Yum Brands, Inc., the company that owns 5,500 KFC restaurants across the country, has announced it is making a change in its cooking oil that should give new meaning to the words “Finger-Licking Good.”

Yum said it is switching from partially hydrogenated vegetable oil to low-linolenic soybean oil. The company specifically cited Monsanto's Vistive brand of soybeans as the source of its new low-linolenic oil, but other company products will be available.

“We applaud Yum Brands, Inc., on its movement toward eliminating trans fats from Kentucky Fried Chicken products by transitioning to a low-linolenic soybean oil,” said John Becherer, CEO of Qualisoy, a soybean industry initiative aimed at helping market healthier, more functional soybean products to the food industry.

Becherer said the announcement could add an estimated $100 million per year to the value of soybeans grown in the United States. Following the 2006 harvest, he said, 400 million pounds of low-linolenic oil could be available.

More than 1 billion pounds of low-linolenic oil could be in the market following the 2007 harvest if the industry's plans to ramp up production of the new class of soybeans come to fruition.

Qualisoy officials said soybean farmers have invested $38.5 million in checkoff money to help expand soybean usage through the following areas: animal utilization, industrial utilization, human utilization, supply, industry relations and market access.

Besides the Vistive brand, low-linolenic soybeans that currently meet Qualisoy quality standards include Pioneer brand low-linolenic soybeans and Asoyia ultra low-linolenic soybeans.

Several cooking oils resulting from the low-linolenic soybeans are now on the market.