History of Soybean Crushing: Soy Oil and Soybean Meal - Part 5

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A Chapter from the Unpublished Manuscript, History of Soybeans and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

Establishing America's Soybean Crushing Industry (1920-29) . The huge amounts of soy oil imported to the US during World War I had entered duty free as specified in the tariff act of 1909. The emergency tariff act of 1921 was the first to place a duty on any soybean product. A duty of 2.67 cents a pound (20 cents a gallon) was placed on soy oil, which immediately shut out the greater portion of soy oil exports and invited American soybean crushers to fill the gap. The tariff bill of 1922 reduced the duty on oil slightly, to 2.5 cents a pound (18.75 cents a gallon), which still kept out imports (Why??). These protective tariffs were instrumental in creating a shortage of soy oil supply, which led to the establishment of a new soybean crushing industry in America.

Whereas large amounts of soy oil had been imported and used in the US from 1910-1920, relatively little was available in the early 1920s. The 1921 tariff reduced soy oil imports from 112 million pounds (50,800 tonnes) in 1920 to a mere 17 million pounds (7,711 tonnes) in 1921. Soy oil imports averaged only 20 million pounds (9,072 tonnes) a year for the rest of the 1920s, and 6.6 million pounds (2,993 tonnes) a year throughout the 1930s. And production of soy oil in America was just getting started, with an almost insignificant 751,000 pounds (341 tonnes) in 1922 increasing to a still small 11 million pounds (4,993 tonnes) in 1929.

The establishment of America's present gigantic soybean crushing industry is often traced to the year 1922, when the A.E. Staley Manufacturing Company in Decatur, Illinois, began crushing soybeans using expellers to make oil and cake. The first commercially successful soybean US crushing company, Staley is also the oldest soybean crusher in business today, and still an acknowledged leader in the industry. The man behind this operation and one of the foremost pioneers of American soybean processing was Augustus Eugene Staley. A detailed description of his work and the operations of his company is given in Chapter 40. Staley began crushing soybeans at his plant (which was primarily a corn processing plant) in Decatur on 30 September 1922. Although Staley offered to buy all beans brought to him at the guaranteed good prices of $0.9975 a bushel, the soybean plant was able to operate for only 74 days from lack of soybean supply. (Recall that the same problem faced the Chicago Heights Oil Manufacturing Co., the other major soybean crusher in Illinois that year.) Since Staley used only one expeller, which had a capacity of 23.6 tonnes or 500 bushels a day, his plant could have crushed no more than 1,006 tonnes or 37,000 bushels of soybeans yielding about 146 tonnes (322,000 pounds) of oil in the 74 days. Interestingly Piper and Morse (1923) wrote that two Corn Beltsoybean crushers (presumably Staley and Chicago heights) planned to crush at least 150,000 tons and 125,000 tons respectively in 1922. Apparently they only crushed less than 1% of what they had planned to. For the next few years Staley's soybean crushing operations were unprofitable and slow to increase, but by 1925 they were thriving. Soybean acreage in Illinois had tripled and Staley was still buying all the soybeans that farmers brought him. By the late 1920s, Staley was leading the way in refining soy oil and proving its value in margarines and shortenings (Staley 1936). Until his death at age 73 in 1940, Gene Staley worked tirelessly to develop new uses and bigger markets for soy oil and cake.

A.E. Staley's vision and enthusiasm had helped the infant soybean production and crushing industries over some of their first hurdles. With Staley's commercial success, a new industry had been born in America. The soybean had made its first major move off the farm and into the outside world of commerce and processing. By 1922 some 453 tonnes (1 million pounds) of oil was produced from soybeans grown in the US. In 1923 Piper and Morse, who had extensive information on soy oil and meal in their classic book The Soybean , predicted that a great soy oil processing industry would develop in America, based on domestically grown soybeans. They were the first to spot the major new trend.

Although the soybean crushing industry was still small, it began to grow at a remarkable rate. Between 1922 and 1929, soy oil production increased more than 13-fold, from 453 tonnes to 6,116 tonnes. A log graph (Fig. ??.?) shows this to be the highest growth rate for soy oil production in the history of the product, although a rate of almost the same magnitude persisted from 1934 to about 1942; thereafter the growth rate slowed, although the absolute amounts produced increased greatly. From the early 1920s until just after World War II, the growth of the industry was based primarily on the demand for soy oil, although most of it was used in nonfood products; soybean meal was generally viewed as a by-product and, especially prior to 1936, sold at a low price for livestock feed.

