Livestock and poultry consume more than 70 percent of the soybeans worldwide, so understanding the global animal feed industry is vital to the soybean industry. That’s why the soybean checkoff’s Global Opportunities program funded a study on “Opportunities to Increase Animal Feed.”

The study outlines current global and regional trends that could impact growth in the animal feed industry, and illustrates the potential role of the United States in providing feed ingredients through 2020.

“About half of U.S. soybeans are exported, and the soybean meal becomes animal feed in other countries,” says Laura Foell, USB director and soybean farmer from Schaller, Iowa. “Regardless of whether U.S. soybean meal is exported, or U.S. soybeans are exported and crushed in other countries, the global animal feed industry remains important for U.S. soybean farmers.”

The report found that U.S. soybean exports are likely to increase to China, North Africa, Southeast Asia, Mexico and Canada. The soybean-processing industry in these areas presents great opportunity for the export of whole U.S. soybeans, and in many cases U.S. soy enjoys a competitive advantage in these markets. In addition, soybean meal exports are likely to increase on a global scale as economic conditions in the developing world improve and consumers purchase more animal-protein products.

However, U.S. soybean meal exports are limited due to restrictions on biotechnology, particularly in the European Union (EU). The EU remains the largest importer of soybean meal globally. In addition, restrictions on biotech soybean meal also affect other countries like Thailand, which is a major exporter of poultry to the EU market, and Turkey, which is attempting to join the EU.

“The U.S. soybean industry must collaborate on efforts to promote exports of U.S. feed ingredients,” says Foell. “Also, it’s important to continue working for fair market access to foreign markets for both U.S. soybeans and U.S. soybean meal.”

The report found that efforts should be focused on markets where the United States has or could have a competitive advantage on exports, rather than just selecting the markets with the largest consumption. Feed manufacturers in these regions will select U.S. feed ingredients if they are priced competitively due to their quality. To read the full report click here.