As part of a recent test of high oleic soybean oil in a Purdue University dining hall, chefs witnessed the oil’s excellent stability and other positive performance attributes in a product without trans fat. Today, the university is just the latest example of a customer evaluating whether to switch over to using the oil in day-to-day operations.
More customers using high oleic would mean extra demand for high oleic soybean oil and extra profit potential for all U.S. soybean farmers. To seal the deal, however, these customers need to see a larger supply of available oil.
“We’re excited to see this oil perform as we thought it would; now it’s up to us as farmers to show that we can grow enough,” soy checkoff farmer-leader Mike Beard says of Purdue’s trial. Beard grows high oleic soybeans on his farm in Frankfort, Indiana. “We’ve got some top-notch restaurants that want to use it, but switching oils is a major investment. It’s understandable that they’d wait until the supply is stable.”
In 2016, farmers across 11 states planted approximately 450,000 acres of high oleic soybeans, building supply for potential customers. New delivery locations and opportunities for contracts could become available next year, allowing more farmers to benefit from the premiums associated with high oleic varieties.
Increasing high oleic soybean acreage to meet demand will be crucial in capitalizing on the opportunity the oil brings. To maximize market share and soybean farmer profitability, the soybean industry has set a goal of 18 million acres of high oleic soybeans planted by 2023. Meeting that goal could mean as much as an additional $1.7 billion in farmer revenue each year.
Purdue’s trial, a checkoff-funded study conducted by the university’s Food Science Department, found positive results for high oleic’s lifespan, absorption properties and flavor profile, compared with the preservative-fortified canola oil the dining hall used previously.
“High oleic oil is phenomenal in its performance,” says Purdue’s executive sous chef Jack Kennedy. “Comparatively speaking, we find that it lasts longer than the other oils.”
USB’s 70 farmer-directors work on behalf of all U.S. soybean farmers to achieve maximum value for their soy checkoff investments. These volunteers invest and leverage checkoff funds in programs and partnerships to drive soybean innovation beyond the bushel and increase preference for U.S. soy. That preference is based on U.S. soybean meal and oil quality and the sustainability of U.S. soybean farmers. As stipulated in the federal Soybean Promotion, Research and Consumer Information Act, the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service has oversight responsibilities for USB and the soy checkoff.