ST. LOUIS – Domestic animal agriculture is the soybean industry's No. 1 customer, according the United Soybean Board, St. Louis, Mo.

Soy meal is a significant ingredient in animal feed, according to USB. US animal agriculture uses about 98 percent of domestic supply of soy meal. Rising US meat and poultry exports help support demand for US soy.

“Exporting meat and poultry is a big issue for US soybean farmers,” said John Butler, a farmer-leader from Dyersburg, Tenn. “If we can feed animals soybeans here and sell them abroad, we’re creating a value-added product. Adding that value here has a tremendous positive impact on not only the US soy industry but the national economy as well.”

Poultry and hogs consume most of the soy meal produced in the US, according to USB. Statistics show that poultry consume roughly 12.9 million metric tons annually, the equivalent of 601 million bushels of soybeans. Hogs consume 6.8 million metric tons of US soy meal, or the meal from 318 million bushels of soybeans, USB said.

USB said the soy checkoff partners with organizations such as US Meat Export Federation (USMEF) and USA Poultry and Egg Export Council to market US meat and poultry abroad. A recent checkoff and USMEF effort boosted consumption of pork back ribs in Japan from zero to 4.5 million lbs. over the last three years, according to the Board.

The US meat and poultry export figures for 2012 include:

• Pork exports nearly reached 2.3 million metric tons, valued at over $6.3 billion.
• Broiler meat exports, excluding chicken paws, reached 3.3 million metric tons, valued at nearly $4.2 billion.
• Beef exports reached 1.1 million metric tons, valued at $5.5 billion.
• Turkey exports reached 361,597 metric tons, valued at $678 million.
• Chicken paw exports reached 363,974 metric tons, valued at $450.1 million.
• Egg exports, table eggs and processed egg products in shell equivalents reached 274.1 million dozen, valued at $263.7 million.