Farm Food Facts

Protein First: Keenan McRoberts from United Soybean Board

January 27, 2020 USFRA Episode 60
Farm Food Facts
Protein First: Keenan McRoberts from United Soybean Board
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Farm Food Facts
Protein First: Keenan McRoberts from United Soybean Board
Jan 27, 2020 Episode 60
USFRA

Today, we're talking with Keenan McRoberts from the United Soybean Board who's here to discuss the focus on their Protein First initiative.

Show Notes Transcript

Today, we're talking with Keenan McRoberts from the United Soybean Board who's here to discuss the focus on their Protein First initiative.

Phil:

Farm Food Facts where every farmer, every acre and every voice matter. Welcome to farm food facts for January 29th, 2020 I'm your host Phil Lempert. Remember to watch the new short film from USFRA 30 harvests, to see just how farmers provide a source of healthy food while addressing environmental concern for current and future generations. Go to U S farmers and ranchers dot org to view this impactful and heartfelt film. One of today's biggest trends in terms of both health and product innovation is approaching consumers understand how important protein is to their wellbeing and are focused on getting the right protein incorporated into their diets. Within protein. Plant based proteins have taken a huge step forward with retailers such as Kroger are now testing plant based protein sections in their stores and for good reason. In 2018 the global plant based protein market accounted for 16.2 $3 billion and is expected to reach 57 billion by 2027 according to strategist market research consulting, plant based proteins are fundamental nutrients that are required by the human body, which are made up of amino acids. These proteins when obtained from plant based foods such as soy, wheat and others are known as plant proteins. Since plant based proteins have a lower calorie count, they can be substituted for animal based protein for weight loss purposes based on the product. According to strategists, the soy segment is projected to dominate the market during the forecasted period. This segment is driven by the increasing popularity and rising demand for high protein diet among individuals. Soy protein helps to reduce the cholesterol level, improve metabolism, bone mineral density and also decreases the risk of cancer . Soy protein isolates are used in applications such as nutritional bars, meat alternatives, bakery products, sports nutrition products and beverages. With us today is Keenan McRoberts vice-president meal strategy at the United soybean board to explain a new program of theirs protein. First, it's a partnership between USB us , soybean export council , American soybean association, world initiative for soy and human health to name just a few. Keenan develops leads and facilitates USBs, meals , strategic direction. He was raised on a farm and ranch in Western Nebraska and has passion in his blood to develop and manage farmer driven investments that can help shape the future of the U S soybean industry. Kenan , welcome to farm food facts.

Keenan:

Thank you Phil. I appreciate it very much.

Phil:

So explain to me what exactly is the protein first program.

Keenan:

Yeah, thank you. Protein first is really a collaboration and partnerships initiative that seeks to work together with all partners in U S agriculture, both in the plant and the animal protein spaces in order to sustainably feed that growing population of 9 billion by 2030 or 10 billion by 2050 so we're working together with other partners in the soy community, which you already mentioned, Phil, and also with partners in meat production, as well as plant protein partners, including the soy nutrition Institute to work together to feed that growing population in a sustainable, transparent way that can help lay a strong foundation for the longterm future of us agriculture.

Phil:

So in addition to feeding the growing population, what are some of the other goals of protein first?

Keenan:

Yeah, so you mentioned that primary goal, which of course is to feed that growing global demand for protein, which is really driven by emerging economies. So if we look at what is the global driver per population and economic growth going toward 2030 and 2050 it's places like Asia, Southeast Asia, and Subsaharan Africa where the demand for protein is not met by the current availability of protein in those countries. And we really got to work together to sustainably supply that protein. So that's the principle objective to sustain our planet, to sustain that economic growth and to build trust with the global consumer base. We all need to be working together and we need all forms of us protein in order to make that happen. Of course, the other side of the coin is the emerging market for higher value alternative proteins in the U S where consumers are willing to pay slightly more for an alternative protein. And this is a niche consumer, right? Is wanting to pay slightly more for alternative proteins than for traditional meat. So us soy is positioned as a very good partner both in the plant protein space and as a feed supplier in the animal protein space. And we're uh , we're collaborating both to , to ensure a strong future for us agriculture.

Phil:

So Keenan to to the first point, when we look globally, why are some of these nations around the world not able to supply the kind of protein or is it the quality of protein that they're not able to supply to their populations?

Keenan:

Yes, part of a part of this local availability, just the ability to produce the protein required by the population. Of course in any country trade as critical and as countries gain income and start to come online, there's an aspiration to, to better meet that protein need. It often starts with plant based protein and then shifts toward an aspiration to consume more animal source proteins. So part of it's just a availability due to both trade and local production. And trade is essential, especially as there is enough a foreign exchange and funding available to be able to participate in acquire those sources of protein that can bridge that gap and that's a large gap, especially if we look out to 2030 2050 and beyond.

Phil:

Sure, and when you talk about value added alternative proteins, describe that a little bit. Are we just talking about you know, soybeans or is it, is it a lot more complicated than that?

Keenan:

Yeah, absolutely. It gets a little bit more complicated every day. Soy is of course a key player in the plant protein space. It's considered the gold standard has a strong complete combination of essential amino acids that come very close to traditional meat products, but it's not just soy and that's where it's really important as we look toward that sustainable protein supply component that we work together with with other sources of plant protein as well. Another important sources, pea protein, you see lentils that are traditionally consumed in much of South Asia as a primary source of plant based protein. You also see growing emphasis around insect proteins, cellular proteins and others that make the , the landscape of competition ever a little bit more complicated to the consumer. However, there is space for all to grow and we're, you know, we're, we're excited about that and that's why this is really a partnership initiative.

