History of Soybean Crushing: Soy Oil and Soybean Meal - Part 3

by William Shurtleff and Akiko Aoyagi


A Chapter from the Unpublished Manuscript, History of Soybeans and
Soyfoods, 1100 B.C. to the 1980s


Copyright 2007 Soyinfo Center, Lafayette, California

Part 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9


The ups and downs of soybean oil and cake/meal production are fairly closely linked to soybean production, which plummeted from 1933-1942, rose from 1943-1957 (especially after 1949 and during the first Five Year Plan, 1953-58) dropped drastically after 1958 (the first year of the Great Leap Forward), continued to fall until the mid-1960s (acreage fell until 1976), then rose dramatically especially after 1976 (see Fig. ??.?).

Most other Chinese oilseeds have followed much the same pattern as soybeans, as shown in Figure ??.?. Note the rapid increases in production of cottonseed, rapeseed, and peanuts since 1978. Please also recall that China lists as its major oilseeds rapeseed, peanuts, sesameseed, and sunflowerseed. Soybeans and cottonseed are not considered oilseeds; soybeans are considered a grain. Our key sources of information on oil and meal in China are Perkins (1969), Statistical Yearbook of China for 1981 (State Statistical Bureau 1982), USDA Economic Research Service (1982), and USDA Foreign Agricultural Service (1982, the most detailed source).

Between 1970 and 1981 China's oilseed crush increased from 3.09 million tonnes to 12.00 million tonnes, almost fourfold. The top four oilseeds crushed in 1981 were cottonseed (3.69 million tonnes), soybeans (3.40), rapeseed (2.15), and peanuts (1.80), however 1982 projections showed the rapeseed crush leaping to 3.67 million tonnes, almost equal with soybeans (3.94). Thus in 1981, an estimated 43% of China's soybean crop was crushed and soybeans accounted for 28% of all oilseeds crushed. Surls and Tuan (1981) estimated that 55% of oilseeds were sold, while 45% were retained for consumption or use on the farm/commune. China led the world in rapeseed production and was one of the leading peanut producers.

Between 1970 and 1981 China's domestic vegetable oil utilization (production plus imports, including palm oils but not animal fats) increased from 617,000 tonnes to 2,912,000 tonnes, almost fivefold (Fig. ??). The six most widely used oils in 1981 were rapeseed oil (751,000 tonnes), cottonseed oil (590,000 tonnes), peanut oil (546,000 tonnes), soy oil (486,000 tonnes), sunflowerseed oil (290,000 tonnes), and palm oil (166,000 tonnes). Rapeseed oil utilization was projected to increase dramatically to 1,283,000 tonnes in 1982. Note that sesame oil does not appear in these figures, apparently because utilization was too small.

Production of oilseed meals increased from 2,275,000 tonnes in 1970 to 6,990,000 tonnes in 1981, more than threefold. In 1981 the three top meals produced in China were soybean meal (2.90 million tonnes, or 41% of the total), cottonseed meal (1.75 million tonnes), and rapeseed meal (1.29 million tonnes). Of this, 6,878,000 tonnes were utilized domestically (112,000 tonnes of soybean meal were exported), and again soybean meal was the leader (2,785,000 tonnes, or 40.5% of the total). No clear statistics are available on how soybean meal is used in China. Much (perhaps most) of it is spread on the fields as a nitrogen-rich fertilizer. Some (perhaps most) used in livestock feeds, especially for hogs (4:1 grain: liveweight conversion) and poultry. And a significant portion is used in making foods, including soy sauce, tofu, soymilk, soybean jiang, soy flour, and modern soy protein products (isolates, concentrates, textured soy protein). Use in livestock feeds and aquaculture/fish farming (still accounting for only 5% of the soybeans in China) is expected to increase. Chinese are working to produce lower-fat hogs (Mangold 1980; Guo 1983; Foley 1983, personal communication).

China also traded some soy oil and meal. Soy oil imports rose from 10,000 tonnes in 1972 to a peak of 184,000 tonnes in 1978, dropping to 80,000 tonnes in 1981. By the early 1980s China was exporting very small amounts of its soy oil (2,000-6,000 tonnes a year) at low prices to Hong Kong and Southeast Asia. Meal exports, which started in 1977, had risen to 112,000 tonnes by 1981, going to the same markets as oil. China is now pushing to export more soy oil and meal, replacing soy oil in the domestic market with rapeseed and sunflower oils. Their low-priced, low-quality (underprocessed) soybean meal (or cake) was underselling Brazilian soybean meal by $50/tonne in Southeast Asia.

