Soy Shines at the Big Feast

By Bethany Baratta, Iowa Soybean Association

As Lacona farmer Randy Miller sits down for the Thanksgiving feast with his wife Sheila and children Kaylee and Kaleb, he’ll reflect on the blessings in his life.

The greatest: family.

“They’re here in the tough times and the good times, too,” Miller says.

He’s also grateful to have the opportunity to farm. Randy and his family grow soybeans, corn, cattle and hogs on their central Iowa farm.

“I can’t imagine doing anything other than farming,” Miller says, making another combine pass through a soybean field bringing in this year’s harvest.

It’s farmers like Randy who have a passion for raising crops and livestock that make the food we eat at Thanksgiving – and every day – possible.

Turkey Time

Just as ham is to Easter, there’s a close relationship between turkey and Thanksgiving.

A recent National Turkey Federation survey shows that 88% of Americans eat turkey on Thanksgiving, and an estimated 46 million turkeys are eaten each Thanksgiving,

To feed those birds destined for the dinner table, turkeys require a balanced diet. That’s where soybean meal comes in.

“Our soybeans and corn are used to make nutrient-dense rations to feed the livestock that are a part of your Thanksgiving meal,” Miller says.

In a turkey’s lifetime, they’ll gobble up around one-third of a bushel of soybeans – about 20 pounds or half their body weight.

Turkeys raised in Iowa, which are typically found behind the deli counter or in a favorite Jimmy John’s or Subway sandwich, consume about 4 million bushels of soybeans each year. Soybeans are also a key source of nutrients for other protein-rich favorites, such as chicken, pork, eggs, dairy and beef.

A Perfect Companion

Deep frying your turkey this year? You can rely on soybean oil for it! An oil with a smoking point above 425 degrees F ensures a safe and tasty turkey. Refined soybean oil, with a smoking point of 495 degrees F fulfills that need – and it’s heart-healthy, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). 

Don’t forget the side dishes and desserts! Soybean oil is used to make hundreds of foods, including ranch dressing, peanut butter and mayonnaise. Think of farmers like Randy as you add mayonnaise to a casserole or sandwich and peanut butter to a pie.

Before turkeys and special ingredients hit the freezers and shelves at your local grocery store, they are trucked from distributors. Those truck drivers rely on fuel to get them to their destination in a timely fashion. Again, soybeans come through. Soybean oil is one ingredient used to make biodiesel, a cleaner-burning, economical choice for travelers who drive diesel-powered vehicles. If you have a diesel-powered vehicle, look for stations with biodiesel as a fuel option.  

Fueling Iowa’s Economy

Soybeans not only fuel the animals destined for the dinner plate, but the industry also contributes to Iowa’s economy.

A recent study from the United Soybean Board and the National Oilseeds Processors Association shows the soy value chain has a $15 billion impact on Iowa’s economy.

“It’s an indication of the healthy diversity we have in Iowa from soybean production, and then processing the crop into biodiesel, soy oil and livestock feed,” says Iowa Soybean Association CEO Kirk Leeds.

While soybean production makes up the bulk of the economic impact at $11.5 billion, soybean delivery, grain elevators and crushing make up $2.56 billion. Feed milling and selected food use account for $311 million of Iowa’s total impact.

Point of Pride

Miller is thankful to be a part of the process of raising and growing key ingredients for the Thanksgiving dinner. Like the chef tasked with cooking the Thanksgiving meal, Miller will tend to his hungry livestock before sitting down with his family. He’s proud to farm with his family, doing so in a sustainable manner by promoting soil and water quality.

On his family’s farm, cover crops are used to promote soil health. They also use reduced tillage, terraces, waterways and began nitrogen modeling in 2014. Miller is also passionate about sharing his farming experiences. You may have seen him at the Iowa Food and Family Project’s booth at the Iowa State Fair; he says he’s grateful for opportunities to interact with consumers, sharing stories of his farm and his family.

Give Thanks

Whether you’re joining family and friends virtually or safely in person this Thanksgiving, we hope you take time to reflect on the things you’re grateful for this holiday season.