5 October, 2020

How much soy is in it?

To help answer this question, RTRS developed a Soy Footprint Calculator to enable players in the soybean sector, organizations and consumers in general to calculate how much soy is embedded in soy products*, animal feed and food products.

During the last decade, soy production has increased significantly, from 210 million tons in 2008/9 to 337 million in 2018/19. The awareness of environmental and social impacts increased together with the production, and many participants in the soy value chain became active in developing strategies to ensure that soy used in their supply chains is obtained in a sustainable way.

However, soy is often not visible in the final product or not directly used during the manufacturing process, but its co-products (e.g. soy meal, oil, hull pullet, lecithin, etc.) are part of the product sitting on the shelf. Therefore, it is difficult to realize where soy has been used directly or indirectly in the food people consume, and even more difficult to quantify the total amount of soy contained in it.

To make this task easier, and to give transparency to the processes involved in the use of soy from production to consumption, RTRS developed the RTRS Soy Conversion Factor System and the RTRS Soy Footprint Calculator. This new tool helps users determine the amount of soy used as an input in the production of specific soy products (soy oil, soy meal, hull pellet, etc.), animal feed or food products (beef, chicken, milk or eggs) in a simple and practical way.

It is a free and public tool, and it works like any other calculator: by (i) selecting the type of product; (soy product*, animal feed or food product) and (ii) entering volume (metric tonnes, kilograms, liters); and you then obtain the result for (iii) how many soybeans have been needed as an input in the production of the specific selected product.

To perform the calculations, the calculator uses the RTRS Conversion Factor System, a conversion method that was developed as a result of a rigorous technical and research work that included understanding and analyzing each stage of the soy production process and its outputs. The research provided the accurate information needed to do a transparent calculation of soy utilized and contained in the products under analysis in at this stage of the development of the RTRS Sy Footprint Calculator[1].

The RTRS Conversion Factor System presents two alternative conversion methods that can be chosen based on the needs of the calculator user.

  • Economic Allocation: under this method it is recognized that there are multiple uses of soybeans and any use will have associated co-products that will be applied in other sectors (e.g. lecithin production will result in soy oil, meal and hulls in addition to the lecithin). This method, therefore, uses the value of the various outputs to fairly represent how soybean demand is not always driven by one particular output.
  • Demand Allocation: this method uses conversion factors that recognize the physical volume of soybeans needed to supply enough soy co-products for the product. This does not take into account other byproducts derived from the manufacturing process.

The RTRS Conversion Factor System and the Soy Footprint Calculator were developed, at different stages, by the CEAg – Agribusiness and Food Center of the Austral University (Argentina) and 3Keel (United Kingdom), professional and reliable advisors in the matter. Working in partnership with these entities along with the references, experts, the crushing industry and the intermediate institutions, gave us the technical and theoretical frame required to develop a rigorous and representative soy footprint calculation system.

The Soy Footprint Calculator technical report is public and available online in Spanish, English and Portuguese.

Start your journey; find out your soy footprint.


* Co-products and products resulting from the primary and secondary processing of soy

[1] In its first phase, the RTRS Conversion Factor System and Soy Footprint Calculator takes into account the definition and analysis of some of the hundreds of products containing soy as an ingredient. The plan is to update it periodically and to define and analyze new products every year. This is another process of continuous improvement.


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