These statistics cover up regional preferences for oils and omit references to lard, which is quite popular everywhere, but is gradually being replaced by vegetable oils, as lean pork has come to be preferred. Peanut and rapeseed oil have long been popular throughout China. Soy oil is a minor oil in southern China but apparently the favorite in the northeast provinces (formerly Manchuria) and Shanghai. Cantonese cooking uses only peanut oil. In Beijing, according to two reports, the order of preference is peanut oil (the expensive, high-class oil), soy oil, rapeseed oil, and lard. Another (less reliable) report shows sesameseed, cottonseed, and turnipseed to be generally preferred in the north, with soy oil being a minor oil and having a relatively poor image.

Regardless of preferences, for decades there has been a shortage of edible oils in China, so that like most other basic foods it is carefully rationed. In 1981 per capita oil supplies were estimated at 3.0-3.6 kg (6.6-7.9 lb or 3.3-4.0 quarts) per capita. About 17% of this, roughly 500 gm or 1.1 pints was soy oil. The total was steadily increasing. In China the homemaker takes his or her oil bottle to a local distribution point in a store, where it is filled using a ladle or hand pump from a 55-gallon drum. Many peasants on communes receive part of their pay in grain and edible oil. In China soy oil is used almost entirely for cooking, mainly stir-frying and deep-frying. The Chinese eat almost no raw vegetables, so there is little demand for salad oil. Nor is there a demand for margarine (Chinese use almost no butter) or shortening (Chinese use lard).

In 1949 virtually all of the soy oil in China was removed by mechanical pressing, using both hydraulic and hand-turned or continuous screw presses. By 1983 an estimated 15-20% of all soy oil was removed using solvent extraction systems, which were located mostly in northeast China (formerly Manchuria), Shanghai, and Beijing. Most solvent extraction was done with small Rotocel-type extractors, with a typical capacity of 50-150 tonnes of soybeans a day (maximum capacity, 350 tonnes). Top officials in Heilongjiang, including the Deputy Director of the Bureau of State Farm, reported in 1983 (personal communication) that the province was negotiating with Eaton, a consortium from Cleveland, Ohio, for the construction of three solvent extraction and protein refining plants, each with a capacity of 300,000 tonnes of soybeans a year. In the $50 million deal, the first plant would be done by 1984-85 and the last by 1988-89. The oil would be refined and also used to make margarine and shortening. Of the protein, 50% would be used for food and 50% for feed; some would be exported. Soy protein isolates would be used in China in sausages and meat analogs (Shurtleff 1983b).

Traditionally, soy oil in China was consumed without additional refining, and still in the 1980s an estimated 90-95% of all soy oil in China was unrefined, crude degummed. Most of the refined oil was that which had been solvent extracted. Shanghai was the leading center of oil refining. Most Chinese accept the flavor of unrefined soy oil; they do not know the flavor of refined.

There is very little hydrogenation of soy oil in China; margarine, shortening, and partially hydrogenated soy oil are largely unknown, although a little margarine and shortening (and salad dressings) are made in Shanghai. Butter is not a traditional part of the Chinese diet, so there is little demand for margarine. Lard is used rather than shortening. And the lack of refined oil also limits the potential of hydrogenation.


In Taiwan, in contrast to the People's Republic, soy oil is a product with rapidly growing popularity and a new, modern image, created in large part by the work of the American Soybean Association there. In 1982 five large crushers were planning to more than triple their capacity in one year, which would increase Taiwan's total soybean crushing capacity from 1.2-1.65 million tons (from 44-60 million bushels). Most of these soybeans were imported from the US.


1890s-1919 . As explained in the previous section, the early history of Japan's involvement with soy oil and soybean meal was closely tied up with that of Manchuria. In about 1895, right after the Sino-Japanese War, Japan first started large-scale imports of Manchurian soybean cake for use as a fertilizer for rice and mulberry trees. By 1904 imports had reached 160,000 tonnes a year. Virtually no soy oil was imported. At about this time chemical fertilizers were just being introduced to Japan from the West and by 1911 they were beginning to provide strong competition for the defatted soybean cake (Deschamp 1911). After 1908 Japanese shipping firms played the leading role in exporting soybeans and soy products from Manchuria to Europe. Japanese scientists had begun to do research on soy oil in Manchuria. In 1911, for example, Keimatsu in Dairen published a detailed scientific article "On Soy Oil" in German in Chemiker Zeitung .

