Teachers participating in the “Explore Food Science: Field to Package” virtual workshop recently took a tour of the Sidney Cargill soybean processing plant.

The tour was conducted by Andrea Flowers, who buys beans for the facility, and Pat Knouff, a local farmer who provides beans for the facility. Soybeans usually come in from a 50 mile radius around Sidney.

The crush plant, the main section of the facility, was built in 1978. To “crush” is to take raw soybeans and turn them into meal, hulls, and oil. The refinery takes crude soybean oil and turns it into a usable product. The Sidney facility has a packaging plant on-site, the first in the country for Cargill.

The process starts with a sample of beans that are checked for moisture, tested for weight, examined for other material in the sample and for heat or other damage of any type. The beans are then put through a cleaning process to remove pods and stems.

Next, the beans are dried. The dryer allows the bean meat to shrink away from the hull, which is ground up and used in livestock feed rations, then protein and oil are removed. 10,000 bushels are dried each day. The plant runs 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. 25 trucks can be unloaded each hour with an electronic system.

Then the beans are broken down by cracking rollers and flaking rollers. Soybean meal is used for aquaculture and mixed with other products for farm feed of livestock. Some meal goes on rail cars to the South to feed livestock in that area. Oil is removed in the extraction step, and the oil goes to Columbus, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, and Chicago, the largest users of vegetable oil in the country.

Part of the soybean oil is used for candles, but most is filtered and put through a deodorization process to neutralize odor and color. It’s then ready to use as salad oil.

Flowers spoke about careers with Cargill, which include:

  • administration
  • corporate strategy
  • engineering
  • environmental health
  • finance & accounting
  • food safety & quality
  • human resources
  • information technology
  • law
  • marketing & communication
  • operations
  • procurement
  • research & development

Cargill offers student shadowing and internships. If you know of interested students, contact us for more information!