Following the lead of the A.E. Staley Co. other soybeans processing plants were opened. The first solvent extraction plant was built at Monticello, Illinois, and started operation in 1923, but proved unsuccessful, as described below. Also in 1923 the Blish Milling Co. of Seymour and Crotersville, Indiana, began to crush soybeans; their production of oil rose to 144 tonnes (317,000 pounds) by the 1927-28 season (Horvath 1933). Another early and very important soybean crushing plant was that established in 1924 in Bloomington, Illinois by Eugene D. Funk, Sr., of Funk Brothers Seed Co. The equipment for the plant was purchased from the then-defunct Chicago Heights Manufacturing Company and I.C. Bradley of that company went to work for Funk. Funk Brothers started with an initial capacity of 300-350 bushels (8.2-9.5 tonnes) a day using two old expellers. During 1924 they actually crushed about 20,000 bushels (544 tonnes). Capacity increased to about 800 bushels (21.7 tonnes) a day by 1929 and 1,300 bushels (35.4 tonnes) a day in 1932. Only expellers (screw presses) were used until 1951, when a solvent extractor was installed. In the late 1920s Funk Brothers built (acquired??) a soybean crushing plant in Taylorville, Illinois, and I.C. Bradley became manager, but this plant was sold to Allied Mills during the Depression, in about 1932. A pioneer soybean seed producer and organizer of the American Soybean Association, Funk successfully bought up large quantities of soybeans from farmers, then either sold them for planting or crushed them for oil and meal as the market dictated (Cavanagh 1959). For more on Funk Brothers, see Chapter 37.

By the mid-1920s, although the industry was still in its infancy, a number of other farsighted companies began crushing soybeans: the William O. Goodrich Company in 1926 (acquired by Archer Daniels Midland in 1928), the American Milling Company in 1927, the Iowa Milling Company in 1928 (they crushed the first soybeans west of the Mississippi River, at Cedar Rapids, Iowa), the Shellabarger Grain Products Company and the Archer Daniels Midland Company in 1929. By that year new soybean crushing mills were springing up everywhere. Companies that started crushing soybeans in the early 1930s that later became famous included Ralston Purina (1930??), the Central Soya Company (1934), and the Spencer Kellogg Company (1935).

This rapid growth in the soybean crushing industry, whose capacity was constantly much greater than the supply of soybeans served as a major force in stimulating soybean production. Nevertheless, as more plants entered the industry, it became increasingly difficult for each of them to secure enough soybeans to make their operations economically viable. They also faced two other tasks: improving processing methods and reducing their cost, and gaining acceptance for soy oil and meal among users who had had bad experiences with poor quality products imported from Manchuria. In order to cope with this situation, the so-called "Peoria Plan" was developed by three processors in 1927-28. The key architects of this plan were H.G. Atwood of the American Milling Company of Peoria, Illinois; James A. McConnell of the Grange League Federation (GLF) of New York; and Eugene D. Funk of Funk Brothers in Bloomington, Illinois. These three men and I.C. Bradley met with representatives of Farm Bureaus, key farmers, and professors from the University of Illinois to work out the details of the plan. Many Illinois farmers, who had suffered when a large part of their wheat acreage had been killed by an early 1928 winter freezer, wanted to substantially expand their soybean acreage. Atwood, McConnell, and Funk agreed to obligate their companies to purchase on contract all the soybeans grown by 1,500 Illinois farmers on 50,000 acres (up to a million bushels) for the guaranteed price of $1.35 per bushel of No. 2 grade soybeans delivered at Peoria. (Contrary to some later reports, the A.E. Staley Mfg. Co. played no role in developing or implementing the plan.) American Milling and GLF were interested in the plan to increase their supply of soybean meal; GLF was the largest buyer of soybean meal in the US. Funk Brothers wanted the soybeans for the production of oil and meal. The million bushels contracted for were all delivered, and both processors and farmers were happy. The plan, which was extended the next year to soybean growers in Indiana and Ohio, played a key role in giving birth to today's soybean crushing industry in America and helping soybean production to make a great leap forward ( Business Week 1930; Dies 1942; Riegel 1944; Cavanagh 1959).