In 1910 Kellner and Newman did the first scientific feeding experiments in Japan using defatted soybean meal; it is not known where they got their meal, how it was extracted and heated, and whether it was a commercial product or one made especially for their tests. Feeding the meal to swine, they computed the average "digestion coefficients" (the percentage digested) of the defatted meal to be: organic matter 90.5%, protein 26.7% (it is not clear why it was so low), nitrogen free extract 92.4%, and fiber 60.5%.

Kobe had long been Japan's biggest center of oilseed processing. By 1910 it was second only to Dairen in East Asia. Some of Japan's largest oil processing companies, such as Hohnen, Nisshin, and Mitsubishi, had also set up operations in Manchuria. Prior to World War I, the Japanese were importing increasingly large amounts of whole soybeans from Manchuria and crushing them in Japan. The cake was used mostly for fertilizer; it was not fed to animals as it was believed that it would make their hair fall out (Carson 1909). Except for a small amount of oil used for lubrication purposes in Japan, most was exported to the West. In fact in 1912, Japan was America's biggest source of soy oil, exporting 6,033 tonnes, which accounted for 48% of all US soy oil imports. Between 1916 and 1918, Japan was exporting 30,400 to 39,000 tonnes of soy oil yearly to the US (Page et al. 1920). After the start of the war, large soy oil mills were constructed in Kobe to meet the swelling foreign demand. By the end of war most of Kobe's mills had switched from hand-turned screw presses to new hydraulic presses, and there was one benzene solvent mill (Page et al. 1920). In 1919 some 25 Kobe oil mills produced about 15 million pounds of all types of oil, a substantial (but unknown) portion of which was soy oil.

1920-1939 . After World War I, as demand for soy oil from America fell, Japanese oil companies turned to develop a demand for soy oil in Japan. Little is known about when, how, and to what extent soy oil was first used in cooking in Japan, but it was certainly never widely used traditionally as it was in China. By 1926 Nisshin Oil Mills, which had already developed a good quality refined soy oil in Dairen and started marketing it as a salad oil, had built a large soy oil processing and refining plant in Yokohama and were promoting soy oil for use in frying. The low price and fairly good quality of soy oil led to a rising demand for it as an alternate to rapeseed and sesame oils, for use in frying (South Manchurian Railway Co. 1926). By the mid-1930s Hohnen Oil Mill Co. had built large soy oil solvent plants at Shimizu and Naruo (as well as in Dairen) and Nikka Oil Co. had a large solvent plant at Wakamatsu (Ref??).

In 1934 Umetaro Suzuki demonstrated that "unlike certain other vegetable oils, soy bean oil contains vitamin E."

Until the early 1930s, Japan was the world's leading importer and user of defatted soybean cake. Burlison (1936) reported that during 1917-1932 Japan used 1 to 1.5 million tons a year as fertilizer, mostly on rice fields and mulberry trees. During the 1930s, however, there was a switch to domestically made chemical fertilizers (especially ammonium sulfate), which were considered superior. In 1923 Piper and Morse noted that soybean cake or meal was also recognized as a valuable feed for work animals and as a fattening food for animals not employed in farm work.

1940-1959 . During World War II most Japanese soybeans were used as directly as foods, so oil use plummeted. It was only after about 1950 that the soy oil industry started to get back on its feet. After 1956, however, recovery accelerated, as the newly established Japan branch of the American Soybean Association (ASA) set to work to increase Japanese consumption of fat and make soy oil the country's leading oil. Use of soy oil prior to that time had been quite low for a variety of reasons: (1) The Japanese traditionally had one of the lowest rates of fat consumption of any industrialized country in the world; even as recently as 1961 it was only one-fifth that of the US. Heart disease was correspondingly low; (2) Traditionally (until 1961), Japan's preferred food oils have been rapeseed and sesame; (3) Japanese soybeans have long been considered superior to Chinese or Manchurian soybeans and have been used primarily directly in soyfoods such as tofu, miso, etc.; and (4) Japan's main activities in soy oil processing took place outside Japan, in Manchuria, starting in 1895, but increasing after 1932 when Japan gained virtually complete control of that country (see Chapter 3).

