Industrial Applications for Soy Meal and Protein
Most people know that soy meal is one of the most plentiful sources of vegetable protein in the world. It is critical to the livestock industry as a key feed ingredient, and it is also a very important human food source and is currently enjoying renewed interest thanks to the popularity of vegan and vegetarian diets and the recognition of soy's health benefits. However, many may not know that soy meal and
soy protein have a long history of being an important industrial feedstock. This history includes industrial uses in many applications including paper coating, plywood adhesive, paints and coatings binder, fibers, and fertilizer. Since the 1950s the rapid development of the petrochemical industry has provided inexpensive and effective replacements for many of these historical soy applications. More recently, the recognized need for more sustainable products and materials along with the evolution of chemical techniques to modify soy protein for enhanced
performance has caused the industry to revisit the use of soy products. Current soy processing results in several different products from meal that have been evaluated or used in industrial applications including meal, flour, soy protein concentrate (SPC), soy protein isolate (SPI), soy molasses, and soy hulls. The unit cost of these constituents varies widely and is an important consideration for their industrial use since in most cases they are competing with petroleum derived chemicals. Soy hulls and molasses are much more economical feedstocks. Soy flour, soy protein concentrate (SPC), and soy protein isolate (SPI) are increasingly higher in price.
Current commercial applications for soy meal constituents are soy flour as a hardwood plywood adhesive for interior applications and soy protein paper coatings for printed items. New applications currently being researched that show promise are soy meal adhesives for outdoor plywood and oriented strand board, soy meal fire-fighting foams, soy hydrogels, soy meal composite films for agricultural mulch and soy molasses as a microbial feedstock for fatty acid or ethanol production. The future is bright for soy protein and by-products as a renewable, sustainable, and low-carbon feedstock for petroleum chemical replacements.