Exports of U.S. meat and poultry continue to rise, helping to put money in U.S. soybean farmers' pockets. U.S. livestock and poultry consume the majority of soybean meal utilized in the U.S. This means that exports of U.S.-produced meat and poultry equate to indirect export of U.S. soybean meal. In 2005, the soybean meal consumed by chickens destined for export represented 81 million bushels of soybeans, and turkeys represented nearly another 10 million bushels of soybeans.

"U.S. livestock and poultry represent the number one market for U.S. soybean meal, so what's good for meat exports tends to be good for soybean farmers," says Phil Bradshaw, chair of the United Soybean Board's Animal Agriculture Initiative Leadership Team and a soybean farmer from Griggsville, Ill.

The soybean checkoff funded a study to look at the value of meat exports to the U.S. soybean industry. The study, “The Value of U.S. Meat and Poultry Exports to U.S. Soybean Producers through 2015,” assessed different factors that could affect meat exports and indirect soybean meal exports.

The study confirmed that meat-based protein is one of the first additions people make to their lifestyle as they attain greater wealth. As the world population grows, more people with greater levels of disposable income are willing to spend their money on meat and protein to sustain their diets. The U.S. livestock and poultry industries, and hence the U.S. soybean industry, have the opportunity to benefit from this worldwide demand. However, if the U.S. can’t provide a positive business climate for U.S. livestock and poultry producers, other countries will supply the world with protein.

Additionally, the study looked at how foreign animal diseases directly affect meat and poultry, and indirectly affect soybean exports. The study indicates that a potential highly pathogenic avian influenza case poses a major threat to the U.S. soybean industry, with a potential loss of 576,000 metric tons of indirect soybean meal exports. This translates into a 19% reduction and the equivalent of 26.9 million bushels of soybeans lost. The study indicates that avian influenza remains a major threat and suggests the soybean industry should invest in disaster preparedness in case the U.S. becomes afflicted with this disease.

"It's important for soybean farmers to support the domestic poultry and livestock industries in every way we can," says Bradshaw. "That means helping to avoid diseases like avian influenza, but also showing support to our local poultry and livestock farmers, as they represent our number one customer."

To view the entire study, please visit www.unitedsoybean.org.