As harvest draws to a close in many parts of the Commonwealth, those who live in rural areas may wonder, “what in the world do they do with all of those soybeans?” And that’s a great question. Most consumers can identify corn in the field, and some equate all corn with corn on the cob or otherwise prepared for human consumption, even though most corn is grown for other uses. Similarly, most consumers can drive by a field of wheat and know that it will be used for basics like bread, cereal or beer.
Soybeans are not nearly as relatable. Often, when soybeans are mentioned, consumers think of tofu or maybe edamame or soy sauce. While those are great uses for some varieties of soybeans, the majority of the soybeans grown here in Kentucky are either exported or crushed. During crushing, the beans are separated into two main components, soybean meal and soybean oil. Soybean meal is used as a high-protein ingredient in animal feed, while the oil is used for biodiesel, sold as vegetable oil, and used in a wide variety of food and industrial applications.
Here in Kentucky, a large portion of our soybean meal is fed to our state’s number one agriculture commodity — poultry. When we think of poultry, chicken usually comes to mind first. But as we are planning our Thanksgiving meal, it’s important to remember that turkeys fall into the poultry category as well. While the majority of turkey consumed annually in the United States is in the form of deli meat, ground turkey, or even turkey bacon, this month is the whole turkey’s time to shine.
Statistics from the National Turkey Federation (NTF) indicate that 77% of whole turkeys sold throughout the year are sold in November, and 88% of Americans surveyed by NTF eat turkey on Thanksgiving. In 2019, U.S. turkey consumption was 5.3 billion pounds — that’s more than 16 pounds per person!
No turkey on your Thanksgiving menu? Chances are you’ll be supporting your local soybean farmer anyway. Pigs, dairy cattle, beef cattle, and even many aquaculture species consume soybean meal in their feed, so bring on the ham, butter, steaks and shrimp.
Other ways that soy is incorporated into your Thanksgiving meal include the vegetable oil you bake and fry with, soy lecithin in chocolate (it’s an emulsifier that keeps this sweet treat creamy-smooth), and the oil used as a main ingredient in mayonnaise, salad dressings and sauces.
Whatever you choose to feature on your Thanksgiving table, Kentucky’s soybean farmers are glad to have helped put it there. To learn more about soybean production in Kentucky, visit www.kysoy.org or follow the Kentucky Soybean Board on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.