1960-1980s . In 1961, in part because of the extremely effective promotional efforts of the ASA and in part because soy had become the world's most abundant and economical oil, soy oil passed rapeseed oil to become Japan's leading edible oil. All of this oil was made from imported soybeans. Writing about the increasing trend to soy oil in Japan, Hayashi (date??), an ASA employee, noted that consumption had almost tripled from 74,000 tonnes in 1955-56 to 220,000 tonnes in 1964-65. During this period soy oil's share of the total Japanese edible fats market rose from 28.6-31.7% and total per capita fat consumption rose from 7.5-18.4 grams a day. The latter figure, equivalent to 15.3 pounds a year, was less than a third of the 47 pound figure for the US. Hayashi noted that the Japanese consumption was "considerably below the optimum level to sustain good body health." By 1966 Japan had made the switch to the Western way of relating to soybeans, crushing 74.5% of the country's total soybean consumption. Of the 1.07 million tons?? of meal, 69% went to livestock feed, 16% was used to make shoyu, and 6% went into tofu.

Throughout this period Japan's soybean crush increased steadily from 1.34 million tonnes in 1965-66 to 3.50 million tonnes in 1981, making Japan the fifth largest soybean crusher in the world after the US, Brazil, West Germany, and China. Dunn et al. (1981) reported that in 1981 Japan's soybean crushing capacity was 7.15 million tonnes; that figure may be high.

Soy oil production also continued to climb, going from 256,000 tonnes in 1965-66 to 621,000 tonnes in 1979-80; per capita consumption of soy oil more than doubled during this period. The bulk of this oil was used by restaurants, foodservice institutions, and the food industry, with rapeseed oil still accounting for 70-80% of the household market. By 1980 47% of the edible oil and 50% of the cooking oil in Japan was soy oil. The ASA was working to get Japanese to blend 30% soy oil with 70% rapeseed, and to eat more salads, so that soy oil would be consumed in the dressing.


Early References and Research (1855-1909) . Most of the early research on soy oil in Europe was done in France and Germany, and concerned its physical, chemical, and nutritional properties. The earliest known reference to soy oil in a Western publication appeared in 1855 in an article about soybeans written by the Baron of Montgaudry, nephew of the great French botanist Buffon, published in French in the Bulletin de la Societe d'Acclimatation (see Chapter 27). He reported that in China

soy oil is used in many ways and is preferred to rapeseed oil and colza oil (refined rapeseed oil). The oil has a somewhat beany aftertaste, but this is not as disagreeable as the bitterness from rapeseed or colza oils. With the addition of a little lard, it becomes similar in flavor to second-grade olive oil. (He was referring to unrefined, probably filtered soy oil.) The residue left after making the oil is in the form of cakes, which the Chinese use to fatten their livestock and enrich their soul. These cakes are a powerful soil amendment for their fields . . . "

Also in 1855 the same bulletin published a letter from E. Fremy stating that he had done a proximate analysis of soybeans brought back from China by Montigny and found that they contained 18% oil. This was the first such analysis in the West. He also stated that soy oil was a drying oil which could replace linseed oil in some of its applications, then finished his letter with what might be seen as a prophetic statement: "In conclusion, soybeans, the importance of which we have already appreciated for the abundance and quality of the oil they furnish, will provide us with a new food for consumption and a new useful product for industry." In 1872 Volcker did a proximate analysis of soybean cake, which Haberlandt (see Chapter 33) discussed at some length. Volcker found 5.3% oil in the cake. Kinch did a similar analysis of soybean seeds in 1882. In 1872 the German chemist Senff analyzed three samples of soybeans and a sample of soybean cake; he found the beans to contain an average of 18.71% lipids and the cake to contain 5.3% (same as Volcker??). In 1878 Haberlandt reported that his co-worker Carl Berndt had taken a small sample of soybean to a miller, who was able to extract only 6% of their weight in oil. But Berndt liked the flavor of the oil. He made two sets of cookies and pastry using soy oil in one and a typical cooking oil in the other; he could find no difference between two. No tests were done using soybean cake. In 1880 the French chemist Pellet analyzed soybeans, finding they contained 15.7% oil. The work on soyfoods done in France prior to 1885 was very nicely summarized in two long articles by Paillieux (1880) and Paillieux and Bois (1885). It is interesting to note that he gives only passing mention to soy oil, stating that "In China, this oil is widely used. It is of the first grade among the 15-20 oils possessed by the Chinese. Europeans find that it has a disagreeable aftertaste of raw beans. Except for this, it is of excellent quality." Yet he failed to grasp the immense potential for this product in the West, perhaps because of the flavor problem mentioned and the fact that soy oil was then completely unknown and unavailable in Europe.

