Success Story

The Versatility of the Soy Bean

The Versatility of the Soy Bean

Soybeans have found their way into an eye-opening array of foods. Starting with the basics, there’s soy milk, used in infant formulas. And the familiar Oriental staple tofu, soybean curd, is made by coagulating soy milk. But also consider soy yogurt, soy burgers, soy loaf, and soy sausage.

Soy oil is the most widely used edible oil in the United States; you’ll find it in mayonnaise, salad dressing, process cheese products, dessert frostings, and much more. Soy components such as protein and oil are ingredients in dozens of everyday foods—from the granola bar you eat for breakfast and the potato chips at lunch, to a late-night sandwich. And, attention chocoholics! You’ll be hard put to find a chocolate treat that lacks soy lecithin.

Most soybean varieties have the Agricultural Research Service in their pedigree. And many soybean products have emerged from ARS labs. These range from your morning newspaper printed with soy oil-based printer’s ink to lipstick, plastics, flooring, paints, and stain-removing cleaners. Then there’s SoyScreen, an all-natural sunscreen.

We’re also developing the first hypoallergenic soybeans, though more research is needed before they’re ready for farmers and consumers, and giant vegetable soybeans for niche and export markets.

And our researchers improved the ability of biodiesel fuels, often soybean-based, to start up engines in cold weather, making them a more practical alternative to petroleum-based fuels.