Expanding Horizons: U.S. Soybean Meal's Role in Global Growth

U.S. soybean crushing capacity is growing. In 2023, three crush plants expanded operations and a new plant opened in North Dakota, and plans are underway for 12 new soybean crushing plants and five expansions to be operating by 2026.1

The soybean crush capacity expansion not only meets the rising U.S. demand for biofuels, but it also supports global food security by providing sustainable soybean meal for animal and aquaculture feed.

“U.S. soybean meal offers significant nutritional benefits, with its high digestibility and essential amino acids supporting the health and growth of livestock and aquaculture worldwide — from Asia to South America,” says Tom D’Alfonso, Ph.D., director of animal and aquaculture for USSEC. “We are showing feed formulators around the world that the value of U.S. soybean meal goes beyond crude protein. Plus, U.S. Soy products have a lower carbon footprint than soy of other origins.”

USSEC is sharing the advantages of U.S. soybean meal and addressing logistics to help customers around the world capitalize on its increasing availability.

Growing Shipments from the Pacific Northwest

To demonstrate the sustainable production and efficient supply systems for U.S. soybean meal from the Pacific Northwest to Asia, USSEC has hosted multiple trade teams and events.

For example, in June 2023, leadership of the Korean Feed Association and member feed mills visited the U.S. In January 2024, USSEC hosted the Korea Soybean Meal Buyers Team, including purchasing managers from 14 feed mills.

Both groups visited the Port of Grays Harbor in Washington state, where an expansion is equipping the facility to export more soybean meal from the U.S. Northern Plains and Midwest. The groups also met with export partners and others to better understand the U.S. soybean meal supply chain.

“USSEC has also conducted the U.S. Soybean Meal Conference in Seoul,” D’Alfonso says. “Our team shared comparative feeding value, the soybean meal market outlook, U.S. soybean meal export portfolio and U.S. Soy sustainability with the Korean feed industry.”

Taking advantage of the increased export availability of U.S. soybean meal, USSEC plans to promote U.S. soybean meal more effectively in Asia. Programs scheduled in the coming year include the U.S. Soybean Meal Master Program, conference and trade missions. These efforts have potential to increase the market for U.S. soybean meal in this region.

“In Korea alone, customers received 58,800 metric tons of U.S. soybean meal during the last marketing year,” D’Alfonso reports. “And, since October 1, 2023, they have received another 59,200 metric tons.2 That is evidence that we are building that market.”

Showcasing Advantages for European Customers

In Europe, USSEC programs and events focus on helping soybean meal customers understand quality, differentiate between soy origins, maximize value and benefit from the sustainability advantages of U.S. soybean meal as they prepare for this growth.

For example, USSEC participated in the recent Global Seafood Expo in Barcelona, Spain. The total volume of fish and shellfish produced in aquaculture in Europe is predicted to rise by 56% from 2010 to 2030, reaching 772,000 metric tons, while the value is expected to increase by $3.4 billion, or €2.7 billion. This is expected to lead to an additional total feed requirement of 395,000 metric tons.3

D’Alfonso cites a variety of educational opportunities that USSEC has used to highlight the value and benefits of U.S. soybean meal throughout Europe.

  • At the Hellenic Centre for Marine Research in Greece, USSEC implemented an evaluation of replacing fishmeal with sustainable fermented soybean meal in European seabass fed high-performing diets.
  • USSEC organized “Soy Quality and Sustainability – Training in Soy Ingredients, Microscopy and Animal Nutrition” at the Norwegian University of Life Sciences, an exchange with the goal to build knowledge of the role of U.S. Soy quality and sustainability.
  • In conjunction with Bunge Romania, USSEC offered “Back to Basics in Sustainable Soybean and Soy Ingredients,” an interdisciplinary approach to preserve quality and improve sustainability in oil extraction, feed manufacturing and animal nutrition.
  • USSEC enabled participation in applied feed manufacturing and animal nutrition training at Universidad Politécnica in Madrid, Spain, which included an interdisciplinary approach to understand the role and impact of U.S. Soy on profitability and sustainability.
  • U.S. Soy customers participated in the Turkey Science and Production Conference in the U.K. in March, which included “Improving Sustainable Poultry Production Performance through High Quality U.S. Soy Ingredients.”

“Importers have been pleased with the quality of the soybean meal they are receiving from the U.S.,” D’Alfonso says. “For example, in one shipment to Poland, commodity specs were slightly better than the contractual specs.”

In addition to educating customers on the latest innovations and advances in soybean meal quality control and shipping logistics, these USSEC efforts contribute to building U.S. Soy preference for the benefit of international customers. As a result, the global market for U.S. soybean meal is expected to grow alongside U.S. crush capacity.

This story was partially funded by U.S. Soy farmers, their checkoff and the soy value chain.

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  1. US soybean crush capacity on the rise, World-Grain.com, January 5, 2024 ↩︎
  2. Export Sales Query for Republic of Korea for MY 2022-23 and MY 2023-24 to date, USDA Foreign Agricultural Service, accessed April 2024. ↩︎
  3. EU aquaculture production to double by 2030, Seafood Source, November 26, 2014. ↩︎