Over the last several decades, soybean meal has become the world’s dominant protein source in animal feed rations. More than three-fourths of the global soy supply ends up in feed formulations every year, more than any other oilseed or cereal grain. But what makes this an essential part of many animals’ daily diets?
As a concentrated source of protein, energy, and essential amino acids in one palatable package, soybean meal offers unsurpassed feeding value for various species. In fact, it has become the gold standard by which other protein sources are measured and priced.
Here are some of the biggest reasons soybean meal is irreplaceable to the animal feed industry.
The benefits of soybean meal in animal feed
Soybeans have played a major role in animal diets since the crop first arrived in America in the 1800s when farmers mainly planted soy as forage for grazing cattle. By the early 1900s, researchers were exploring soy’s potential beyond forage as a source of both protein and oil. As domestic soybean production ramped up after World War II, new technologies and processing methods improved the quality of soy byproducts, making the meal safer for animals to consume.
Properly processed soybean meal offers the most complete nutrient profile of any common feedstock. Some of its most significant nutritious benefits include:
Soybean meal contains 47-49% protein and 3% crude fiber if the hulls are removed before processing. Processors often leave some hulls in tact or add separated hulls back into the material after processing to create a meal with about 43-46% protein and at least 6% crude fiber.
Monogastric (single-stomached) animals, like pigs and chickens, don’t digest dietary fibers very well, so they prefer low-fiber, high-protein feeds. Soybean meal offers the highest protein content of any common oilseed or grain, supplying the most complete source of plant-based protein.
- Amino acids
Soybean meal provides all the essential amino acids that monogastric animals require—especially those like lysine and tryptophan that are lacking in corn and other cereal grains. Plus, the amino acids in soybeans are highly digestible. Compared to other oilseed meals, soybean offers the highest lysine digestibility and ranks high in methionine, cystine, and threonine.
Soybean meal offers more metabolizable energy than any other plant protein, especially when processed in a mechanical press like the Anderson Expeller. The press leaves about 5% residual oil in the meal, which boosts fat-based energy in feed.
Soy meal combines all these nutrient-dense benefits into one ingredient at a price that makes it cost-effective for livestock operators. Today, nearly 98% of the world’s soybean meal ends up in animal feed—primarily to supplement the diets of farm-raised poultry, pigs, and fish, as well as companion pets like dogs.
Maximizing soybean profits
However, not all meal is made the same. Most of the world’s soybean processors use hazardous chemicals like hexane to dissolve the oil from the bean. Although solvent extraction is the most efficient method, leaving as little as 1% residual oil in the meal, it also leaves behind traces of solvent that must be further removed before the byproducts hit the market.
As health concerns continue to drive demand for more natural alternatives throughout the food chain, feed markets are moving away from harsh chemical processing and toward mechanical pressing. Anderson International’s 12-inch High Shear Extrusion System—comprised of the Dox Extruder and the Expeller Press— minimizes the energy consumption for soybean processing, helping you maximize profits. Anderson has helped soybean processing plants around the world optimize their systems to produce higher-quality soy products along with higher profits.