In 1883 Meissl and Boecker in Germany did the earliest known analysis of the composition of soy oil. Going into great detail, they showed that it consisted mostly of neutral triglycerides with almost no free fatty acids, but also contained lecithins, cholesterins, waxes, and gums. Its relative density (specific gravity) was 0.89. In 1886 Stingl and Morawski, writing in German, gave the most detailed information to date on the physical and chemical/nutritional properties of soy oil. In 1887 Morawski and Stingl reported that soybeans contained an average of 18% oil, and that this was a semi-drying oil with a high iodine value. In 1888 Dr. L. Petit in France observed that soy oil, in doses of 20-30 gm, could serve as a gentle, non-irritating purgative. He is the only one to ever attribute this property to soy oil. In 1894 de Negri and Fabris, in the first study of soy oil by Italians (published in German), reported an iodine value of 121 and a specific weight of 0.924.

In 1900 and 1901 Nikitin, a Russian, gave data on various soy oil characteristics and compared them with data gathered by Koenig in 1889. In 1901 Hosie made the earliest?? known reference to soy oil in English, an interesting fact, since only 7 years later, England would lead the Western world in soy oil production. The English interest in soy oil expanded in 1904 when Lewkowitsch, in his famous book on oils and fats (published in London and translated into German in 1905), gave a review of the publications on the physical and chemical constants of soy oil. He noted that the

proportion of solid (saturated) fatty acids in the oil is approximately 11.5% of the total mixed fatty acids; Lane found 80.26% of liquid fatty acids. The bulk of the solid fatty acids is stated to consist of palmitic acid; the liquid fatty acids consist of oleic and linoleic acids. On exposure to air it dries slowly with the formation of a thin skin.

He reported that a researcher named Shukoff, probably a Russian, had found the specific gravity of soy oil to be 0.924 and the iodine value to be 121. He also mentioned that cold pressed soy oil had a good flavor. During the Russo-Japanese War (1904-05), Korentschewski and Zimmerman carried out experiments on soy oil in the chemical-bacteriological laboratory of the Russian military hospital at Harbin. They did four human feeding studies on all aspects of soy oil. When eaten with a basal diet in daily doses of 100 gm, the unrefined soy oil was 97% (on average) digested by their soldier subjects (Holmes 1918). In 1907 Bloch and Klobb extracted from soy oil a phytosterine, which they called sojasterol; it was later called stigmasterol by Matthes and Dahle (1911). Bloch (1907) added that soy oil "can be extracted partially by pressure or completely by ether or petroleum ether. It is yellowish red with a not particularly disagreeable odor."

It is interesting to note from the discussion so far that virtually all of the early research on soy oil was done in Europe rather than in East Asia, where the product had been used for centuries. Moreover, the European research cited above was all done prior to the time that soy oil was introduced commercially into Europe. The excellent attributes found in soy oil by these researchers may have played some role in the dramatic introduction of soy oil into Europe after 1907.

Introduction of Soy Oil and Meal to Europe (1900-1919) . The large scale importation of soybeans to Europe for crushing after 1907 was preceded by almost a decade of importing soybean cake from Manchuria, apparently for use in livestock feeds--a fact that is not well known. In 1909 Piper and Nielsen, soybean experts at the USDA, noted: "During the past ten years soy-bean meal has been imported into Europe in large quantities from Manchuria and has met ready sale at a price above that of cotton seed meal." The earliest??] known reference to soybean cake as a livestock feed was in 1889 by Pott in his handbook on livestock fodders. After giving a proximate analysis by Kuehn, showing that the cake contained an average of 7.4% oil, he noted that the cake worked well as a fattening food for ruminants and swine, a "power food" for work-cattle, and a general food for milch cows, but that there was little soybean cake on the market. Lewkowitsch (1910) agreed, stating that imports of soybean cake were relatively small.

By the late 1800s Europe had developed the world's most advanced oil processing industry. The hydraulic press, patented in England in 1795 by Joseph Bramah, was a major advance over the earlier hand-turned screw presses. Solvent extraction, developed as a batch process in Europe in the 1870s, showed great promise. Cottonseed oil was by far the most widely used vegetable oil, and by the late 1800s, methods had been developed to degum, alkali refine, and bleach it, to improve the flavor and color. The industry seemed stable and geared for prolonged, rapid growth. Then in about 1907 sudden and unexpected changes began to take place (Bowdidge 1935; Bailey 1951).

