Sustainability

U.S. Soy Is the Miracle Bean

The shoes sitting by the front door, tires on the car and even the cleaning products under the kitchen sink all have a common ingredient — U.S. soy. Soybeans are often called “miracle beans.” Their uses are endless, dependable and, most importantly, sustainable.

U.S. soy is a versatile ingredient, offering meal and oil that accommodate various industries from food and feed to fuel and fiber. Sustainability among these industries and their products starts with the source, U.S. soybean farmers, and follows through to the rest of the supply chain.

Soybean farmers across the U.S. are committed to growing high-quality, sustainable crops to meet end-user needs. In fact, 95% of U.S. soybean producers partner with the U.S. Department of Agriculture to implement conservation programs on their farms. These programs may include conservation tillage, which can reduce soil erosion as much as 90%, nutrient management, water management, cover crops, crop rotation, pest management or technology.

U.S. Soy, consisting of the soy checkoff and its other organizations representing U.S. soybean farmers, invests in various projects and research to document the soybean’s sustainability and positive environmental impact as well as enhance its functionality in products.

Sustainability of the Food You Eat

Regardless of the final product of U.S.-grown soybeans, the soybean oil derived from them consistently contributes to the sustainability of any product.

As a food ingredient, U.S. soybeans can often be found in baked goods or frying components. High oleic soybeans, first introduced in 2012, deliver oil with zero grams trans fats and a long shelf life. Their improved profile provides added benefits, including outstanding frying and baking performance — characteristics sought after by the food and restaurant industry. On the farm, farmers can grow high oleic soybeans with the same sustainable practices they apply to their other soybean crops, allowing high oleic soybean oil to contribute to sustainability outcomes.

You can also find U.S. soy in common, everyday foods like Hellmann’s mayonnaise. Hellmann’s prides themselves on sustainability. The company, owned by Unilever, partnered with ADM, a global food processor of soybeans, and USB to source sustainable soybean oil for Hellmann’s mayonnaise to achieve their sustainable sourcing goals.

It’s a win-win for Hellmann’s and other companies taking advantage of sustainable U.S. soy in their products.

Sustainability in Everyday Products

Soybean oil also makes an appearance in biodiesel, BioHeat (a more eco-friendly alternative to both traditional heating oil and natural gas heat) and other industrial uses — all of them create sustainable products that meet end-user demand. Companies offer thousands of biobased products across the U.S. Cleaning supplies, carpet backing, energy-efficient roofing materials, motor oils and even asphalt include soybean oil as a high-functioning, sustainable ingredient that supports high performance.

When creating asphalt, a polymer made from high oleic soybean oil offers a lower-cost and cleaner alternative to the traditional binding agents in an asphalt mix. Beyond the efficiency, all current data indicates it will last longer due to the flexible characteristics soybean oil provides, and it allows for more reuse of asphalt grindings — allowing immediate recycling of the previous asphalt during the road repair process. High oleic soybean oil also outperforms other natural oils and petroleum- and formaldehyde-based lubricants and applications in asphalt sealant.

You can also find soybean oil in biodiesel, made from a diverse mix of resources such as recycled cooking oil, soybean oil and animal fats. Biodiesel, a renewable, clean-burning diesel alternative, can be used in most existing diesel engines, excluding some older-model vehicles, without modification. In fact, compared with petroleum diesel, biodiesel reduces life cycle carbon dioxide emissions by 78%, according to a study conducted by the USDA and the United States Department of Energy. Since it’s made with natural, renewable feedstocks, biodiesel also reduces EPA-regulated emissions that directly impact human health.

U.S. Soy Success in Other Leading Companies

Other soy biobased products, such as lubricants, plastics and paints, can reduce the carbon footprint of  the company. Soy biobased products offer lower volatile organic compounds (VOCs), less exposure to toxic chemicals and less irritation from odors.

Rust-Oleum is a well-known staple brand for paints and coatings for home and industrial uses. Rust-Oleum has worked with U.S. Soy for nearly 10 years on various projects to incorporate soybean oil into its products. The company continues to use soybean oil in its paint and stain products to significantly lower VOCs and increase product performance.

To help achieve its sustainability goals, Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. has partnered with U.S. Soy to create sustainable high-performance tires. Goodyear has completed decades of research with support from USB and found soybean oil improved tire flexibility at lower temperatures, keeping the rubber pliable in cold weather and providing increased traction in both rain and snow.

Goodyear received a global sustainability award for their use of soy. Tire Technology International awarded Goodyear the 2018 Environmental Achievement of the Year in the Innovation and Excellence category at the International Tire Expo.

Sherwin-Williams collaborated with USB to develop an award-winning, water-based acrylic alkyd paint made from soybean oil and recycled plastic bottles. Besides reducing VOCs by 60%, the paint is safer and more sustainable to manufacture and use.

Companies continue to recognize the contributions of U.S. soybeans toward their sustainability goals, both during the growing process and along the supply chain. End users continue to partner with USB to innovate new uses for soybeans in products useful in everyday life. Truly the miracle bean, soybeans sustainably provide food, fuel, fiber and feed at affordable costs.

U.S. Soy helps make whatever you make more sustainable. Steps to improve sustainability are taken throughout the soy value chain to create an environmentally friendly product for end users to sell to consumers. Farm practices such as precision agriculture, pesticide-resistance management, reduced tillage and buffer strips all positively impact environmental goals, including water quality, soil health and greenhouse gas emissions.

Visit unitedsoybean.org/sustainability-report to download the Soy Sustainability Report.

Hannah Schlapp
Hannah Schlapp

Ag Communicator

St. Louis, MO