USSEC Member Showcased in Feature Article
USSEC member Owensboro Grain Company was recently featured in the Owensboro (KY) Messenger-Inquirer in an article titled “Diversifying Key to Owensboro Grain’s Success.”
Owensboro Grain is a 107-year-old family-run business which has evolved into a diversified soybean processing and grain merchandising company. The company was founded in 1906 when founder Henry E. O’Bryan bought ears of corn from farmers and sold them to the bourbon industry. By the 1950s, the second generation saw soybeans as an opportunity for further growth. Soybean extraction seemed a natural progression in the 1960s and 70s with the defatted soybean oil primarily sold to the dairy industry. The vision was further expanded as crushing capacity rose from 100 tons to 1,200 tons per day. (Currently, Owensboro Grain’s crushing capacity is 4,000 tons per day or 40 million bushels per year.) There was a point, however, in the late 1970s and early 80s that the family considered leaving the crushing business. The more than 140 crushing companies dropped to just 13 and many of the independent, family-run businesses closed. According to executive vice president and 4th generation family business member John Wright, the family made a strategic decision to stay in the crushing business for the long haul and today is the last family-owned soy crusher left.
In 1985, Owensboro Grain began producing soymeal to export overseas. In 1990, a refinery was built to refine the company’s own crude oil along with the construction of a plant to produce soy lecithin. The company now produces 20 million pounds of lecithin a year, accounting for 20% of the U.S. supply. In the 21st century, the company began producing biodiesel from soybeans, leading to the construction of a biodiesel plant. In the process of making biodiesel, glycerin is formed, which will lead to the September opening of a glycerin refinery, opening possibilities of sales to the pharmaceutical and cosmetics industries.
In 2013, Owensboro Grain expects to produce 800,000 tons of soybean meal, 75 million gallons of soybean oil, 20 million pounds of lecithin, 50 million gallons of biodiesel and an anticipated 42 million pounds of glycerin. The company credits its longevity to its ability to be flexible within the U.S. soy industry.