Not all of the early soybean crushing companies proved successful. The first attempt at solvent extraction of soybeans in the US was undertaken in 1923 (as mentioned above) by the Piatt County Cooperative Soy Bean Company (also known as the Monticello Grain Co.) located near Monticello, Illinois. These were farmers who decided to crush their own soybeans cooperatively. Prior to this time, solvent extraction, already popular in Europe, had been considered uneconomical at the relatively small volumes crushed. The cooperative's $35,000 crushing plant housed batch equipment that could process 8.2 tonnes (300 bushels) of soybeans a day using benzol or benzene/benzine?? solvent (C6H6?? Orange Judd Farmer 1923). However, because of the scarcity of soybeans, this ill-fated business was only in operation for 6 months during 1923-24, although Kishlar (1941) reported that it was still in operation in 1929. Another early attempt at solvent extraction was undertaken in 1924-25 by the Eastern Cotton Oil Co. at Norfolk, Virginia, using a Bollmann-type continuous extractor (what solvent??) with a capacity of roughly 73 tonnes a day. Again the soybean supply proved to be inadequate (Markley and Goss 1944).

By 1924 Illinois had become America's leading soybean producing state and soybean crushing operations expanded in Decatur, Illinois (eventually the home of the A.E. Staley Manufacturing Co., Archer Daniels Midland, Spencer Kellogg Co., and Soya Products Co.) until the city came to be known as the soybean processing capital of America . . . and eventually of the world. Today it is sometimes called "Soy City." Railroads at the turn of the century helped Decatur to become a hub of commerce. Eventually, to simplify rail freight rates, Decatur was chosen as the central point from which all other rates were calculated. The unusual pattern of freight rates that resulted encouraged the growth of soybean crushing in that area.

It cannot be stressed enough what an important role in establishing the soybean crushing industry was played by a small number of pioneers who had strong faith in the soybean's potential and were willing to take big risks. Future generations owe a great debt to A.E. Staley, I.C. Bradley, Eugene D. Funk, Sr., and Dale W. McMillen, to mention but a few. Bradley, as plant manager of Allied Mills, later did important work in developing techniques for extracting and refining soy oil and promoting its wider use. McMillen, who founded Central Soya, quickly built it into one of America's largest corporations.

Takeoff of the US Soybean Crushing Industry (1930-39). Although real progress in processing soybeans for oil and meal had been made during the late 1920s, it was not until the 1930s, and especially until after 1935, that the industry was firmly established. In 1930 the amount of soy oil produced in the US first exceeded the amount imported (Fig. ??.?). During the 1930s the percentage of soybeans used for seed or fed to livestock on farms where the beans were grown fell sharply, while the percentage crushed for oil and meal jumped from 28% in 1930 to almost 82% in 1940. In 1935, for the first time, more soybeans were crushed for oil and meal than were used for seed (Fig. ??.?). In 1936 the US passed Germany to become the leading soybean crushing country in the Western world, then between 1938 and 1942 the US passed Manchuria to become the leading soybean crusher in the world (Fig. ??.?), a position that has not since been relinquished. The number of US soybean crushing plants increased from less than 10 in 1930 to about 65 in 1939, and during this period the annual crush truly skyrocketed (see Fig. ??.?) from a mere 110,000 tonnes to 1,551,000 tonnes (7 million to 57 million bushels). Likewise between 1930 and 1939 soy oil production increased from 6,526 to 207,543 tonnes (14.3 to 457.5 million pounds); this represented a remarkable 32-fold increase in oil production in just one decade, for a compound annual growth rate of 47%. By comparison, soy oil production increased 3.5-fold during the 1940s, 2.09-fold during the 1950s, 1.79-fold during the 1960s, and 1.71-fold increase during the 1970s (Fig. ??.?). During the 1930s a powerful alliance between soybean growers and soybean crushers was formed, welding the needs of the two firmly together into what has been called the "US soy complex." The strong and growing demand for soybeans from US crushers after the mid-1930s stimulated domestic soybean production and proved to be the key factor that allowed the soybean to attain real commercial significance in its new-found homeland.

