Soybean Meal Extraction, Processing and Specifications
KEITH C. BEHNKE, Professor of Feed Science
Modern soybean processing involves solvent extraction to obtain crude oil and defatted meal. Nearly all
defatted meal is used for animal feed with only a small fraction further processed for industrial and human
The first portion of this paper is devoted to the process of oil extraction and heat processing to produce
soybean meal while the last section is devoted to specifications and physical and nutritional properties. It
should be realized that there are differences in the resulting soybean meal due to the process used,
geographic location, agronomic practices and many other factors. To make an informed purchase
decision, one needs an appreciation of all factors that can influence quality.
Modern soybean extraction plants are typically quite large, crushing from a thousand to as much as three
thousand tons of soybeans per day. At these volumes, it is no surprise that occasional problems might
arise that will show up later in soya product quality and in animal performance.
I. Soybean Meal- Definitions and Specifications.
The official definition of soybean meal that is generally used in the U.S. comes from the Association of
American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO). AAFCO has been given the responsibility of generating
official descriptions and legal definitions for all common feed ingredients for the purpose of
communication between the seller and the buyer. As a rule, the definition/description for an ingredient
includes something about the process that results in the ingredient, limits on inclusion of non-nutritive
additives and limits on the level of low value components. For example, the following is the AAFCO
definition of the most common forms of soybean meal used in the world:
84.7 Soybean Meal, Dehulled, Solvent Extracted is obtained by grinding the flakes remaining after
removal of most of the oil from dehulled soybeans by a solvent extraction process. It must contain not
more than 3.5% crude fiber. It may contain calcium carbonate or an anti-caking agent not to exceed
o.5% as defined in section 87 (Special Purpose Products) to reduce caking and improve flowability. The
name of the conditioning agent must be shown as an added ingredient. When listed as an ingredient in a
manufactured feed, it may be identified as "Dehulled Soybean Meal". The words "Solvent Extracted" are
not required when listing as an ingredient in a manufactured feed.
IFN 5-04-612 Soybean seeds without hulls, meal, solvent extracted.
84.61 Soybean Meal, Solvent Extracted is the product obtained by grinding the flakes remaining after
removal of most of the oil from soybeans by solvent extraction process. It must contain not more than
7.05% crude fiber. In may contain calcium carbonate or an anti-caking agent not to exceed 0.5% as
defined in section 87 (Special Purpose Products) to reduce caking and improve flowability. The name of

B. A. If needed. The endosperm pieces are first conditioned with dry heat to about 160°F (65°C). the cracking rolls are set to break each bean in 6 to 8 pieces and remove the hull from the endosperm. The words "Solvent Extracted" are not required when listing as an ingredient in a manufactured feed. 1997 It should be noted that the lever of commonly important nutrients is not included in the official definition. After storage and cleaning. Cracking and Dehulling. Conditioning and Flaking. IFN 5-04-604 Soybean seeds meal. oil. Note: Above definitions are from The Official Publication of the Association of American Feed Control Officials. C. The diagram shown in Figure I shows the various steps that are involved in soybean meal production. If a specific nutrient (e. solvent extracted. The first step in the extraction process is to crack the beans and remove the hulls. Soybean Extraction Process. It creates a huge increase in surface area that serves to enhance the solvent extraction process . the beans are shipped via truck or rail to a processing plant where they are tested for physical properties and graded. soybeans are typically stored locally at an elevator or on the farm. protein) or other physical property is required by the buyer. If the contract simply calls for "soybean meal". the beans are conditioned through a fairly gentle heating process to loosen the seed coat from the cotyledons. At harvest. most plants will segregate the beans based on physical and chemical properties to improve plant operations.38 mm).g.015 in. Following conditioning. The contract should also specify penalties that will be accessed if contract specifications are not met and procedures to be followed in case of a dispute over some aspect of the delivered commodity. the beans are artificially dried to a safe storage moisture.(0. the vendor has a great latitude regarding what is shipped. The hulls are then usually removed using aspiration to separate the hulls from the endosperm pieces. Flaking serves two purposes. seed size and so forth. Following harvest. Ideally. This softens the pieces so that they can be flaked without creating excessive fines. Depending upon variability in protein. The diagram should be use in conjunction with the following comments to understand the extraction and heat treatment processing that soybean meal goes through and where errors can be made that will affect the final value and use of the meal. it can and should be specified in the contract. by particular process and by year.the conditioning agent must be shown as an added ingredient. II. the bean pieces are flaked to about 0. Storage of soybeans. This is because the nutrients tend to vary by region.

