Bringing tofu to Kenya?


CARD, the non-profit that I will be working for, is focusing on is food production. I’ve exchanged emails with the director of CARD and he’s told me to research value-adding to soya production. Apparently it’s a project that many groups that they are working with have expressed interest in but no one has taken it on. So hopefully I will be able to help…I mean, I enjoy tofu…

Here’s what I have learned about soya production:

When soybeans were first introduced to Western culture they were mainly used for oil and other industrial uses. Recently, a different type of seed adapted for consumption has gained popularity in the West. Soy-based food includes soy-based human foods include tofu, miso, soy sauce, natto, tempeh, soymilk, soy flour, soy oil, concentrates and isolates, and soy sprouts. Since 1999 when the USDA claim decided to permit the claim that soy intake can reduce the risk of heart disease by reducing cholestrerol, soy products have exploded in popularity. Soyfoods (think soy milk/cheese/butter/meat products) are now a $2.5 billion dollar industry in the U.S. alone.[1]

In order to make the more valuable soy-based foods, soy producers need to think about a number of factors. First, the soybean seeds selected need to be “food-grade beans” such Vinton 81 and Hutchinson instead as not oil varieties. Jacques J-231, Burlison, Jack, Beeson 80, HP 204, Ohio FG1, and Ohio FG2 can also be used. Although there is no market standard for the “ideal” bean, visual appearance is crucial for most buyers. The seed coats must be colorless and Hilum color “bleeding” into the seed coat is unacceptable (although a light-colored hilum is often okay). Perfectly round seeds are usually best.

For natto (a sticky coating made from fermented soybeans popular in Asian foods) small seeds are used and soybeans with a high content of carbohydrate for quick conversion to sugars during fermentation are preferred. For tofu, large seeds with a high protein content are best.

Since the physical appearance of the bean is so important, proper harvest is crucial. According to Bachmann (2001)

“Small-seeded soybeans tend to thresh well, but air adjustments may have to be fine-tuned to remove chaff without blowing the small seeds out the back of the combine. Large-seeded soybeans are extremely prone to mechanical damage during threshing operations, which can knock off the seed coat and/or split the embryo into its cotyledonal halves. Combine cylinder speeds will have to be slowed considerably to avoid this, and the crop may require harvesting at somewhat higher moisture content.

The seeds must also be harvested quickly because seeds deteriorate after the moisture seed’s moisture content drops to 14%. They need to be stored in a place where there is 13 % or less moisture content BUT very dry beans split when bean transferred.

Also, soybean plants are sensitive to day length so growers need to pay attention to which variety is best adapted to the area.

I think I’m going to be spending a lot of time on the International Soybean Program (INTSOY) website…


[1] Bachmann, J. (2001). Soyfoods: Adding Value to Soybeans. ATTRA Publication # CT153. http://attra.ncat.org/attra-pub/soyfoods.html