Crush plants extract oil from whole soybeans for use in applications like frying chicken, making salad dressings or baking pastries. Crude soybean oil gets added to livestock feed, exported or refined further for food and industrial customers.

Five Questions for Darren Moody, who manages edible oils for Bunge North America, focusing primarily on food service and food processing needs.

Q: How is soybean oil refined for food use?

A: Crude soybean oil can be taken through several steps to create products that meet customer specifications. An early refining stage, degumming removes heat-instable phosphatides that can darken oil. Bleaching eliminates additional impurities to improve quality for edible uses. Deodorizing strips volatile contaminants and unwanted color from the oil. Finally, additives increase functionality, such as extending shelf life.

Q: What forms of soybean oil do food customers use?

A: Commodity soybean oil – refined, bleached and deodorized – fulfills most food service frying and processing needs. Interesterified oil is blended with solid fats for baking and pastries. Votated, or chilled, soybean oil becomes soy-based shortening for recipes requiring solid fat. And high oleic soybean oil replaces commodity oil for high-heat frying without trans fats.

Q: What are the advantages of high oleic soybean oil for food customers?

A: High oleic soybeans produce trans-fat-free oil that doesn’t need additives, resulting in a simpler label. It also offers cost savings, depending on use. For example, as frying oil it offers extended life, less residue buildup and easier equipment cleaning.

Q: How does measurement technology help meet different oil specifications?

A: Measurement can start at the elevator, where near-infrared (NIR) technology estimates soybean moisture, protein and oil content. High oleic soybeans must meet oleic oil content requirements. Loads near the threshold per NIR measurements can be double-checked with gas chromatography, a process that provides exact component values.

At crushing and refining facilities, incoming loads may be segregated by moisture or other component levels. Monitoring soybean batches as they are processed minimizes variability and maximizes plant efficiency. Oil refiners process high oleic soybeans separately to preserve oil characteristics. Regardless of product, measurement throughout refining steps ensures that we meet both internal and customer specifications.

Q: What role do farmers play in the soybean oil supply chain?

A: Our supply chain is long and complex from the farm to the table. Everyone must work together to transparently deliver the products food companies and their customers want. Buy-in from farmers through our customers allows all of us to improve. Farmers interested in additional opportunities can pay attention to local markets and opportunities to raise soybeans for specific products, like high oleic soybean oil.