Phil:

Yeah. I just want to build on the insect protein for a second because that seems to make a lot of headlines, but when we see on the cover of the Washington post, you know, someone eating a cricket sandwich or whatever, you know, how, how realistic is it that we are actually going to be using more insect protein. I know a lot of people around the world eat insects for protein, but how were you listing ? Is it here in the U S

Keenan:

that's a great question. Uh , realistic. I think it's more realistic in the space of this speed . For example, where provides a very nice nutritious compliment and alternative to , to fish me on the fish feed space. Soybean meal also provides a nice alternative there. But , uh, in the U S specifically outside of certain ethnic market opportunities, I believe most of it will be driven by fish bead and potentially some other sources of animal feed. If we're talking about insect protein.

Phil:

So you know, we're talking a lot about protein, but let's take a step back.

Keenan:

Yeah, absolutely.

Phil:

Why is protein actually important both here domestically as well as globally to people?

Keenan:

Yeah , that's a great question. Protein is critical. What isn't often properly communicated is the protein consists of both essential and non essential amino acids. Nonessential amino acids are those that are our body can synthesize, but there are nine essential amino acids that we're not able to synthesize and those have to be supplied through the food that we consume. So of those nine essential amino acids in the plant space, soy has a very, very strong composition of those nine essential amino acids. That's considered a complete protein. Protein makes up about 20% of our body. So critical macronutrient , she used to produce enzymes, hormones, building block of bones, muscles, Cartlidge, skin and blood without sufficient protein supply. We don't grow and develop as well as we otherwise. And that goes for both humans and animals. So it's a, it's really critical to just strong, healthy growth and development without which we would underperform.

Phil:

You mentioned a whole variety of proteins, obviously soy, protein, animal protein, pea protein. How many different kinds of proteins are there these days? And what should consumers and retailers be looking for, which are the most important proteins to pay attention to these days?

Keenan:

So I wouldn't say that one protein is necessarily more important than the other, but it's important to have a balanced diet, right? So whether you're talking about protein or the other things that you consume , uh , you need to look for a way to do so imbalance and more and more everyday . We also want to ensure that the protein we consume is produced in a sustainable way, ms traceable. And that we can, we can trust where it's coming from. So I believe all of that's important to a balanced diet. And us soy happens to be a great partner in that space. That has a great story to tell that can inform the choices that consumers make about protein, whether it's direct consumed soy, other plant proteins or meat from the animals that consume those feed ingredients from soy and other sources.

Phil:

And what I hear from a lot of consumers , uh , both at retail as well as online is they're not only focused more on on plant protein from a health and wellness standpoint, but also from a food safety standpoint. They feel, to your point about the traceability is much better on plant based protein than some of the other proteins.

Keenan:

Yeah, that's an interesting point that you bring up. I guess the quintessential academic answer would be, it depends actually. Some plant proteins are more difficult from a traceability standpoint because they're commoditized, right? So there's a lot of commingling of the product as you go back toward where it's produced. Perishable products are actually more easy from a traceability standpoint to go back to the origin to that single animal. Me take it a step farther back to the feed ingredient and being able to show that the feed ingredients produce to feed the animal. We're done. So in a sustainable manner, we can do that better and better everyday with new technologies. But we still got a little ways to go.

Phil:

So Keenan , I want you to sit back and I want you to look into your soy-based crystal ball moving forward. What is protein demand going to look like both here in the U S and globally?

Keenan:

So there's a lot of reason for optimism in the protein space. We talked about emerging economies early on. Protein demand continues to increase driven by those emerging economies and will continue to do so as we seek sustainable ways to bridge that protein supply demand gap. Along with that, even as the market share of different types of protein may change a bit over time, there's room for all to continue growing both in the meat and the plant space and in the other alternative protein spaces. So we're very optimistic in the near term.

Phil:

Sure.

Keenan:

Given African swine fever and its impact on global protein supply. We've seen a downturn in global production of meat for the first time in recent history and that creates a near term opportunity to capitalize on that immediate shortfall, but also longterm to ensure that we can fill that demand that's driven by emerging economies. So all that to say, Phil, to boil it down, we anticipate continued growth and space for all sources of protein and all of us act to work together to ensure that we can sustain the waste to supply it.

Phil:

Got it. So you know, bottom line is what would you like soybean farmers, grocery retailers, everyone across the supply chain to know about how protein first is going to support them and help them in their efforts?

Keenan:

Protein first, because it is a partnerships initiative that seeks to increase sustainability and transparency in the U S boot's supply chain and to bring various partners together to build that competence in protein supply. As us agriculture, we're just thrilled to be working together collaboratively, not competitively and not in a, not in a way that disparages other sources of protein in the supply conversation to sustainably supply that growing population longer term with transparently produced protein. So in working together we believe that we've got a great story to tell and that we can really help build trust with in the, in the consumer space and we're , we're excited to work together on that.

Phil:

So Keenan , if people want to know more information about protein first w what should they do?

Keenan:

Yeah, we've got a piece on protein first on our website on United soybean.org and our CEO Paulie ruined also has through her social media presence on LinkedIn and Twitter has posted some different pieces about protein. First , we're continuing to seek partners as we ramp up this protein burst communication initiative and we're excited to work with others. So if you have any interest, please reach out and we look forward to collaborating with you.

Phil:

Well Keenan , thanks so much for joining us today on farm food facts. Appreciate it.

Keenan:

Thank you very much

Phil:

for more information. On all things, food and agriculture, and to listen to our archives, please visit food dialogues.com under the programs and media tab and visit us on Facebook at us farmers and ranchers or on Twitter at us FRA. Until next time.