U.S. soy farmers have been leading a quiet revolution of sustainability long before "sustainable" became a household word, and well before its importance became clear to consumers and food industry professionals. Now, those efforts are being recognized by the U.S. Soy Sustainability mark. Created by U.S. Soy to assure consumers and food industry professionals – from decision makers in R&D, product development and quality assurance, to CPG, food service and hospitality professionals – by recognizing soy ingredients originating from a system of continuous environmental improvement.
To launch the U.S. Soy Sustainability mark, U.S. Soy is partnering with Soylent and DuPont Nutrition & Biosciences to run a pilot program in which their soy products or ingredients will be labeled as Sustainable U.S. Soy. The pilot program will run in the spring of 2021, after which U.S. Soy anticipates making the marketing mark available to other interested companies. After the pilot program, other customers will be able to request use of the U.S. Soy Sustainability mark through a USB-managed portal. To participate, the customer will provide an overview of their supply chain which will be reviewed by a third-party auditor. The percentage of soy used by end product will be measured and applied against supply standards on a mass balance basis. Customers and food professionals can be assured that products carrying the mark contain soy ingredients that were grown in the United States, are compliant with all U.S. environmental regulations, conserve soils and wetlands and were grown on family farms with responsible labor practices.
As stewards of the land, U.S. soybean farmers are increasingly shifting to regenerative agricultural practices, putting more effort and investment into reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and water usage – the metrics by which a company measures its environmental impact. They're doing this through the use of tried-and-true practices like crop rotation, cover crops and no-till farming, which increase the amount of carbon in our soil – rather than the atmosphere – through carbon sequestration. Combined with GPS-based technology that improves the precision of seed planting and spraying, U.S. soybean farmers' practices improve energy efficiency, reduce soil erosion and lead to better overall soil health. In fact, U.S. soybean farmers collectively invested over $18 million in sustainable efforts during fiscal year 2021, in addition to on-the-farm investments, to improve sustainability practices and measurements.
The payoff? These sustainable U.S. soybeans, as ingredients in other food and menu products, in turn boost the sustainability of all industries and value chains they become a part of, from the farm to the factory to the supplier or retail shelf to the restaurant or kitchen table. This focus on sustainability also helps soybean farmers and the supply chain meet rising social expectations of product quality and business practices – elevating our industry to new heights.
Whether it's for the packaging, what's inside or what's on the menu, food companies are seeking ways to increase transparency in their supply chains, the timing couldn’t be better as consumers clamor for more sustainable food and ingredients.
This growing customer demand is confirmed by the United Soybean Board's 27th annual Food Industry Insights Survey, which looked at consumer perception of sustainability initiatives in the food industry. The implications for food industry professionals are clear: Consumers prefer sustainability from the beginning to the end of the supply chain – and the U.S. Soy Sustainability mark confirms that the soy and soy ingredients meet those consumer preferences. The study found that:
- 62% of consumers express a strong preference for buying a product labeled as made with U.S. grown ingredients over ones that don't contain this information.
- The majority (71%) of consumers said supporting domestic agriculture by buying foods produced with crops grown by U.S. farmers is important to them, with 41% saying it is "very important."
- When a product is associated with the U.S. Soy Sustainability mark, the majority (nearly 70%) of consumers familiar with the term sustainable farming said they would be more likely to purchase the product – showing a strong correlation between the mark and consumer sales.
Consumer preferences for sustainability will be increasingly important as major users of soy make and expand their commitments to purchase all or a portion of their product ingredients from sustainable supplies.
"It feels good knowing that when I grow this nutrient-dense protein, I am not only helping the food industry feed millions of families across the country sustainably but also contributing to a cleaner planet for the next generation," said USB Farmer Director and Maryland soybean farmer, Belinda Burrier.
To learn more about the U.S. Soy Sustainability mark and apply to use the mark on your own ingredients and products, visit www.sustainableussoymark.com.