A number of new factors led to the dizzying rise of soybean crushing and of demands for soy oil and meal during the 1930s. The first of these was new protective tariffs. Despite the protection given on soybeans and oil by the 1921 and 1922 tariff bills, there was no tariff on imported soybean meal. By 1928 both growers and crushers wanted greater tariff protection for their expanding programs and investments. So in that year the American Soybean Association sent a small group of members to Washington to lobby for their interests. In June 1930 the Smoot-Hawley Tariff was passed. It raised the import duty on soy oil from 2.5 to 3.5 cents per pound (but not less than 45% ad valorum ) and stipulated a duty of $6 per ton (0.3 cents per pound) on soybean cake or meal and $1.20 per bushel (2 cents a pound) on imported soybeans. In 1930, for the first time, production of soy oil in the US exceeded imports. Then in 1936 the Revenue Bill levied a tax of 3-5 cents per pound on oils imported for processing. These protective measures greatly stimulated growth of the US soy complex.

To help take fullest advantage of the burgeoning demand for soy oil and meal, and to deal with the new changes and problems arising therefrom, key members of the fledgling US soybean crushing industry met in 1930 to organize the National Soybean Processors Association (NSPA). Operating informally since late 1928, it soon became the single biggest buyer of American soybeans and played an active role in promoting industry interests. By the 1980s the companies that constituted the NSPA accounting for 90-95% of America's soybean crush. A detailed history of the NSPA and of the organizations that grew from it is given in Chapter 45.

A major factor stimulating expansion of the crushing industry was the need to get plants operating at a higher percentage of total capacity to make operations profitable. This strong demand for soybeans changed the price structure of that commodity, which resulted in increasing soybean supplies, better use of mill operating capacities, and thus more efficient operation, which eventually led to reduced soy oil prices. Prior to about 1928 prices for soybeans were largely determined by the supply and demand for soybean seed, but this shifted by the early 1930s as crushing expanded so that prices came to be determined largely by the demand for oil and meal.

The US soy complex has always thrived in times of economic difficulty. The point can well be made that today's US soybean crushing industry was born during the Great Depression (1929-33) as other industries were struggling for survival. The rising demand for soybeans by the crushers stimulated expansion of soybean acreage, but the Depression kept soybean prices low throughout the 1930s. Soy oil prices, both actual and inflation-adjusted, fell by almost 50% between 1929 and 1938 (Fig. ??.?), and in 1934 fell below the price of cottonseed oil, then America's leading vegetable oil. Indeed price appeal was soy oil's entering wedge, and lower prices stimulated sales. There were various reasons for these falling prices: the low price of raw materials (soybeans); the increased efficiencies of larger scale crushing; the fact that soy oil, which was seen as a lower quality substitute for edible cottonseed, peanut, and corn oils, and which required additional processing to make it usable, had to be sold at a lower price to make it competitive; and similarly the fact that in the drying oil field, soy oil, which was classed as a semi-drying oil, had to be sold at a lower price than linseed oil. Average prices of major crude vegetable oils in the US from 1935-1946 were soy oil 8.26 cents a pound, coconut oil 8.35 cents, cottonseed oil 9.12 cents, corn oil 9.39 cents, peanut oil 9.42 cents, and linseed oil 10.57 cents (Alderks 1945).

The "dustbowl" droughts of the early 1930s and the programs developed by the Agricultural Adjustment Administration both stimulated demand for soy oil and meal. Both played a part in reducing production of cotton and hogs, which reduced supplies of cottonseed oil and lard. The drought also reduced feed crops, which brought a rise in feed prices relative to the price of soybean meal, since soybeans were more drought resistant than most feed crops.

Starting in the early 1930s there was a strong revival and expansion of the interest that had begun in 1910 in exploring new ways to use soy oil in industrial products. During both periods soy oil was in good supply and linseed oil was scarce and expensive. Soy oil came to be most widely used during the 1930s in paints, varnishes, and soaps, but it was also used to make glycerine, linoleum, enamel, waterproof goods, rubber substitutes, artificial petroleum, printing ink, etc. It was extensively used to replace or extend high-priced linseed oil. By 1936 more than 50 factories were making various soy-containing industrial products (Burlison 1936; Chemical Age 1936). Horvath (1936) discussed its uses in soaps in detail. In 1933 an all-time record 65.7% of US soy oil was used in the manufacture of nonfood/industrial products (Fig. ??.?).