flaking ruptures the oil cells in each piece.by improving the leach rate from the interior of the flake. Following desolventizing. caffeine) from the coffee grounds.the primary purpose is to denature the remaining anti-nutritional factors remaining in the flakes. In some facilities. the soya meal is conveyed to storage and is ready for shipment to the consumer or the export facility. In the case of soya extraction. Toasted. use hexane and the solvent of choice. nutty flavor. Regardless of the design of the extractor. the flakes are extracted sufficiently to reduce the oil content from about 18-19% in the raw bean to about 0. the hulls are toasted and ground and a portion of the hulls are added to the meal to result in 44% protein meal that is often used in ruminant diets. ground hulls are also sold to feed mills for use in dairy. The resulting flakes have a light tan to brown color and a roasted.5%. D. E. the toasting process is part of the same device as the desolventizer while. Secondly and most importantly.g. the desolventized flakes are subjected to high temperature air. This operation is typically done using a standard hammermill with a fairly large screen hole size. The steam heating process is also used to begin the process of denaturing the anti-nutritional factors found in soybeans. in others. The resulting crude oil is typically refined into cooking oil and other food products. the soya oil. the objective is to extract all soluble materials and. called "miscella". These will be discussed in some detail later in the paper. after percolating through the flakes. The process is nearly identical to the process of making coffee where objective is to extract the color and chemicals (e. is pumped toward the beginning of the process. they are transferred to a device called the "deodorizer-toaster". Under this concept. . the oil rich solvent. The flakes coming out of the system are often agglomerated into large pieces and grinding and sizing is necessary to improve flow and handling characteristics. beef and sheep diets. Following solvent extraction. Depending upon the location of the oil refinery relative to the extraction plant. The second is to remove the bitter. Solvent Extraction. which results in the flakes being toasted. some of the by-products of the refining process may be introduced to the soybean meal. F. freeing the oil to improve extraction. In all cases. they all share a basic concept in terms of how the flakes and solvent move through the extractor. Grinding and Sizing. the flakes are subjected to dry heat initially to remove as much hexane as possible. In some cases. There are several extractor designs in use today. There are two purposes for this process. Following grinding. This practice can result in some variation in the quality and physical properties of the final meal product. however. in particular. however. That concept is counter-current flow of the solvent relative to the flow of flakes and all extractors in the U. The final operation is grinding. is heated to distill and recover the solvent. beany flavors commonly associate with legumes. Solvent Removal and Toasting. After the solvent-rich.S. In the deodorizer portion of the DT. the flakes are introduced to the toasting operation. defatted flakes leave the extractor. and then steam in introduced to strip out the final residues of the solvent. gaining in oil content at each point along the way. it is a separate machine. the "DT" for short. fresh hexane is introduced at the end of the extraction process and.

In addition. will have significantly reduced availability to the animal. there will be excessive amounts of antinutritional factors such as trypsin inhibitor and urease present that will reduce the digestibility of the meal and can also result in amino acid deficiencies in the animal. These include quality of the initial source of beans. In no case should the oil content of soya meal be greater than 1% otherwise. Each process is controlled so that the process is optimized to result in the highest quality and yield of products possible. If the meal is over-toasted. Desolventizing. . the residual oil content will be high and there is risk of rancidity. This is due to the fact that lysine and some of the other amino acids can be chemically bound to certain carbohydrates and this complex become totally unavailable to digestion. There are many factors that can affect soybean meal quality. This can result in the oil going rancid and having a negative affect on the flavor and acceptability of the meal for feed purposes. In most cases. Soybean Quality. Typically. Steps in the Extraction Process that Affect Meal Quality and Oil Extraction. 3.Like flaking. 1. On the other hand. particularly lysine. the yield of oil will be low and the oil content in the resulting meal will be higher than normal.Flaking.This should be a major area of concern for users of soya meal. 2. Factors Affecting Soybean Meal Quality. As a rule the extractors are operated at a rate that ensures that the oil removal is adequate. problems will result if the meal is stored for an extended period of time.There is little risk of having excessive solvent left in the soybean meal as the cost and safety considerations are such that few processors fail in recovering as much a possible. there is great risk that certain amino acids. Toasting. 4. The result is that the animal will demonstrate a lysine deficiency even though it appears that the formula is adequate in the amino acid. if the meal is undertoasted. if the extraction process is incomplete. B. one reason hexane is the solvent of choice is that it has a low toxicity for most farm animals and a small amount of residual hexane posses little risk. processors go to great lengths to obtain as high of quality of beans as is possible in a given year. A. each step in the extraction process and the storage of the meal following extraction. users do not even know that variation exists. There is very little that can be done to eliminate variation so processors have learned how to reduce the effect of variation on the oil and meal products that they produce. Extraction. It is known that bean quality will vary from year to year and growing region to growing region. In most cases. processors are good enough that they can produce consistent quality meal even though there is substantial variation from year to year.III.If the flaking process is not done properly.

Other Testing. it can then be isolated. With that information.There are several tests that should be used by the buyer to ensure that the level of toasting is appropriate for the intended use of the product. . sampled and tested using a more sophisticated test to determine quality. each lot received should be tested for protein and moisture content. the nutritional value and storage life of the shipment can be estimated with some degree of accuracy. If the meal is found to be of inferior quality using the rapid tests.In order to best utilize any shipment of soybean meal. Many of these are rapid and accurate enough so that they can be done before the shipment is received. 5.