Pets Dig U.S. Soy

Laura Temple

Laura Temple

Furred, four-legged, feathered and finned companions complete many families worldwide, likely including yours. More than half the people in the world have at least one pet, and global pet ownership is projected to continue increasing alongside the middle class.1

Dogs and cats lead in pet popularity globally.2 The breakdown of the most common pets on the planet includes regional tendencies.

  • About one-third of homes around the world include a dog, though they are most popular in the Americas. In Argentina, two-thirds of people own dogs, as do 64% of Mexicans and 58% of Brazilians. In the U.S. about 50% of homes include dogs.2
  • Cat people account for 23% of pet owners, including 57% of Russians. Cats also outrank dogs in popularity in Western European countries like France, Belgium and Sweden, as well as Canada.2
  • Fish rank third globally in popularity, at 12%, led by China, where 17% of the population has at least one. In Hong Kong, 14% of people have a fish, the same amount that have dogs.2
  • Birds comprise 6% of global pet ownership, but they are especially popular in Turkey, where 20% of people opt for a feathered friend.2
  • Other pets and companion animals, from rabbits to horses and gerbils to salamanders, add to the overall estimated pet population of more than 1 billion.2

U.S. Soy Delivers Sustainable Nutrition

Pet owners prioritize providing consistent access to nutritious food and water. Food choices vary as much as individual owners. But much like people, pets can benefit from including soy in their diets.

“Regardless of species, soybean meal is an excellent source of amino acids for pet growth and maintenance, and more,” says Dave Holzgraefe, consulting nutritionist with Holzgraefe Innovative Services, LLC. “It also provides a source of energy and other nutrients.”

Soy is a common ingredient in a variety of pet food, especially in the United States. For example, in 2021, more than 417,300 metric tons, or nearly 460,000 U.S. tons, of soybean meal added protein and energy to U.S. pet food.3

Holzgraefe has worked with a variety of research initiatives focused on enhancing nutrition benefits for many different animals. Results from much of that research have implications for pet health and nutrition. He notes that the nutrients in soybean meal are readily available to be absorbed into digestive systems. Plus, U.S. soybean meal processing carries high standards.

“Soybean meal from the U.S. is processed to minimize anti-nutritional factors, or feed components that can reduce nutrient use,” he explains. “For example, U.S. processing reduces trypsin inhibitors in soybean meal, which impact breakdown of other proteins.”

He notes that soybeans raised in the U.S. adhere to sustainability standards.4 The combination of nutritional value and sustainable production makes soybean meal derived from U.S. Soy a good fit for all types of pet food.

Many pet food companies agree. For example, Purina, part of Nestle Purina PetCare, the second-largest pet food company in the world,5 sources 100% of the soy used in its dog and cat food formulas from the U.S.6 Grupo MOR, a significant animal feed producer in El Salvador, incorporated the Sustainable U.S. Soy logo into their pet food products, underscoring its commitment to sustainability.

Grupo MOR, a significant animal feed producer in El Salvador, included the Sustainable U.S. Soy logo in pet food social media promotions to demonstrate commitment to sustainability.

“Interest in additional, inherent benefits of feed ingredients like soy to pet health is growing,” Holzgraefe explains. “Historically, research on the value of soy in livestock and poultry diets indicated potential benefits.”

To better support the needs of the continuously growing pet food industry, pet nutritionists are taking a closer look at soy. A review of research on soy in pet food, funded by U.S. Soy, identified ways that the ingredient can benefit pets.

Exploring Gut Health with Soybean Meal

One research objective focuses on how soy components interact with gut health in dogs and cats. Just as more people pay attention to the impact of what they eat on the microbiota in their own digestive systems, pet owners’ awareness of the need to maintain balanced gut health in their pets is increasing.

“Isoflavones can influence gut health in people,7” Holzgraefe explains. “Research has been looking at the interactions of soy bioactives in canine and feline digestive systems.8

He adds that the fiber in soybeans offers additional gut health benefits. That fiber is contained in the hulls of each soybean, which is often removed in today’s high-protein soybean meal ingredients.

“Soybean hulls, or fiber, has inherent value to pets,” he says. “Depending on research results, I expect that soybean hulls would have the most value in treats and diet supplements for pets, rather than in the complete food they eat every day.”

U.S. Soy Helps Support Immune Systems and Stress Management

The research on soy bioactives also considers their influence on how pets handle health challenges.

“Isoflavones are also known to help prime immune systems,9” Holzgraefe says. “Could soy support pet immune systems to better help them manage disease and stress? Other research seeks to answer that question.10

Even pets that are cared for well face challenges like heat, isolation or aggression from other animals. Stronger immune systems help them respond and recover from such stress more quickly, reducing vulnerability to sicknesses.

U.S. Soy Addresses Pet Obesity

Obesity in pets, much like in people, can be a source of stress and intensify the challenges of managing other stresses. Many reports indicate that more than half of dogs and cats qualify as obese, a higher percentage than what owners think.11

Completed pet food research indicating the potential for soy ingredients to reduce obesity reinforces the concepts under investigation. For example, veterinarians consider fat deposits at the base of a dog’s tail a marker for obesity. A study found soy hulls can reduce those deposits.12

Soy isoflavones have been shown to reduce body fat, especially in male dogs.13 Other soy-based ingredients in dog food have been linked to increased exercise.10

Based on results from the research covered in the review and new research developed to fill knowledge gaps it revealed, pet food companies will be able to decide how best to incorporate soybean meal and soy hulls into supplements and treats.

Given the potential to improve gut health and stress management and reduce obesity, should you check for soy ingredients in your pets’ food and treats?


1 Global State of Pet Care, Health for Animals Global Animal Health Association, September 2022.

2 Man’s best friend: global pet ownership and feeding trends, GfK, November 11, 2016.

3 U.S. Soybean Meal Demand Assessment, Decision Innovation Solutions.

4 U.S. Soy Sustainability Assurance Protocol, U.S. Soybean Export Council, June 2022.

5 The world’s leading pet food producers, Petfood Industry, accessed February 2024.

6 Sourcing Quality Ingredients, Purina, accessed February 2024.

7 The bioavailability of soy isoflavones in vitro and their effects on gut microbiota in the simulator of the human intestinal microbial ecosystem, Pin Chen,, Food Research International, Volume 152, February 2022.

8 Soy in pet foods, Purina Institute, March 2021.

9 Soy isoflavones and immunity, Tohru Sakai, Mari Kogiso, The Journal of Medical Investigation, 55(3-4):167-73, August 2008.

10 Evaluation of Soybean Ingredients in Pet Foods Applications: Systematic Review, Hee S. Kim,, Animals 14(1), 16, December 19, 2023.

11 2021 Press Release & Summary of the Pet Owner: Weight Management, Nutrition, and Pet Food Survey, Association for Pet Obesity Prevention, August 24, 2022.

12 Effect of Soybean Hulls on Blood Biochemical Profiles and Body Condition of Dogs, Mariana Scheraiber,, Revista Brasileira de Zootecnia 45 (December): 755–59, 2016.

13 Effects of Isoflavones on Body Fat Accumulation in Neutered Male and Female Dogs, Yuanlong Pan, The FASEB Journal 21 (5): A373–A373, 207, April 1, 2007.