In 1936, anticipating further growth in the demand and applications for soy oil and meal in industrial products, the US government, in cooperation with the University of Illinois and 12 North Central states, established the United States Regional Soybean Industrial Products Laboratory at the University of Illinois. In the years that followed a great deal of important research and development was done there (see Chapter 44). Two soy oil products developed by the Regional Soybean Lab, Norepol (a rubber substitute) and Norelac (a resin used in paints, varnishes, and paper coatings), were produced commercially during World War II.

The University of Illinois was chosen as the home of the Soybean Laboratory not only because Illinois was the leading soybean producing and crushing state, but also because its agricultural experiment station was already active in researching and promoting industrial utilization of soybean products. One of the university's pet projects was to extend the use of soy oil in paints and improve the quality of such paints. In 1927 Cole, Lindstrom, and Woodworth published the results of work done by them in Wisconsin between 1912 and 1919 in the development by selection of a pure line of soybeans yielding oil that had a higher than usual iodine value (and linolenic acid content), and which would thus dry faster and harder. While only a very slight increase in the iodine value was achieved after 7 years, another line with a significantly lower iodine value was developed. In 1924 Stark, studying variations in the iodine value by soybean variety and locality, found a range of from 124-136, but no significant correlations between varieties or locations and iodine value. In August 1933 The University of Illinois began its first investigations on the use of soy oil in paints. In 1933 a number of buildings on the campus were painted with paints containing soy oil; the buildings were carefully inspected after two years and found to be in good condition. By 1936 the university was making liberal use of soy oil in paint (Burlison 1935, 1936). These successful developments at a major university stimulated similar research elsewhere. In a review of the subject, Ware (1936) noted that although soy oil was not ideal for use in paints because of its poor drying qualities, it did possess excellent characteristics of permanent elasticity and freedom from discoloration (yellowing). Used as an extender with a drier and other oils or synthetic resins, it could improve the quality and lower the price of a paint.

Starting in the early 1940s a promising new process called "fractionation" was developed by the USDA Regional Soybean Lab and by several industrial laboratories. Many patents were issued. It involved the physical separation of soy oil into two fractions, one containing mostly unsaturated triglycerides having favorable drying properties and another with more saturated triglycerides having improved flavor and stability (Alderks 1945; Hansen and Mighell 1947). Also during the 1930s and 1940s soy oil alkyd resins came to be quite widely used in high-finish auto paints (which were widely publicized by Henry Ford; see Chapter 46) and appliance paints. In 1933 Dr. John Kessler began to develop paints made from 100% soy oil. By adding driers, he achieved good results by the mid-1940s. He went on to establish the Soybean Paint and Varnish Institute in St. Louis, to spread his ideas (Kessler 1943, 1945), but apparently they never caught on.

As a result of all the research and work on utilization of soy oil in industrial products, the amount used increased dramatically after 1931, reached a peak in 1941-42, then fell sharply as wartime shortages of industrial products eased and as natural oils were replaced by synthetic petroleum-based products, such as resin and latex in paints (Fig. ??.?). In 1940 soy oil constituted 6.8% of all oils used in paints, 6.5% of all oils used in linoleum and oilcloth, and 0.4% of all oils used in printing inks (Alderks 1945).

Soy oil has always been an ambidextrous oil, serving both as an edible oil and as an industrial drying oil. Although industrial usage increased rapidly during the 1930s, food uses increased even faster, so that the percentage of all soy oil that was used in foods jumped from 30% in 1933 to 84% in 1936, then gradually increased to about 98% in 1980 (Fig. ??.?). Stated in another way, the amount of soy oil used in foods increased an astonishing 57-fold from 1934-1938 (Fig. ??.?; Woodruff et al. 1939). After 1935 shortening remained the largest food use, accounting for an average of 50% of all (i.e., both food and nonfood) soy oil utilization. Cooking and salad oils were generally next most important, followed by margarine. Yet during the 1930s soy oil, despite its great advances, was still a very minor oil in America, accounting for only 3.5% of all edible oils and fats in 1936, less than butter (34.5%), lard (24%), cottonseed oil (19%), and coconut oil (4.5%) (Jones 1938).

One reason for the rapid increase in acceptance of soy oil in foods was the development of refining processes for removing the distinctive beany flavor and odor from crude soy oil. These processes, and especially deodorization and alkali refining were first developed between the late 1880s and the early 1900s for use on strongly flavored cottonseed oil, which had to be made odorless and tasteless for use in margarine manufacture. The first successful attempt at removing oil odors and flavors consisted of blowing a current of live steam through the oil at elevated temperatures and atmospheric pressure. Europeans placed the oil under a partial vacuum to improve deodorization. Then in 1889 the American David Wesson improved on the European process by using high pressure steam in a high vacuum at high temperature. Additional improvements were made by Henry Eckstein.

