I’m not sure how much you know about the world of soybeans, but it’s a big deal, especially in this neck of the woods. Governor Hutchinson recently issued a proclamation declaring this past November as Arkansas Soybean Month, a move that acknowledges our state as one of the premier soybean producers.
Here are some of the numbers to back it up:
- In the 2015 growing season, Arkansas producers harvested 3.1 million acres of soybeans, valued at more than $1.5 billion.
- Soybeans are grown in 41 counties of Arkansas and rank as the state’s largest row crop, accounting for more acres than rice, corn, sorghum and wheat combined.
- Arkansas ranks 2nd in the nation for boiler production and 10th in the nation for soybean production.
- Poultry consumes about half of all the soybean meal produced because of the high protein content, which in turn provides essential nutrients to the animal and increases their performance.
- Arkansas ranks 3rd in the nation for turkey production raising 28 million turkeys last year. Turkeys are the 4th largest consumer of soybean meal in the U.S., consuming more than 2 million tons of soybean meal in 2014.
- Arkansas ranks 4th in the nation for soybean usage. That includes our pork industry, where nearly 2 million swine consume soybean meal every day thanks to its high protein content.
- Arkansas ranks in the top 12 in the nation for calf production with a cattle inventory totaling 1.6 million head. In 2014, beef cattle consumed about 1.4 million tons of soybean meal in the U.S.
Also in November, the Arkansas Soybean Promotion Board’s educational food program, the Kitchen|Fields Table Tour, partnered with restaurants across the state to serve a dish dedicated to Arkansas soybean producers. Some of the participating restaurants included: Trio’s, At the Corner, Kemuri, The Southern Gourmasian, and Taylor’s Steakhouse. The Kitchen|Fields Table Tour encourages people not only to eat more primary soy foods, but also to consume soy-fed protein like pork, beef, turkey and chicken.
Part of this celebration of all things soybean came in the form of a recent three-course dinner at Brave New Restaurant here in Little Rock. I, along with other food writers and soybean farmers, was in attendance for an evening that proved to be every bit educational as it was tasty. Chef Peter Brave put his creative spin on soybean-based dishes throughout the evening, while various speakers gave brief talks about the “miracle bean.” Dishes included a salad with both pickled and fried soybeans, a beef tenderloin with sauteed soybeans, and an insanely delicious soybean honey Frangelico ice cream with soybean brittle for dessert. I may or may not have eaten my wife’s dessert as well.
In January, part two of the Kitchen|Fields Table Tour will launch … when the organization will be pairing up with some of Arkansas’ most well-known chefs to continue teaching Arkansans about the importance of this $2 billion soybean industry.
In the meantime, if you’re interested in more information, you can visit TheMiracleBean.com. It’s a pretty cool website where you can check out items like: soybean recipes, the actual composition of soybeans, and a comprehensive guide to various uses of soybeans (which go far beyond consumption).
*Stats and image via Arkansas Soybean Promotion Board