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NSRL : About Soy: Soybean Processing


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Threshing & Packaging Meal & Oil
Drying Cleaning Soybean
Transport & Storage Processing
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Farmers dedicate much time and hard work to produce and harvest
millions of tons of soybeans. That work is complemented by the
considerable effort and care the soybeans receive after harvesting
to ensure the high quality and continuous supply of soy products to
processing industries and consumers.

Soybean processing involves a series of steps to produce commodities for

food, industrial, and animal feed uses.

Threshing consists of separating the beans from the pods (portion of the
plant fruit that encases the soybean seeds). Most soybeans are harvested
and threshed simultaneously by modern combines. Threshing can also be
done by hand using simple tools, the help of vehicles, or simple hand or
motor-driven machines. Whatever the system used, it is very important that
threshing be done with care to prevent breakage of the beans or hulls.
Careless threshing can reduce the product's quality and foster subsequent
losses from the action of insects and post harvest disease..

Soybeans have to be moved throughout the post harvest system. This
includes soybean transport from the fields to the threshing or drying site,
and then to storehouses or to collection centers and further transpost to
processing industries or to bigger central storage buildings. Finally, the
beans move from these industries or storage buildings to wholesalers or
retailers for final marketing. The type of transport used to move soybeans
depends on the amount of beans and distance traveled. It is especially
important to transport the beans from the field to storage centers as soon as
possible to avoid deterioration.

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Losses during transport must be minimumized. Loss means the difference in

weight between the quantity loaded before transport and the quantity
unloaded after transport. In addition, there is a loss in quality when the
beans undergo changes during transport. To avoid transport losses, bags
must be checked before filled with beans since the bags are reused and can
tear and leak during loading or unloading. Care must be taken to load and
arrange bags properly in the truck to avoiding crushing the lower layers and
to permit air to circulate around the bags. Also, soybeans must be protected
while being transported in the rainy season.

" Drying" is a post harvest phase during which the beans are rapidly dried
until they reach the "safe-moisture" level. After threshing, the moisture
content of the beans is sometimes too high for good conservation (13 to 15
percent). The purpose of drying is to lower the moisture content in order to
guarantee conditions favorable for storage or for further processing and
handling of the product. Drying can be done by allowing warm, dry air to
circulate around the f beans.

Essentially two methods of drying are utilized, either natural or artificial


Natural drying. In dry climates and soybean producing regions

that may not have access to mechanized drying equipment, the
threshed soybeans are spread in thin layers on a drying-floor
where they are exposed to the air and sunlight for about 1 to 2
weeks. The beans must be stirred frequently to encourage
uniform drying. As a rule of thumb, the relative humidity of the
ambient air must not exceed 70 percent for drying to be effective.
When relying on natural drying methods, soybeans must not be
exposed at night. The cold and moist night air fosters
re-humidification of the beans which may be detrimental to bean
quality. Natural drying methods should not be used in humid
regions or during rainy seasons.

Artificial drying. In humid tropical and subtropical regions or

areas with unfavorable weather conditions at harvest, artificial
drying is necessary. In these regions, it is often difficult to
safeguard the quality of newly harvested soybeans. With the
introduction of high-yielding soybean varieties and the use of
agriculture mechanization, it is possible to harvest large
quantities of soybeans in a relative short time and quickly dry the
beans for storage. Due to the length of the growing season,
weather conditions, or subsequesnt crops to be planted shortly
after soybean harvest, farmers are forced to harvest soybeans
with high moisture content. Consequently, it is necessary to dry
the beans artificially. This method of drying consists of exposing
the beans to forced ventilation of air that is heated to certain
degree in special equipment called "dryers".

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Cleaning consists of eliminating impurities and debris from the harvested
crop. Sometimes cleaning is done more than once through the post harvest
system and may be accompanied by sorting the beans according to quality.

After threshing, soybeans are contaminated by soil, plant and insect waste,
small pebbles, weed seeds, or broken soybean seeds. The broken seeds and
other impurities hinder drying operations, make post harvest processing
longer and more costly, lower the end-product quality, and serve as targets
for post harvest disease.

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The simplest cleaning method involves tossing the

beans into the air and letting the wind carry off the
lightest impurities. This cleaning method does not
eliminate the heavier impurities. Cleaner-separator
machines are used when large quantities of beans are
cleaned. They are motor-driven and consist mainly of
a reception hopper, a fan and set of vibrating sieves.
Cleaning is done by repeated suction of the lightest impurities, followed by
siftings of the beans.

