Thanks to a piece of equipment known as a “SoyCow” U.S. soybeans are turning into nutritious foods that please diverse tastes around the world. SoyCow is the common name given to these processing units. An estimated 4,000 of the units are grinding and steaming whole soybeans into protein-rich beverages, soups and other foods eaten in countries ranging from Africa to Russia to Canada.

Because of the potential for the processing units worldwide, the American Soybean Association's (ASA) World Initiative for Soy in Human Health (WISHH) program is working to evaluate the potential for SoyCows in numerous countries.

ASA and state soybean associations launched WISHH to build bridges between America's bounty and countries where rapidly growing populations of all income levels can benefit from soy in their diets.

In developing countries, protein and good business opportunities are often both in short supply. The SoyCow can help fill stomachs and pocketbooks. For an investment of about $10,000 (U.S.), entrepreneurs can set up soy kitchens with the potential of producing 40 liters of soymilk per hour with a protein content of 3.5 percent, according to Malnutrition Matters, a non-profit organization based in Ottawa, Ontario Canada, that promotes the use of these processing units for developing countries.

Oklahoma-based Feed the Children (FTC) has helped install more than 350 of the estimated 2,100 SoyCow units in Russia. At the ASA Moscow office, Mike Moditch, Director for the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), reports that SoyCows in Russia are currently using 30,000 metric tons of soybeans, and the number of units is increasing by 25 percent every year. Within the next five to 10 years, the total Russian soy food industry has the potential of creating a demand for at least 500,000 metric tons (18.37 million bushels) of soybeans a year.

FTC now has its sites set on expanding the “herd” of SoyCows into the slums of Kenya where hopeful women are “raring to go” because they want to provide more food for their families and launch small businesses, according to FTC's Peggy Sheehan. This effort could provide soy foods every day to 12,000 people in 40 institutions. It complements FTC's health programs, including a center the group built to care for children that were abandoned because they or their family were suffering from HIV/AIDS.

“This work all begins with food aid,” says Sheehan who has managed such programs for 34 years. “Charitable organizations need the commodities, such as soybeans and corn, to fight malnutrition. But food aid also provides us with a resource to help launch the businesses, such as SoyCow kitchens, that will foster sustained economic growth for individuals and the countries where they live.”

The American Soybean Association is a national commodity organization with 28,500 members and affiliation with 29 states. For membership details, call 1-800-688-7692.
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