World supplies of cottonseed dropped dramatically, in part because of damage inflicted in the US by the boll weevil. Linseed supplies also began to drop. At the same time there was a rapidly increasing demand for oil, due largely to rapid population growth in Europe and rising affluence, which led to increased fat consumption. Consequently, the price of oilseeds and oils skyrocketed. English oil mills and soap and glycerine manufacturers began to search the globe for alternate sources. Fortunately, just at this time, a large surplus of soybeans had developed in Manchuria following the end of the Russo-Japanese War there (1904-05) and the withdrawal of both armies, for whom the soybeans had served as an important food source. Japanese trading companies began to search for new markets for these surplus soybeans.

In 1907 the first large importation of soybeans to Europe, 400-500 tons, was made from Hankow (China) by an oilseed crusher in Liverpool, England, delivered at a cost of $50 per ton. It was quickly recognized that the oil was well suited for making soap and the defatted cake or meal, both high in protein, for use in mixed feeds. Both the quantity and quality of soybean imports began to increase. In February 1908 a cargo of 9,000 tons of soybeans was received by oilseed crushers in Hull, England. This was the first really large shipment from Manchuria (Piper and Morse 1923). Then in November 1908 another large shipment was made to Messrs. John Bibby & Son of Liverpool, on the British ship "Titan" by the enterprising Japanese trading firm Mitsui and Co. (Gray 1936; Sawer 1911a; Burtt-Davy 1910; Liardet 1909; Lewkowitsch 1910). The time of arrival of these shipments could hardly have been more favorable, and the success of the venture was beyond all expectation or imagination. Imports of soybeans from Manchuria, China proper, and Japan to Europe quickly reached astonishing proportions, jumping to 419,500 tonnes by 1909, after only 2 years. Most of the early imports went to English oil mills, primarily in Hull, London, Liverpool, and Bristol. A summary of the best statistics available on Europe's soybean imports and crush during this period is given in Figure 25.??. Li and Grandvoinnet (1912) and Fuerstenberg (1917) gave even higher figures: 200,000 tonnes in 1908, 400,000-500,000 tonnes in 1909, and 800,000 tonnes in 1910. Thus is the short period of 3 years, the almost unknown soybean had captured a major share of the European oilseed market.

(Chart: US Tariff Commission. 1920)

Table ??.?. Approximate Net Import and Crush of Soybeans in Europe, 1908-13 (Metric Tons)

Country 1908 1909 1910 1911 1912 1913
United Kingdom 40,600 411,500 419,900 222,800 191,700 77,700
Germany ......   8,000 30,000 70,000 100,000 110,000
Denmark ...... ...... ...... 20,000 36,900 45,000
Netherlands ...... ...... ...... 14,400 26,500 13,600
Total Crush 40,600 419,500 449,900 327,200 355,100 246,300
Oil manufactured 6,100 67,100 72,000 55,600 60,400 41,900

Sources: Page et al. (1920); E.W. Thompson (1914)

Gilchrist (1909) reported that various types of soybeans were imported from various ports. The Sakura of south Manchuria, considered the best, was shipped from Dalny, the Harbin of north Manchuria, from Vladivostok, and the Hangkow, a smaller, lower quality soybean, from Shanghai.

Most of the soy oil, mechanically expressed with modern hydraulic presses, was used in soft soaps, but some was also used as a partial substitute for linseed oil in paints, or to make glycerine. Toch (1912) recalled that in 1908, as the price of linseed oil neared $1 per gallon, he had started tests on substituting soy oil for linseed in paints, but he found these darkened when heated. After World War I started in 1914 soy oil was an important raw material for making nitroglycerine explosives. Yet as early as 1910 refined soy oil was also being used in large amounts in England in foods, mixed with cottonseed oil as a basic low-cost and all-purpose vegetable oil, packed with canned sardines, and added to margarine oil blends. The Mark Lane Gazette of 20 January 1910 reported that one-third of the frying oil in London kitchens was soy oil rather than the traditional cottonseed oils. The Daily Dispatch of 22 April 1910 stated that soy oil had enjoyed "striking success" as a substitute for coconut oil in the manufacture of margarine; Messrs. Bibby & Sons of Liverpool were selling large quantities of soy oil to margarine makers on the Continent. The soy oil was reported to be "almost flavorless." Another report, however, said that refined soy oil was used as a substitute for olive oil in salad dressings, but that owing to its unpleasant odor, it was usually mixed with an oil of animal origin, or with rapeseed oil (Shaw 1911, 1911a Ref??).

