products. This excessive use of fertilizers leads to land, water, and air pollution.
Soybeans are among the most important crops in the world. With a global production value of more than $40 billion, soybean farming is a lucrative business. Its popularity has also led to more research on the crop, which has led to increased availability of soybean products and byproducts worldwide. The controversy surrounding soybeans centers on their negative impact on the environment. However, these adverse effects can be curbed significantly with proper environmental measures and management.