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THE SOYBEAN IS among the most versatile of legumes. What other vegetable can supply feed for livestock, yet be toxic to us and other monogastric sorts in its uncooked form? What other bean can be brewed into a sauce, boiled as edamame, processed into tofu, transformed into faux meat—or even caught up in an automotive scam suggested by no less than Henry Ford?
All of this calls for Parts 1 and 2, today and tomorrow.
An Old Bean. In the Chinese year 2853, so an ancient myth suggests, Emperor Shennong proclaimed five plants to be sacred: soybean, rice, wheat, barley, and millet. Based on archeological evidence, soybean cultivation took place even before 5000 B.C. throughout East Asia.
Western traders discovered soybeans in the 1600s, with the legume’s western cultivation dating from a century later: 1760 in Turin, Italy; 1765 in North America; 1767 in the Caribbean; 1770 in Australia; 1779 (possibly as early as 1740) in France. This earliest western cultivation was for livestock feed, a trend that continues throughout the world to this day.
Monogastrics Beware! According to Wikipedia, raw soybeans, including their immature green form, are toxic to monogastric animals. That is, humans and others with single-chamber stomachs cannot tolerate the trypsin inhibitors contained in untreated soybeans.
By contrast, ruminants like cattle, sheep, and goats have four-chambered stomachs capable of digesting them. Solvent-extracted soymeal is also a prime feedstock for farm animals. Ninety-seven percent of global soybean meal production is used as livestock feedstock.
Soybeans for Us Humans. Common soybean-based food includes soy sauce, soy milk (useful for those who are lactose intolerant), edamame (boiled immature soybeans), tofu (also known as bean curd), tempeh (Indonesian fermented soybeans), and textured vegetable protein (TVP, faux meat).
Main soybean producers in 2016 were the U.S. (35 percent of the world total), Brazil (29 percent), and Argentina (18 percent). In the U.S., soybeans are second only to corn in terms of acreage. Top importers were China (41 percent of world soybean imports), the European Union (22 percent), Japan (6 percent), and Mexico (6 percent).
Food Versus Fuel. Biodiesel fuel can come from animal fat or vegetable oil, including soy oil, typically reacted with an alcohol. The challenge of food versus fuel is not without controversy.
Tomorrow in Part 2, Henry Ford takes an axe, and gives his trunk lid…. ds
© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2018