Animal Agriculture and Soybean Quality

Updated: November 19, 2015

Current Situation

Poultry and livestock farmers depend on high levels of protein, amino acids and digestible energy to maximize their animals’ potential. One way U.S. soybean farmers can help meet these customers’ needs is by planting varieties that both produce high-protein soybeans and deliver high yield. Higher-protein soybeans create more demand, which can increase the price farmers receive.

Why the Checkoff Cares

Whether here in the United States or abroad, animal ag is every U.S. soybean farmer’s No. 1 customer. Providing high-quality soybean meal and meeting the needs of poultry, swine, fish and other livestock farmers helps maintain soybean farmers’ most critical market, a major driver of their profit potential. By looking beyond their local elevators and meeting the needs of their end customers, especially the animal ag sector, soybean farmers can produce high-protein soybeans and increase their profit potential without sacrificing yield.

Key Points

  • U.S. soybean farmers should select high-quality varieties in order to continue to provide customers with high-quality soybean meal that contains the important amino acids needed for poultry and swine feeds.
  • Nationally, the protein content of U.S. soybeans has been trending downward for the last decade.
  • Higher-protein soybeans increase demand from the animal ag sector, which brings processors more value and allows them to pay more to the farmer.
  • Some processors are willing to pay more for high-protein soybeans, because those soybeans help them make better meal.
  • “Farmers with the better product can demand a higher price for their meal and those with the lower-quality product can even be excluded from a sale,” says Sam Huenefeldt, marketing manager at an ADM plant in Quincy, Illinois.
  • U.S. soybean meal competes with not only other feed ingredients like synthetic amino acids and DDGS, but also with other soybean suppliers, such as farmers in South America. That’s why it’s so important for farmers to work to improve soybean meal quality. The pricing system for U.S. soybeans compensates farmers for higher quality through their basis. The system isn’t transparent, however, and many farmers don’t know this is happening.
  • Soybean price is determined by the combined value of soybean meal, oil and hulls. This combined value is called estimated processed value, or EPV.
  • Historic data show a direct correlation between EPV and the price of soybeans on the Chicago Board of Trade.

Facts & Figures

  • Globally, the livestock and poultry sectors are U.S. soybean farmers’ No. 1 customer – consuming 97 percent of U.S. soybean meal.
  • Poultry continue to be the single largest domestic user of soybean meal, consuming more than half of all meal, followed by swine, which eat the meal from about one out of every three bushels.
  • A checkoff-funded study shows that if soybean farmers increased the protein content in their soybeans by 1 percentage point, they could earn an additional $7.70–$12.96 per acre.
  • The national average of protein content for soybeans grown in the U.S. is 34 percent.
  • Domestic animal agriculture used 26.8 million metric tons of U.S. soybean meal in the 2013–14 marketing year. That’s the meal from more than 1.2 billion bushels of U.S. soybeans.
  • In 2014, animal ag supported more than 2.3 million American jobs and added $440 billion to the U.S. economy, according to the checkoff-funded Economic Analysis of Animal Agriculture.

Other Resources