The soy hidden in the plate.  Each citizen consumes 60 kg per year

The soy hidden in the plate. Each citizen consumes 60 kg per year

You have never tasted tofuyou are not vegan or vegetarian but you are convinced that the soy It is not present in the daily diet. They’re not here. Anyone who eats meat, fish, eggs, or cheese is actually unknowingly consuming a lot of soy. Let’s say the annual average is about 60 kg per capita. An investigation commissioned by WWF (1)entitled Mapping the European Soybean Supply Chain”(Mapping of the European soybean supply chain) highlights how 90% of the soy that European citizens consume is not an ingredient in a recipe, but an indirect consumption due to its presence in animal feed. Soy is a legume rich in protein and is an ideal food. As part of the campaign food4future WWF wants to make consumers aware of the ‘hidden ingredients’ that make our choices at the table one of the main causes of destruction on the planet.

For this reason The growing consumption of meat, fish, eggs and dairy worldwide has increased soybean production fivefold in the last 40 years. Particularly in South America, soybean crops are increasingly penetrating biodiversity-rich forests and savannahs, which are being converted to farmland. This causes loss of species, a significant impact on climate change and loss of livelihoods for indigenous peoples. In addition, soybeans, grown mainly in monocultures, require a high use of pesticides, which pollute the soil and aquifers. More than 80% of soybeans grown in the world are genetically modified.

On chicken and salmon farms, the amount of soy used as feed is almost equal to the final feed produced.

world soybean cultivation reached a volume of 340 million tons in the 2019-2020 season. This corresponds to a total area of ​​123 million hectares. 75% of all this soybeans go to feed production. More than 80% of all soybeans produced globally come from the United States, Brazil and Argentina, which are also the main exporting countries. Soybean production in South America has almost tripled in recent decades and is expected to double even more by 2050. But South America has three of the most important climatic and biodiversity areas on the planet: the Amazon, the Pantanal and the Cerrado. This last region is home to 1,600 species of mammals, birds and reptiles, including iconic animals such as the macaw parrot, the anteater, the armadillo and the jaguar, all in danger of extinction. Worldwide, imports of soybeans, soybean meal and soybean oil total 238 million tons. The largest importers are China, the EU (2) and other Asian countries.

Every Italian consumes every year on average 219 eggs, 52 liters of milk, 7 kg of yoghurt, 22 kg of cheese, 2 kg of butter, 79 kg of meat – of which about 37 kg of pork, 20 kg of beef and 21 kg of poultry (mainly chicken) – and at least 2.5 kg of aquaculture fish. Without knowing it, European citizens consume an average of 60.6 kg of soya per year, of which more than 90% (ie 55 kg) is hidden in meat, fish and animal derivatives. In contrast, direct use for our diet amounts to only 3.5 kilos per year. European production has shown considerable growth rates in recent years, but is still too low to meet domestic demand, which reached 2.7 million tons in 2020. The total volume of soybeans used, including imports, amounts to 30 .3 million tons of flour, 1.8 million tons of seeds and 2.7 million tons of oil. The large volume of soybean meal, as well as the smaller volumes of seeds and oils, are intended for different types of food.

transgenic soy
More than 80% of soybeans grown in the world are genetically modified.

In some cases, As for chicken and salmon, the amount of soybean used as feed is almost equal to that of the final food produced: 95 grams of soybeans are needed to produce 100 grams of farmed salmon and 96 grams of soybeans for every 100 grams of breast of chicken. It is followed by pork, with 41.5 grams of soy for every 100 grams of pork. Soy quotas incorporated in dairy products such as cheese and milk powder are also high. Italy imports 90% of its soybeans and 50% of its corn from abroad, raw materials used largely for the production of feed for intensive livestock farming. Reducing the demand for meat and products of animal origin would reduce the size of the intensive livestock sector, with a reduction in the number of animals per farm, and consequently have less need to produce soybeans for food in favor of more animal production. extensive, based on grazing. Switching to diets based mainly on fruits, vegetables and cereals, local, seasonal and organic, also has great benefits for our health, since now we have distanced ourselves more and more, especially the youngest, from the principles and lifestyle typical of the Mediterranean Diet. . In the last 50 years, we have lost 68% of wildlife worldwide and the global food system is the main cause. But soy is not the only raw material that puts the health of the planet at risk: avocados, cocoa, coffee and many others, if they are not of organic origin or with other certifications that prove the sustainability of production, usually have very strong impacts in ecosystems. in which they occur and on the species.

Italy imports 90% of soybeans and 50% of corn from abroad

is currently discussing a new law to reduce the footprint of European consumption in deforestation. Presented last November, the European Commission’s bill has several strong points. However, it limits its scope of application only to the protection of forests, postponing the possible inclusion of other ecosystems for at least two years. Consequently, the current expansion of productive agricultural activities in savannahs and grasslands is effectively ignored, with the risk of transferring all the pressure generated by soybean production to these ecosystems once other expansive fronts are prohibited. “In addition, the list of products and raw materials drawn up by the Commission must necessarily include all those products whose supply chain generates destruction of forests and ecosystems, for example pork and chicken and corn. Therefore, it is crucial that European citizens urge governments to defend nature and uphold effective law, no loopholes or loopholes! A law that includes all habitats and all raw materials and that also respects human rights”, concludes Eva Alessi, WWF sustainability manager.


  1. The research is carried out within the WWF “Eat4Chang” project, funded by the European Commission’s Education and Awareness Program (DEAR). Profundo, an independent non-profit organisation, carried out the research “Mapping the European Soya Supply Chain. Soybeans Embedded in Animal Products Consumed in the EU27 + UK”.
  2. Where EU means EU27 + UK

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roberto the pyre

journalist from the editorial office of Il Fatto Alimentare

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