By Dusty Sonnenberg, CCA, Field Leader, a project of the Ohio Soybean Council and Soybean Check-off
Ohio farmers plant approximately 5 million acres of soybeans every year. With a statewide average of 56 bushels per acre, that is over 280 million bushels of soybeans produced annually. Soybean farmers sell the whole bean, but processors break up the soybean into components. Soybean meal and soybean oil are the two primary components. Until recently, soybean oil was considered the by-product, and soybean meal was the primary protein source for livestock feed. Recently that has changed as the soybean oil has gained market share and added tremendous value to the bean. The soybean meal still carries significant value, and livestock remain the number one market of soybeans because of the soybean meal component. One goal of the Soybean Check-off is to create market demand, and understanding the market helps decision makers to effectively allocate their resources.
Understanding your customer’s customer helps create pull-thru in the marketplace. “Looking at the whole soybean we know that oil has traditionally been the lower value component of the soybean crush and the meal has been more valuable. Now the oil has become more valuable, but we want to make sure that consumers know that besides the oil that is used for food or fuel, that we have the meal that is a highly sought after protein source for animal agriculture,” said Steve Reinhart, Ohio Soybean Council member and Vice Chair of the United Soybean Board. “Animal agriculture has always been our biggest customer and we want to make sure that we continue to provide a good ingredient in their feed products to produce the protein that their consumer will enjoy.”
A U.S. Soy Animal Agriculture Study was recently completed. The United Soybean Board (USB) commissioned Reputation Leaders, a global market research firm, to survey more than 2,000 U.S. adults online. Those surveyed included Baby Boomers, Gen X’ers, Millennials and Gen Z’ers. According to the survey, 70% of respondents said that animal diet is extremely or very important to them when purchasing meat. Nearly 96% of participants say they pay some attention to food labels with 63% saying that they almost always read the labels, and 43% are more likely to purchase meat if the labels indicate the animal was fed a vegetarian diet including soybeans.
“One of the things that we are looking at is taking a wholistic approach and finding ways of incorporating soy into a person’s diet,” said Reinhart. “Whether that is through meat consumption of animals that were fed soy in their diet, or through other forms of incorporation. Soy can help with issues such as childhood obesity by incorporating the leaner cuts of meat. That in turn helps people have a long and healthier more productive life. We want to provide a soy solution for every life every day.”
The survey focused primarily on the pork industry. The data showed that 41% of U.S. consumers purchase pork at least weekly. Among meat eaters, younger generations are the most likely to purchase meat multiple times a week. Three in ten millennial meat consumers say they buy pork two to three times a week. Consumers are looking for meat from animals fed a high-quality, nutritious diet and raised humanely. 47% said that where the meat comes from is a top concern, and consumers who prefer soy-fed meat believe that it is healthier and of higher quality.