From 1917-1921 large amounts of Manchurian soy oil were refined by methods used for refining cottonseed oil. The results were disappointing in that the refined soy oil had a distinct "fishy" or "painty" taste. Only the great wartime shortage of oils made it acceptable to the food industry. Because of this flavor problem soy oil acquired a bad reputation when it was compared with refined cottonseed, corn, or peanut oils for food uses (Durkee 1936). Yet progress was slowly made. In 1923 Piper and Morse wrote: "Improved methods of deodorizing and bleaching soybean oil have tended to remove a former prejudice against its use as a table oil." In 1927 the odor of crude soy was identified as due mainly to the presence of methyl- n -nonyl ketone, and after 1928 methods of refining and deodorizing soy oil, based on those used for corn oil, were developed to give a good flavored and light colored product. However, after a few weeks "reversion" took place and the oil acquired a "grassy" or "beany" flavor" although much better than crude Manchurian soy oil refined in the US, it was still not as good as other US salad and cooking oils (Durkee 1936). In 1933 Morse was able to write that the former prejudice had been entirely overcome.

Horvath (1935) in an article on "Newer Methods of Refining Soya Oil," gave a good look at the state of the art and suggested new methods for removing undesirable ketones. The discovery by Suzuki of Japan in 1934 that soy oil contained vitamin E, and subsequent research in the US, Europe, and Japan that tocopherols and lecithin had antioxidant properties and helped retard rancidification, was an important contribution toward understanding soy oil flavor changes, since a substantial portion of the tocopherols (including vitamin E) remain in soy oil after refining. In 1936 Morris Durkee, one of the great figures in early soy oil refining and the man who ran the A.E. Staley refinery for many years, gave a good review of advances in refining, described the much improved process then used consisting of five steps (neutralization, washing, bleaching, winterization, and deodorization), and admitted that the biggest problem was still how to prevent reversion and the development of off flavors. This problem would not be solved until the late 1940s and early 1950s.

The expanding soy oil processing industry began to look for soybeans with higher oil content. As early as 1921, Dr. C.M. Woodworth at the University of Illinois, had initiated projects to breed for high and low oil; low oil beans would yield more meal. Piper and Morse (1923) did their own extensive analysis of the conditions leading to soybeans with high oil content. The US soybean breeding program, now more active than ever, has raised the oil content of soybeans from 16-17% in the 1930s to 20% by the 1960s, a 25% increase, giving US soybeans a higher oil content than those from most other countries (except those in very warm climates; higher temperatures tend to produce soybeans with higher oil content). In 1943 US soybean crushers were first able to purchase their soybeans priced on an oil-content basis, when the US government Commodity Credit Corporation, as a wartime measure, tried to market the entire crop in that way. Chaos resulted, largely from lack of quick and accurate ways of calculating oil content, and the system was discontinued (Goss 1944; Hilbert 1946).

By the mid-1930s defatted soybean cake and meal (then known as "soybean oil cake or meal") started to become a widely accepted protein supplement in livestock and poultry feeds. As we have seen earlier, research on such feeds started in about 1909 and from then until the 1930s imported soybean cake and meal had been fairly widely used in US chicken feeds. Yet even by the mid-1920s it was found that "farmers were as reluctant to change the menus for their livestock as individuals are to change their eating habits" (Staley 1944). Many farmers who had grown the soybeans initially refused to feed the meal to their livestock even when it was given back to them gratis.

There were a number of reasons that soybean cake and meal were not widely used prior to the mid-1930s. First, there were misconceptions. Many farmers had read the numerous research reports published between 1927 and 1932 which showed that feeding soybeans caused flabby bacon and soft pork; they did not realize that this problem does not arise with defatted soybean meal. Some farmers had heard of the incidents in Europe, where livestock had died after eating soybean meal; they did not realize that this only occurred with meal resulting from trichloroethylene solvent extraction, which was quickly discontinued in Europe. But most important was the fact that many feed manufacturers and most livestock feeders did not understand the nutritional role of a protein source in livestock feeds, nor the special value of soy protein compared with more traditional US protein concentrates (such as cottonseed meal). In addition to misconceptions there were also basic problems. Soybean cake and meal had never been readily available in the US. In fact domestic production did not equal imports until 1929 and a surplus was not available for export until 1938. Also there were various grades of product on the market made in various ways (mechanical expression or solvent extraction) and the quality varied widely, with some being quite unpalatable. We now realize that many of the products had not received sufficient heat treatment during processing to provide optimum nutritional value (Seulke 1934).

