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Soybeans: A Good or Bad Ingredient in Animal Feed?

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Soybeans are a popular and nutrient-dense ingredient to include in all types of human and animal foods, including dogs, cats, and horses. This product is widely used because of its high protein content, making it a go-to choice for many feedformulas. As a quality source of amino acids and protein, soybean is found in most commercial equine feeds and many commercial dog and cat foods. While soybean is a common ingredient, soy and its byproducts have skeptics regarding its health as a pet food additive. In this article, the health benefits of soybean will be discussed in horse and dog/cat foods and why it is not as popular for some animals.

​Soybean ingredients are very well-liked in horse feed as they provide countless health benefits. Soybean can be found in the ingredients list in practically every commercial horse feed as they are a high-quality source of protein. Soybean meal is the most common soy form found in equine feed. This product can be sold with or without the hulls. Soybean meal with the hull contains 44% protein, while soybean meal without the hull contains as much as 48% protein. Roasted soybeans, micronized soybeans, soybean flour, soybean flakes, and extruded soybeans are also regularly used soy ingredients. These forms contain 5-20% fat and 30-36% protein. However, it is never recommended to feed raw soybeans, as they contain an enzyme that acts as a trypsin inhibitor, weakening a horse’s digestive system. Due to the ample supplies of fat and protein found in soybean forms, this ingredient is recommended for horses needing to add muscle, gain weight, and tackle most other dietary issues.

​While soybean forms provide various benefits for horses, they also contain phytate, a substance that in large amounts, can interfere with mineral digestion and absorption. Excel Equine® feeds are formulated to ensure that phytate from any ingredient does not interfere with the availability of any mineral.

​As explained, soybean products are very popular in commercial horse feeds due to their various health benefits; however, this liking is not shared with dog and cat food consumers. The pet food industry incorporates soybeans intovarious pet foods because it is high in protein and it providesessential amino acids. However, many animal owners do not like to feed their pets food with soy ingredients due to their animal’s allergies – many dogs and cats show allergic responses to soy products. This leads the owners to purchase soy-free pet foods or grain-free diets – pet foods with only meat and vegetable ingredients. There are various other reasons as to why it is not recommended, the main being that dogs and cats eat meat, as they are carnivores. Dogs and cats require the protein content of meats for proper development and functioning. The ingestion of soy in dogs and cats has been linked to increases in seizures and can cause gastric discomfort in animals. These side effects frighten many pet owners, leading them to stray away from purchasing products with this ingredient.

​When looking to feed your beloved pets, rest assured that soy is a healthy and widely used ingredient for horse feeds. Keep in mind that it can be difficult to compare soy’s health benefits between horses and dogs/cats since one animal is an herbivore and the other is a carnivore. Each of these animals requires different diets to achieve and maintain health. So just because soy is not recommended for some animals, it could be a great feed for another.