The high-protein defatted soybean cake or meal, a high-quality product (unlike the moldy cake formerly imported from East Asia) was used mostly in mixed feeds for dairy cattle, with some being used as a fertilizer (Lewkowitsch 1910; Tsao 1929). A small portion of the defatted cake was ground to make soy flour, which was used by English firms to fortify breads and biscuits (Sawer 1911; see also Chapter 24). Thus England, following the Manchurian model, established what would become the basic Western way of processing soybeans, crushing the beans to make oil and defatted meal. In Manchuria, however, the oil had traditionally been used mostly for food and the cake for fertilizer, whereas in England they were used mostly for soap and livestock feed, respectively. Both of these industrially-based patterns were, of course, completely different from the traditional pattern found in other parts of East Asia (China, Japan, Indonesia, Korea, etc.) where the whole soybean was used to make basic protein foods and seasonings such as tofu, tempeh, miso, soy sauce, roasted whole soy flour, and the like.

In 1909 the first of a number of reports on soybean crushing in Europe appeared. Interestingly, it was initiated by the US Department of Commerce. In 1909 the United States was the world's largest cottonseed exporter. It was exporting 544,000 tons of cottonseed and its products (mainly oil), mostly to Europe. Alarmed by the possibility of soybeans cutting into this lucrative export market, John M. Carson, chief of the US Department of Commerce and Labor, Bureau of Manufactures, initiated a worldwide investigation of this prodigal upstart oilseed. Published in 1909 as Soya Bean and Products and written mostly by US consular officers in Europe and East Asia, it gives a unique and vivid picture of the early days of soybeans and soy oil. In Hull, it was noted, the oil was removed by both solvent extraction and by pressure; the cake and meal contained 4-5% and 1-2% oil respectively. The report concluded that soybeans would probably have a serious effect on US exports on cottonseed products.

A second report, "The Soy Oil Industry," was written in 1910 in London (but published in German) by J. Lewkowitsch, one of Europe's foremost authorities on oilseeds and oil processing. It set the dramatic new developments in excellent perspective and gave good statistics. A third publication by Sawer (1911b) in South Africa, drew heavily on reports on the industry by the Mark Lane Gazette , and was thus very current and detailed.

Research and development in England on the use of soy oil and meal was active. A large amount of the early soy oil was used by Lever Brothers of Port Sunlight, England, in making their well-known Sunlight soap. In March 1909 L.E. Common and the Hull Oil Manufacturing Co. in Hull were granted a patent on an improved process for making soy oil (British Patent 5,797). Moreover by 1910 soybeans were being grown in British West Africa, and experimental plantings were being carried out in the Union of South Africa, the West Indies, and practically every British colony, in hopes of developing alternative sources from their colonies or members of the Commonwealth. Lewkowitsch (1910) predicted that someday India would be a major supplier of soybeans to England.

Until the fall of 1910 England enjoyed a virtual monopoly on soybean importing and crushing in Europe, in large part because soybeans (which were classified as a common bean rather than as an oilseed) were subjected to an import tariff in Germany, France, and Austria. Soon England became an exporter of soy oil, with exports averaging about 14,200 tonnes for the period 1911-15, inclusive, and going mostly to the Netherlands, Germany, Italy, and the United States. US imports of soy oil from England in 1912 alone were 9,874,000 pounds (4,479 tonnes) (Page et al. 1920). Initially, most of England's soybean cake or meal was exported; 150,000 tons were purchased by Denmark for dairy feeds in 1910. Soon, however, exports extended to Sweden, Norway, the Netherlands, and northern Germany (Piper and Morse 1923).

But Germany and the other continental European countries were not about to let England monopolize the lucrative soy oil trade for long. In the fall of 1910 the German oil milling industry sponsored legislation which reclassified the soybean as an oilseed and caused the import tax to be dropped. Other countries followed suit and England began to lose her soybean monopoly. Soon Hamburg became a major soybean importing port and Germany's sophisticated oilseed crushing and refining technology was applied to making high quality soy oil and meal. The German soybean crush jumped from 8,000 tonnes in 1910 to 110,000 tonnes in 1913, at which time Germany passed England to become Europe's leading soybean importing and crushing country. Denmark was third and the Netherlands fourth (Table ??.?).

