A paper summarizing the growth of the feed industries use of soybean meal during the past 100 years was published by Feedstuffs. The authors pointed out that soybeans were first introduced in the U.S. in the late 1770s. Early acceptance of the soybean crop and the use of soybean meal were slow. In the 1920-30s, the crop was promoted and with the acceptance of soybean meal as a protein ingredient by the livestock producer and feed industry in the late 1930s; the growth of soybean crop and the use of soybean meal rapidly expanded. While some research supporting soybean meal use occurred in the 1940-50s, most of the research confirming the benefits of soybean meal use has been published since the mid-1960s.
This paper highlighted research conducted over the past 50 years that showed, compared to other protein sources, soybean meal has consistently been shown to have higher amino acid digestibility and metabolizable energy, less nutrient variability, and lower concentrations of anti-nutritional factors compared to some other protein ingredients. The authors discussed how the removal/inactivation of anti-nutritional factors was related to the success of soybean use in swine and poultry feeds.
The authors concluded that soybean meal is today the number one supplier of digestible amino acids for poultry and swine, and also an important supplier for metabolizable and net energy. This claim is supported by years of research demonstrating the benefits of soybean in livestock and poultry operation. (It should be noted that the paper is supported by about 140 technical references. Included are numerous classical technical papers that were responsible for developing the knowledge base that led to soybean meal’s role being the protein of choice for livestock, poultry and aquaculture operations).