Healthy Today, Not Healthy Tomorrow: Who Knows What's Right?

Hoosier Perspectives

DuPont Pioneer's new Plenish cooking oil puts soybeans back in the 'healthy' game. By Tom J. Bechman

Published on: August 13, 2012

Some 25,000 acres of high-oleic soybeans were grown in Indiana this year. The same soybeans were also grown in Ohio and Michigan. The Indiana soybeans will be processed after harvest at the ADM facility in Frankfort.

The oil from all these soybeans will wind up in Plenish, a new soybean cooking oil, says Bob Kennedy, Senior Contract Manager for DuPont Pioneer. He expects the Indiana acreage to double next year, and will soon be ready to sign contracts with growers that state the premium they can expect for the 2013 growing season. Plant breeders for Pioneer insist that several varieties of these soybeans that yield as well as elite lines, and have the trait package necessary to stand up to diseases and other problems, like cyst nematode, will be available for planting next year.

"This will help make soybean oil competitive again," Kennedy says. Many companies switched to canola oil, primarily grown in Canada, when the trans-fat issue came up a few years ago. The high-oleic beans made into Plenish soybean oil will have no trans fats because the product does not have to be hydrogenated.

Talking to Kennedy and listening to the plant breeder talk about this new trait and new brand of healthy cooking oil got me to thinking: when I was growing up, my mother still cooked with lard. The butcher shop asks if I want the lard today, but they know I'm going to say no, almost everybody else says no, too. If we're already fat, like me, why cook with something that you know adds pounds, even if it does make things taste better?

My mom used margarine, only because it was cheaper than butter. We lived on a dairy farm, but used what my little brother and I called 'fake stuff' on our toast. Years later some food nuts claim margarine isn't healthy either, because of the hydrogenation process. It has those evil trans fatty acids, or at least some of it does, that's what they say. So does all this mean we would have been better off sticking with butter all along?

It gets confusing out here as a consumer. First one thing is bad for you, then another thing is bad.. We've become a society that can't tolerate taking risks.

Bob Taylor, a columnist in our Young Farmer Forum column in Indiana Prairie Farmer answered a question about whether dad should let their four-year old son ride in the combine or not, since mom was worried about safety, this way. Paraphrasing, 'Yes, he could get hurt if dad and the boy aren't careful. But he could get hurt in the house with mom too if mom and the boy aren't careful.'

So once they told me I could die from eating lard and butter. Now they say I could die from eating too many foods cooked with margarine. Folks, we're all going to die, some just sooner than others.

Our oldest daughter, Allison, is a doctoral candidate at the University of Georgia in Food Science. We visited recently and gave her this challenge: Find a company that will pay you to figure out how to make lard healthy. Then we'll all be rich.

Don't laugh- what goes around comes around. Maybe my infant granddaughter will cook with fat-free lard, almost like her great grandmother did!