Washington Evening Journal
111 North Marion Avenue
Washington, IA 52353
Beth Bennett, operations manager at Professional Proteins in Washington, is used to answering questions about what she does for a living.
“When I mention to people where I work, they often ask, ‘Where is that?’ or ‘What do you guys do out there?’” Bennett said.
Professional Proteins is the small mill north of Washington along Highway 1, and they process organic soybeans and make organic livestock feeds, especially for poultry producers in the area.
“Our method of processing soybeans is much different than large agricultural companies,” Bennett explained. “We utilize extrusion technology, which is a mechanical method of processing.”
Raw soybeans are ground, and then cooked through extruders. The cooked soybeans are then pressed to remove the soy oil.
The resulting product is a high energy soy protein meal that has been mechanically processed instead of using chemicals, such as hexane, in the process.
“This method is perfect for certified organic livestock feeds, as there are no chemicals allowed in organic foods or feed,” Bennett said.
In 2001, Professional Proteins applied for and was granted its first organic certificate by the Iowa Department of Agriculture’s Organic Ag Program. Bennett, along with Ed Griggs and Kevin Rose, were the three employees that started certified organic processing at Professional Proteins in 2001, and all three are still active in the business.
“We were the first such processor to be certified by the state’s program,” Bennett said. “We are now in our 20th year of organic certification.
“We started with just soybean processing, but over the years our facility has evolved into a full-service organic feed mill. We offer complete feeds and organic ingredients to many customers all over the region.”
Bennett offered a few interesting facts about organic soybean production in Iowa:
• There are more than 1,000 certified organic operations in Iowa.
• There are more than 150 organic farms in just Washington and Johnson counties.
• Iowa is ranked no. 1 in organic soybean production in the United States, supplying 16.5 percent of the total U.S. production.
• The market for organic soybeans in Iowa can range from $18 per bushel to over $30 per bushel.
“There’s no doubt that organic is a growing industry,” Bennett said. “In 2016, the organic food market in the U.S. reached $50 billion, having grown 10 percent per year since 2010.
“It is the fastest growing sector in the US food market, and has been for the past 20 years.”
Professional Proteins purchases organic soybeans from all over Iowa and the Midwest.
Their products are delivered back to livestock feed farmers in their service area, which includes most of Eastern Iowa.
“We are very fortunate to be located where we are, as we have never had to import any organic soybeans or soy meal like many other processors around the country,” Bennett said. “We are proud to keep our suppliers and customers as local as we can.
“We are always looking for new opportunities for organic farmers, and we encourage anyone thinking about transitioning to organic to consider growing soybeans. As our business grows, we can always use more soybeans and more organic farmers.”
Professional Proteins can be reached at 319-653-6541. Their business hours are 8 a.m.-5 p.m., Monday through Friday.