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Soybeans are generally packed in bags made of either jute, cotton fibers, or
plastic. Bag packaging is seldom used in developed countries but it is
widespread in developing countries because it is economical and well
adapted to local grain-transport and marketing conditions. The type of bag
determines the height of the stacks. Generally, the bags are stacked on
wooden platforms called pallets, in order to prevent direct contact of bags
with the floor. The free space between the top layer of the stacks and the
top of the storehouse should be at least 1 meter. Sometimes, small-farmers
keep small quantities of soybeans in sealed containers for self-consumption.

Storage is an important phase of the post harvest system. During this
phase, the soybeans are stored in a manner to be readily available and high
quality. The main objectives of soybean storage are to permit deferred
soybean use, to ensure seed availability for the next crop cycle, to guarantee
regular and continuous supplies of raw soybeans for processing industries
and to balance the supply and demand of soybean, thereby stabilizing its
market price.

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Processed Soybean Uses

Soybeans are grown primarily for meal, and oil is a secondary product.
During processing, the soybeans are cracked to remove the hull and then
rolled into full-fat flakes. The rolling process disrupts the oil cells, facilitating
solvent extraction of the oil. After the oil has been extracted, the solvent is
removed, and the flakes are dried, creating defatted soy flakes. While most
of the defatted soy flakes are further processed into soybean meal for animal
feeding, the flakes can be ground to produce soy flour, sized to produce soy
grits or texturized to produce textured vegetable protein (TVP) for food
uses. Further processing can produce high protein food ingredients such as
soy protein concentrates and isolated soy protein. These ingredients have
functional and nutritional applications in various types of bakery, dairy and
meat products, infant formulas and the so-called new generation soy foods.
Due to this difference in soybean use, two different types of soybeans have
emerged: food beans and oil beans (Liu et al. 1995, Orthoefer and Liu 1995;
Wilson, 1995).

Soy Processing, Products and How They are Used

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Meal and Oil Processing

Early oil mill processing of soybeans were typically small scale operations
using hydraulic and screw presses (Goss, 1944). Gradually, the screw press
replaced the less efficient hydraulic press. In 1934, the first solvent
extraction process was introduced. Improvements in oil extraction are
continuously evolving. Major changes during the last two decades have
included introduction of the expander, installation of heat recovery systems
and co-generation (making steam and electricity on site by burning waste
by-products like hulls), improved working conditions for employees (dust

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and sound control), reduced contamination of the environment, automation

of equipment, introduction of computer control of the processes, and
reduction of manual labor (Lusas, 2000).

Direct solvent extraction, referred to as "full" pressing or prepress-solvent

extraction, can separate oil from soybeans. Some crushing industries
combine these extraction methods to maximize oil extraction and its quality.
Solvent extraction is the most widely used method for oil extraction in the
Western world. However, mechanical extraction is often preferred by small
extraction plants throughout the world to remove the oil.

Flowchart of Soybean Processing

Interactive Flow Diagram for Soybean Processing and Direct Solvent


Soybean meal and oil also can be produced by the ExPress System, where
the whole or de-hulled soybeans at field moisture are fed continuously to a
dry extruder. Within the extruder barrel, the material is subjected to friction
and pressure, and heat is generated. The temperature profile within the
extruder barrel can be varied depending upon the intended use of the
processed meal. This process does not require an external heat source.
Typically, the top temperature at the exit of the extruder barrel is 150 °C.
Lower temperature profiles are used when the meal is intended for use as a
functional ingredient in food applications (Wijeratne, 1999).

(Excerpts taken form FAO Post Harvest Compendium)

Goss, W.H. 1944. Processing soybeans. Soybean Dig. 5(1): 6-9.
Liu, K.S., Orthoefer, F. and Thompson, K. 1995. The case of food-grade
soybean varieties. INFORM 6(5): 593-599.

Lusas, E.W. 2000. Oilseeds and oil-bearing materials. In Handbook of Cereal

Science and Technology. K. Kulp and J. G. Ponte, Jr. (Ed.), Marcel Dekker,
Inc., New York, pp. 297-362.

Orthoefer, F. and Liu, K.S. 1995. Soybeans for food uses. Int’l Food
Marketing & Technol. 9(4):4-8.

Wijeratne, W.B. 1999. Alternative technology for primary processing of

soybean. In World Soybean Research Conference VI: Proceedings, H.E.
Kauffman (Ed.), Publisher Superior Printing, Champaign, Ill., pp. 368-370.

Wilson, L.A. 1995. Soy foods. In Practical Handbook of Soybean Processing

and Utilization, D.R. Erickson (Ed.), AOAC Press, Champaign, IL., pp.

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