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U.S. soybean farmers see growth potential in edamame

  • Ray Chung holds some edamame at a processing plant in Mulberry, Ark., on Wednesday, March 13, 2013. (AP Photo/Jeannie Nuss)

    Ray Chung holds some edamame at a processing plant in Mulberry, Ark., on Wednesday, March 13, 2013. (AP Photo/Jeannie Nuss)

  • Ray Chung holds some edamame at a processing plant in Mulberry, Ark., on Wednesday, March 13, 2013. (AP Photo/Jeannie Nuss)

    Ray Chung holds some edamame at a processing plant in Mulberry, Ark., on Wednesday, March 13, 2013. (AP Photo/Jeannie Nuss)

  • Ray Chung poses for a picture outside an edamame processing plant in Mulberry, Ark., on Wednesday, March 13, 2013. (AP Photo/Jeannie Nuss)

    Ray Chung poses for a picture outside an edamame processing plant in Mulberry, Ark., on Wednesday, March 13, 2013. (AP Photo/Jeannie Nuss)

  • Ray Chung poses for a picture outside an edamame processing plant in Mulberry, Ark., on Wednesday, March 13, 2013. (AP Photo/Jeannie Nuss)

    Ray Chung poses for a picture outside an edamame processing plant in Mulberry, Ark., on Wednesday, March 13, 2013. (AP Photo/Jeannie Nuss)

  • Some edamame is freeze-dried and sold as snacks. Some of the packaging is shown at a processing plant in Mulberry, Ark., on Wednesday, March 13, 2013. (AP Photo/Jeannie Nuss)

    Some edamame is freeze-dried and sold as snacks. Some of the packaging is shown at a processing plant in Mulberry, Ark., on Wednesday, March 13, 2013. (AP Photo/Jeannie Nuss)

  • Some edamame is freeze-dried and sold as snacks. Some of the packaging is shown at a processing plant in Mulberry, Ark., on Wednesday, March 13, 2013. (AP Photo/Jeannie Nuss)

    Some edamame is freeze-dried and sold as snacks. Some of the packaging is shown at a processing plant in Mulberry, Ark., on Wednesday, March 13, 2013. (AP Photo/Jeannie Nuss)

  • A truck drives near a population sign in Mulberry, Ark., on Wednesday, March 13, 2013. (AP Photo/Jeannie Nuss)

    A truck drives near a population sign in Mulberry, Ark., on Wednesday, March 13, 2013. (AP Photo/Jeannie Nuss)

  • A truck drives near a population sign in Mulberry, Ark., on Wednesday, March 13, 2013. (AP Photo/Jeannie Nuss)

    A truck drives near a population sign in Mulberry, Ark., on Wednesday, March 13, 2013. (AP Photo/Jeannie Nuss)

  • Ray Chung holds some edamame at a processing plant in Mulberry, Ark., on Wednesday, March 13, 2013. (AP Photo/Jeannie Nuss)
  • Ray Chung holds some edamame at a processing plant in Mulberry, Ark., on Wednesday, March 13, 2013. (AP Photo/Jeannie Nuss)
  • Ray Chung poses for a picture outside an edamame processing plant in Mulberry, Ark., on Wednesday, March 13, 2013. (AP Photo/Jeannie Nuss)
  • Ray Chung poses for a picture outside an edamame processing plant in Mulberry, Ark., on Wednesday, March 13, 2013. (AP Photo/Jeannie Nuss)
  • Some edamame is freeze-dried and sold as snacks. Some of the packaging is shown at a processing plant in Mulberry, Ark., on Wednesday, March 13, 2013. (AP Photo/Jeannie Nuss)
  • Some edamame is freeze-dried and sold as snacks. Some of the packaging is shown at a processing plant in Mulberry, Ark., on Wednesday, March 13, 2013. (AP Photo/Jeannie Nuss)
  • A truck drives near a population sign in Mulberry, Ark., on Wednesday, March 13, 2013. (AP Photo/Jeannie Nuss)
  • A truck drives near a population sign in Mulberry, Ark., on Wednesday, March 13, 2013. (AP Photo/Jeannie Nuss)

A small but growing number of farmers are experimenting with an edible soybean as they look to capitalize on Americans’ interest in adding non-meat proteins to their diets.

The United States is one of the world’s top soybean producers, but most beans grown here are used to make cooking oil and feed farm animals. They aren’t eaten whole.

Farmers from Arkansas to Minnesota have started planting a type of soybean called edamame. It is a common ingredient in Asian foods and can be used in everything from salads to stir fry.

In Arkansas, a company has opened what’s billed as the first American processing plant devoted solely to edamame. Operator Ray Chung estimates the market for edamame in the U.S. is worth $175 million to $200 million.

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