Soybeans with lower protein content actually have better amino-acid profiles and digestibility, according to University of Minnesota and Iowa State University (ISU) research. This makes them a better value because they require fewer synthetic amino acids to balance a meal ration, says Charles Hurburgh, director of the Iowa Grain Quality Initiative and ISU ag engineer. U.S. beans were found to have relatively higher levels of the five limiting amino acids (lysine, methionine, cysteine, tryptophan and threonine).

“The Chinese, Japanese and Philippine trade teams know our beans are an amino-acid bargain,” Hurburgh says. “Scientific evidence is floating to the top.

“The soybean industry is part of a supply chain, and what’s best for the end user at a scientific level is the new focus,” Hurburgh says. He’s a veteran of the soybean-protein issue, having been part of the first soybean-quality initiative when Asian buyers initially requested higher-protein beans in 1985.

The soybean industry’s been trying to engineer a better bean ever since.

“I am glad to see the amino-acid profile research mentioned in your article, as a majority of the northern-grown soybeans, especially North and South Dakota, are exported,” adds former USB director Stan Hanson, a soybean farmer from Garretson, S.D.

Jim Orf, a University of Minnesota veteran of annual soybean quality missions to Asia to educate buyers there on U.S. beans’ quality, adds, “As the Chinese livestock producers become more sophisticated and the technology to measure meal’s amino acid content becomes widely available, there will likely be more attention paid to the essential amino acid content of the meal,” says the University of Minnesota soybean breeder. He meets annually with Asian soybean buyers to report detailed findings on U.S. soybean protein, oil, seed size and foreign matter. The data comes from about 2,200 tests nationwide in the USSEC’s Soybean Quality survey. “This is true for China and is only beginning to be used in the U.S.,” Orf says.

Yet, concern for beans’ protein and oil content remain. In the domestic Upper Midwest market, “it’s still very difficult for us to get high enough protein beans to make 48% meal,” says TomKersting, commercial managerSouth Dakota Soybean Processors, Volga, S.D.