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What a Referee Laboratory Is & What to Expect When Working With One

Soybean in a hand

Soybeans and their processing byproducts can be found in multiple applications worldwide. Because soybeans contain all eight essential amino acids necessary for health, they are often crushed into soybean meal for use in other products — some for humans, but mostly as a protein source for farm animals. Currently, around 85 percent of the global soybean production is processed into soybean meal, with around 98 percent of the resulting meal used as the primary source of protein for farm animals.

Soy is also present in some processed meats and other food sources, such as tofu, as well as other meat and dairy alternatives. Soybeans are also used in cooking oils or as an ingredient in margarine or salad dressings. Lesser-known uses of soy include biodiesel, bioheat, and even industrial applications such as paint.

If you’re in the industry of producing products containing soy, you already know that composition is one of the most important factors. The amount of moisture, protein, and fiber within the soybean meal must be evaluated to determine the quality of your product — whether it’s for humans or for farm animals. This is where the importance of a Certified Referee Lab comes into play.

What is a Certified Referee Lab?

If you’ve ever wondered what classifies a laboratory as a Certified Referee Lab, there’s one major distinction that can help. In order to be classified as a Certified Referee Lab, you must have an AOCS Approved Chemist on staff. The American Oil Chemists’ Society (AOCS) certifies these labs by following the criteria set by the AOCS Examination Board in regard to methodologies in soybean meal analysis. This recognizes a lab as a referee for soybean analyses under the National Oilseed Processors Association (NOPA).

Products and industries that benefit from using a Certified Referee Lab would be any involving the addition of soy, including soybean meal, chicken, and beans. Mainly, those working with animal feed may have the biggest need for using a referee lab, as soybean meal is a primary component of that product.

If you’re wondering how a lab maintains certification, the process is fairly straightforward. A laboratory will randomly be sent 12 moisture samples, and it must successfully analyze them to maintain certification. Currently, there are only 11 Certified Referee Labs across the United States and Canada that are approved to perform referee analysis. Barrow-Agee has been one of them consistently since its initial certification in 1917.

When Does a Company Need a Certified Referee Lab?

One of the primary functions of a Certified Referee Lab is to settle quality disputes between processors and their customers. Those involved in soybean meal, such as animal feed, may need to send samples to a referee lab to settle a dispute if a farmer were to question the quality and composition of the feed they received.

Since processors guarantee the quality of a product based on moisture, protein, and fiber, having the information confirmed by a certified referee lab can ensure that your product is up to standards for nutritional value. For moisture, the content of the product should be below 12.55 percent. Protein must be no less than 0.5 percent of the contracted guarantee, and fiber should be at 3.8 percent or lower. If products don’t meet certain criteria and a claim is filed, the processor has 30 days to send the sample to a referee lab, and in turn, the lab must establish the results within a specific timeframe.

Testing services go beyond the scope of the composition of the product. Testing services can also provide you with in-depth solutions and the ability to identify harmful components in a product. That way, if there happens to be an issue with the product, it can be quickly identified to ensure you’re able to address it promptly and protect your business.

What to Expect When Working with a Certified Referee Lab

When working with a Certified Referee Lab, you can expect that the lab is qualified and all appropriate methodologies for soybean meal analysis will be followed and the lab will adhere to all required quality assurance measures. As mentioned, a laboratory must maintain certification by being able to correctly identify moisture in samples. There are other important details to consider beyond the moisture itself, however.

For example, at Barrow-Agee Laboratories, we consider what geographical location these samples are coming from. Samples from the south are more likely to have a higher protein content than other areas.

Finding and Working with a Certified Referee Lab

Your product is important to you, which makes it important to us. At Barrow-Agee, we perform more than 35,000 referee analyses per year and can complete most tests in three to five days. We are well-versed when it comes to certifications for our work for the feeds industry, such as from the Florida Department of Agriculture Certified Feed Lab for Nutrients, Mycotoxins, and Micro-organisms. Additionally, we are participants in the USDA Accredited Laboratory Program (Pesticides) proficiency testing.

Barrow-Agee Labs has been an AOCS Certified Referee Lab since the inception of the program. Samples that we receive will be entered into our system within five hours, and most results are emailed back to our clients within five days. Our long track record along with our accreditations and certifications ensures that when you work with us, you’re getting an experienced and proven team to assist you with your referee testing needs. Learn more about our animal feed testing and referee lab services.

If you have any questions about this type of analysis or our other areas of expertise, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

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Barrow-Agee Laboratories Staff
Barrow-Agee Laboratories is a laboratory testing services provider for numerous industries that support consumers and businesses alike. Whatever your testing needs may be, Barrow-Agee has the testing solution and support to help you get the results you need.

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