The Germans also did research on and developed new products from soy oil. In June 1909 Goessel and Sauer received a patent on a "Process for Preparing a Rubber Substitute from Soya-Bean Oil" (German patent 228,887, June 10). In 1911 Matthes and Dahle, writing in German, gave the first systematic and quantitative analysis of the fatty acids in soy oil, reporting that (1) it contains a total of 94% fatty acids; 15% saturated and 80% fluid/unsaturated. The fatty acids are mostly glycerine esters, with very little free fatty acids; (2) all of the saturated fatty acids are palmitic; and (3) the liquid fatty acids comprise the following percent of the total: 56% oleic, 19% linoleic, and 4.8% linolenic. This was the first report of linolenic acid in soy oil. A number of French writers (Li and Grandvoinnet 1912; Labbe 1911) actively tried to interest France in using the soybean as an oilseed, but with no success; an attempt to explain this lack of interest in a country which had played a pioneer role in soyfoods development is given in Chapter 27.

In addition to importing soybeans, Europe was also importing soybean cake and oil. In 1912 imports were 47,000 tonnes of soybean cake and 23,000 tonnes of soy oil. The Netherlands imported the majority of the cake (51%) for use in mix feeds for its dairy industry and Germany was the main importer of soy oil (47%). By 1913 Russia (not shown in Figure 25.XX) had become the leading importer of soybeans, soy oil, and soybean cake. Careful observers might have noticed that Germany was stockpiling soybeans to serve as a source of oils during the war that she was planning. After the outbreak of World War I in 1914, Europe was largely cut off from its sources of oils and fats, including soybeans. Imports dropped sharply as shipping lanes were blocked. Shortly after the war started, Germany found that she had miscalculated her needs; the critical shortage of fats and oils emerged as one factor leading to Germany's defeat.

As noted above, defatted soybean cake enjoyed a good reputation during its early years in Europe as a source of low-cost high-quality protein in mixed livestock feeds. Early studies using commercial soybean cake began in Europe in about 1909. Gilchrist (1909) at Armstrong College in the UK, De Vries (Ref??) in the Netherlands, Bruce (1910) at the Edinburgh and East Scotland College of Agriculture, the Royal Agricultural College at Cirencester, England (Ref??), and the Agricultural Institute at Bonn, Germany (Ref??), all showed that soybean cake was as good as or slightly better than widely used cottonseed or linseed oil cakes for milk or beef production. Sawer (1911a) summarized these findings. However Hansson (Hansen 1909??) at an agricultural experiment station in Sweden published the first unfavorable reports on soybean cake in Swedish and German in 1909 and 1910. Thereafter the Dutch government tried to replicate the Swedish tests and after getting very favorable results concluded that the feeding of green feed had created errors in the Swedish tests. The Mark Lane Gazette reported in 1910 that "The interest which farmers are taking in this new feeding stuff remains unabated, and the demand is so great that the crushers have difficulty in keeping pace with the deliveries. A further rise in price is, we fear, to be expected."

Then problems began. On June 3, 1910 a French publication L'Engrais reported a court case involving a Scottish dairy farmer who sued a local miller for 700 pounds sterling since 25 of his milch cows had died after consuming soybean meal ( farine de soja ) supplied by the miller. Apparently this was not a defatted cake or meal. In a split decision, the tribunal sided with the miller and dismissed the farmer's complaint, stating that the cows had apparently died of ptomaine poisoning from potatoes or related foods. The publication noted that "Up to now, this is the sole complaint raised against soy cake or meal, which is being fed to livestock in large amounts." In 1911 Pammel, at Iowa State College, reported the minority opinion in the incident in his A Manual of Poisonous Plants , making it appear that the soybeans had been at fault. Then in 1916 Sir Stewart Stockman in England reported that soybean meal, whose oil had been extracted with trichloroethylene solvent had caused the death of at least 54 cows on nine farms in Scotland. (Which company did the extraction??). An extensive investigation showed that, while this solvent was not itself poisonous, it had been responsible for the deaths. It was specifically stated in the final report that soy meal extracted with other solvents was "an excellent auxiliary food for cattle." The same problem was described in 1927 by Stang (Ref??) in Germany, who used the term "Dueren Sickness." The term "Brabant Sickness" was also used in related European literature. Extensive literature on the problem was published, which caused prompt discontinuation of processing with this solvent, but also lowered the image of soy meal in general. The same problem occurred in the US during the 1950s. Moreover, in 1926, Schefbeck in Germany published an account of research on soybean poisoning and poisoning with carbon tetrachloride in animals. Considerable time and effort was required before the confidence of livestock feeders could be rebuilt.


Part 3 | Next
1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9