As we get ready to celebrate the Fourth of July, you might be thinking, what do corn and soybeans have to do with this national holiday? As it turns out, quite a bit!
If you live in Nebraska, have visited the state or have driven across Interstate 80, chances are you’ve seen rows and rows of corn and soybeans. You might be surprised to learn that we don’t eat a vast majority of these crops, directly anyway. Rather, corn and soybeans are key ingredients in many non-food products you probably use each and every day.
Let’s look at corn, for starters. Three main types of corn are grown in Nebraska: sweet corn, popcorn and field corn. Sweet corn is the kind we eat right off the cob, out of a can or from the freezer. Popcorn is a great whole-grain snack. Then there’s field corn. While we don’t eat field corn right off the cob (we might break some teeth!), it is broken down into different products we consume every day. There are over 4,000 different products made with corn! Some of those are made right here in Nebraska, including Fritos® and Doritos®.
Other products that can be made using corn include fireworks, house paint, printer ink, tires, diapers and carpet. You can even find disposable plates, flatware and drinking cups made from biodegradable corn plastic to use at your Fourth of July cookout! Nebraska’s farmers are always looking for new uses for this sustainable and renewable crop. A native of the grass family, corn is well-suited for our state’s environment.
Farmers in Nebraska also grow a lot of soybeans. Nebraska ranks fourth nationally in overall soybean production. From the soybean plant, we get two main products: soybean meal and soybean oil. After farmers harvest their soybean crop in the fall, the soybeans will ultimately end up at a soybean processor, which separates the seeds into the meal and oil. Soybean meal is high in protein and energy and is one of the largest protein sources used in the poultry and livestock industries. Soybean meal can also be found in soymilk, soy flour, cereals and tofu.
Soybean oil also has a variety of food and industrial uses. Did you know that soybean oil is categorized and labeled as vegetable oil? As you head out to the grocery store to stock up for your Fourth of July party, pick up a bottle of pure vegetable oil, and take a look at the ingredients. You’ll find that it is likely 100% pure soybean oil. For your Fourth of July gathering, you might also want some condiments and snacks such as mayonnaise, margarine, crackers or chips, most of which have soybean oil as an ingredient. One of my favorites is Dorothy Lynch condiment, a Nebraska-made product that uses soybean oil from our state’s soybeans.
Corn and soybeans can be used in so many common products, and we’ve only begun to scratch the surface! I haven’t even mentioned things like car tires, fuels, shoes and medicines. Nebraska’s corn and soybean farmers work hard every single day to produce high quality, sustainable products for my family-and yours-to enjoy. As you’re enjoying your cookout this July while watching the fireworks light up the sky take a moment to consider how much American agriculture is truly intertwined in your daily life.