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History of Soybean Crushing – Soy Oil and Soybean Meal (1980-2016)

December 2016

The team of William Shurtlett and Akiko Aoyagi at the Soyinfo Center initiated research on summarizing a scholarly history of soybeans and soyfoods in the early 1970s. They originally planned to publish the 2500+ page book with more than 81,800 bibliographical references in four volumes. The team has decided to make several chapters available on the Internet. This action is making available a wealth of historical information readily available for review.

In October, the team published the History of Soybean Crushing – Soy Oil and Soybean Meal (980-2016) on the internet ( This publication contains 10,953 references describing the history of soybean processing and highlights important events in producing soybean’s two major products; soy oil and soybean meal. This historic review provides a chronological review of the World’s literature regarding soybean processing. It is an unequaled review of the processing of the World’s most important oilseed and understanding of the many events that have led to the dominance of soybean meal as a feed protein ingredient.

A few highlights: Soybeans are thought to have been domesticated in northeast China in the 11th century BC. Most of the early uses of soybeans were as a food with the first reference to their processing into soy oil in the year 1061. An oil press was described in 1313 and the first reference to feeding defatted soybean cakes to pigs in 1637. The first chemical analysis of soybean cake (meal) was published in 1861 (14.44% moisture, 6.88% oil, 45/87% albuminous compounds, 5.25% fiber and 6.08% ash). During the mid-1800s-early-1900s there were several technical references on soybeans, soy oil and soy cake.

In 1908, England was the first country outside East Asia to import large amounts of soybeans. The crushing of soybeans grew in Europe to supply a source of needed vegetable oil. The rst solvent processing plant processing soybeans was in Germany in 1911. A North Carolina cottonseed oil mill rst experimentally processed soybeans in the United States in 1916. In the early 1920s, soybeans were first commercially processed in Decatur, Illinois. With World events during the early 1940s, growing demand for vegetable oil, and advances in animal nutrition that clari ed feed protein role in animal/ poultry production resulted in rapid growth of soybean processing and soybean meal use in the U. S. It was not until 1941 that over one-half of U.S. soybeans were harvested for seed. Previously the soybean crop was primarily used for hay, pasture, silage or plowed under for soil improvement. In the 1950s, the World’s demand for vegetable oil and soy protein resulted in soybeans becoming a major crop for domestic use and export.

The term “soybean cake” was replaced with the term “soybean oil meal” in the 1920s which peaked in the 1950s to be replaced with the present term “soybean meal”. The use of soybean meal in livestock and poultry rations has increased annually since the 1960s.

This exciting history of soybean processing and of the growth of soybean meal usage is summarized by year in the new publication now available by Shurtlett and Aoyagi that is available on the Internet.