The scientific research on soybean meal and cake that slowly increased during the 1920s and 1930s consistently showed that soybean cake and meal were excellent food protein supplements. For example, during the 1920s the Virginia Agricultural Experiment station did extensive tests with various protein supplements in dairy heifer feeds. In 1921 Prof. R.E. Hunt of that station reported that soybean meal "should become very popular with dairymen." (Ref??) In 1925 the station reported soybean meal to be superior to cottonseed meal in protein efficiency for dairy cows (Ref??). As numerous other studies confirmed these findings, attitudes began to change.

A key factor in this change was the work of Dr. James W. Hayward. Born in 1898 in Indiana, Hayward had received his PhD in animal nutrition from the University of Wisconsin 1935. The title of his doctoral dissertation was "The Effect of the Temperature of Oil Extraction Upon the Nutritive Value of the Protein of Soybean Oil Meal." Here he made the breakthrough discovery, based on the work of Osborne and Mendel in 1917 (see Chapter 7), that "toasting" the meal (i.e. treating it with live steam or moist heat for a certain time) was necessary to inactivate the soybean trypsin inhibitors and urease to give optimum nutritional value to the meal and ensure maximum animal growth. (Recall from Chapter 2 that since the late 1800s US farmers had fed livestock whole or ground raw soybeans; and most mechanical pressing did not involve enough heat treatment to sufficiently inactivate trypsin inhibitors for monogastric animals such as chickens and hogs.)

After receiving his PhD in 1935 Hayward was appointed director of the new department of nutritional research of the soybean division of Archer Daniels Midland Co. in Wisconsin. His subsequent numerous publications on the value of using properly toasted soybean meal in feeds, especially poultry feeds, led to his recognition as the leading authority on the use of soybean meal in animal feeds. Also starting in the mid-1930s the major soybean crushing companies, together with the various state agricultural experiment stations, conducted major educational and promotional programs to dispel misconceptions about soybean meal and teach livestock feeders and feed formulators its true value. Gradually it came to be widely understood that protein is a key ingredient in feeds (poultry feeds, for example, should contain 15-19%) and that soybean meal is an excellent protein source since it is inexpensive, rich in protein (44-49% versus only 8 1/2 to 9% for corn), and endowed with especially high quality protein, having an amino acid profile rich in lysine that is an excellent complement to the protein of most feed grains. In short, using soy protein in livestock feeds could increase a livestock farmer's profits. The idea caught on and by the late 1930s use of soybean meal in mixed feeds (typically mixed with 3-4 parts corn) increased rapidly. In the late 1930s soybean meal passed cottonseed meal (it had previously passed linseed meal) to become America's single leading livestock feed protein concentrate, and America had become a net exporter of soybean meal, shipping it mainly to Canada and northwestern European countries. By 1941 some 95% of all US soybean meal was being used in mixed feeds. Dairy cattle were the largest consumers and some feed manufacturers formed the meal into pellets to facilitate cattle feeding (Dies 1943).

Also during the 1930s soybean meal was increasingly used in industrial products, especially plastics and glues. The extensive and often dramatic media publicity given to these products was far out of proportion to the relatively small amount of soybean meal actually used. Henry Ford played the pioneering role in the development of soy-based plastic car parts and his high-powered publicity machine captured the American imagination with the notion that American soybean farmers were at work growing the next generation of car bodies, which would be made of soybean plastic. This colorful story is told in Chapter 46. Since 1928 soybean glue (repeat??), which was water resistant but not waterproof, and was made from soybean meal or purified soy protein, found increasing use as a low-cost plywood adhesive. By 1936 the tonnage used approximated that of all other plywood glues combined and by 1947 nearly 25 million pounds were used (Burlison 1936; Archer Daniels Midland 1948). Glidden's Beta protein for soybean glue was a popular product.


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