“Beans have a soul.” Try wrapping your head around that phrase, which is attributed to the Greek philosopher Pythagoras, who lived more than 2,000 years ago. Some theorize that he was a vegetarian, but no hard evidence exists that is the case. As one would expect in dealing with ancient history, many theories abound.
In comparison, the phrase stands far above the somewhat tired “bean” idioms we’ve heard for years:
- Bean counter
- Amount to a hill of beans
- Don’t know beans
You get the point.
In Minnesota, beans are serious business. Soybeans, that is. And we put our heart, and yes, soul into the crop. Soybeans are Minnesota’s No. 1 agricultural export, more than a $3 billion industry in the state.
Soybean farmers in our state are justifiably proud of their product. They
consistently produce quality soybeans that are high in essential amino acids (EAA), the best measure of the true nutritional value of animal feed.
Why are essential amino acids so important? Time for a brief science lesson.
Amino acids are the components of protein molecules. Animals can only absorb amino acids in specific ratios to build their muscle and meat mass. Essential amino acids help monogastric animals, such as chicken, swine and aquaculture, build muscle mass and produce more meat and eggs.
In the past, soy products have typically been valued based on their crude protein content, which puts northern-grown soybeans at a disadvantage. However, research has shown that the amino acid profile is a better indicator of soybean value. The EAA measure of soybeans provides the most accurate profile of product quality and value. The EAA value allows nutritionists to optimize animal diets and potentially eliminate the need for costly synthetic amino acid supplements.
Minnesota farmers are continually looking at ways to improve the nutrient content of their soybeans. The University of Minnesota, aided by checkoff funds through its partnership with the Minnesota Soybean Research & Promotion Council (MSR&PC), is sending out soybean sample kits to farmers in the state in order to conduct a free analysis of the crop. Among the items that will be included in the testing are moisture, amino acids, fatty acids and sugars. The results are important to farmers for a variety of reasons. A quality analysis enables them to be able to market their soybeans according to specific traits the end user needs. When it comes to production, it helps a farmer refine variety selections.
We’re fortunate to have a stellar research partner in the University of Minnesota (U of M). The U of M has one of the nation’s top soybean research and breeding programs. Scientists, technology educators and farmers work together to continually improve soybean yields and quality, focusing on the success of livestock producers, both at home and abroad.
So let’s move beyond science, and ponder the beans-and-soul quote. I recall the marketing campaign decades ago, with the California Raisins dancing to the soul classic “I Heard It Through the Grapevine.” Maybe envision a soybean grooving to Al Green’s “Tired of Bean Alone,” or James Brown’s “Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag” (of Soybeans).
Nah. Bean There. Done That.
Tom Slunecka has been the chief executive officer for Minnesota Soybean since August 2012. Before joining the Minnesota Soybean team, Slunecka had a long history in the biofuels agriculture industries. Slunecka’s career has been dedicated to furthering agriculture and understanding all aspects of the industry and what it takes for all branches of agriculture to be successful.