When you consider soy and its place in the market, you could be thinking of any different number of applications. That’s because, in recent years, the cheap and plentiful agriculture of soybean farming has shown itself to be a flexible addition across all kinds of industries—from foodstuff and supplements to tires and crayons!
What is a soybean? Quite simply, it is a member of the pea family native to East Asia whose seeds may be harvested and processed in many different ways. Historically, it has provided for numerous foodstuffs such as soymilk and tofu. When Western markets began searching for cost-effective bean crops that could be reliably harvested and turned into high-protein and easily-digestible products, the soybean was and continues to be a top contender. In addition to the ease of planting and mechanical harvesting, it is a keystone in soil re-nitrogenization projects.
The main questions in the blog will be:
- what makes soy unique?
- why is it used everywhere?
- are there any ethical considerations that come with its large-scale use?
To foreshadow—yes, especially when it comes to the countries we choose to source our soy production from.
What Makes Soy Unique?
Soy is at home in well-draining, warm, loamy soils. Traditionally, this has made East Asia and South America ripe grounds for soy farming. But recently this has been taken up in the United States and even Canada. The upper Midwest of the United States is currently home to 80% of US production. Soybeans are easy to grow since they exhibit many traits similar to peas and beans.
As for their chemical makeup, soybeans are protein-rich (almost as protein-rich as whey protein powders.) And they’re laden with potential health benefits for our cardiovascular system. Most uniquely, soybeans are highly estrogenic. This means they can regulate estrogen production and effects within the body, dependent on the individual. This effect also varies with the level of processing involved, with tofu or fermented products ranking as “low” in modification while highly modified veggie patties will rank higher.
While many anti-cancer properties or dementia-driving traits are subject to debate, the fact remains that this historically significant crop is and will continue to be a cornerstone of many diets worldwide.
Already, we have mentioned a couple of food uses for soy, but the list goes on in other manufacturing sectors.
Other Uses for Soy
Like hemp, soy is flexible and often misunderstood. It can be a lot more than the trendy milk alternative.
For instance, it is widely used as animal feed and even employed in the crayon-making process. The mats at the pentagon also feature soy fibers! And soy is used to manufacture astroturf and tires that are driven daily around America.
For household products, you can add candles, inks and toners, synthetic fabrics, and even artificial logs to the list.
It’s hard to escape soy in our everyday lives, and manufacturers find the product increasingly attractive in their own recipes. But what happens when soy comes from an unethical source?
Ethical Considerations of Soy Usage
Promoting domestic soy production is one of the best ways to counter an unfortunate dark side of soy production: deforestation and land seizing in South America.
The WWF outlines the devastation soybean farming causes rainforests when not adequately kept in check. In addition to the loss of animal and plant diversity, native lands protected under civic rights may be violated should multinational corporations decide to take the land by force. They often employ assassination tactics to reduce competition and eliminate roadblocks.
When we outsource our most-needed resources to other countries, we open the door to less ethical business practices. Maintaining dignity in the supply chain and awareness of ethical considerations is paramount when visualizing our future with soy products.
Ethical Inc. hopes to build an informed and compassionate network of supplement users through thoughtful and engaging content—even if it means facing unfortunate truths in the eyes. If this article impacted you in any way, let us know so we can continue to produce high-quality material for the community. You can click here to explore our e-store and ethically sourced goods that promote transparency and dignity for our global community.