Cottonseed Oil Fact Sheet
Health and Nutrition
Cottonseed oil (CSO) is a versatile vegetable oil that does not require hydrogenation, thus allowing restaurants and food manufacturers to prepare healthy trans-free foods.
According to American Heart Association, unsaturated vegetable oils like CSO are “heart healthy” when used in moderation.
CSO has a 2:1 ratio of polyunsaturated to saturated fatty acids. Its fatty acid profile generally consists of:
About 70% unsaturated fatty acids
18% monounsaturated (oleic acid)
52% polyunsaturated (linoleic, an essential fatty acid)
About 26% saturated fatty acids (primarily palmitic and some stearic)
CSO is a good source of the essential fatty acids. CSO is typical of the oleic-linoleic group of vegetable oils, because of the high levels of these two unsaturated fatty acids present in the oil. Oleic is the most notable monounsaturated fatty acid (containing one carbon-to-carbon double bond). Linoleic is one of the most notable polyunsaturated fatty acids (containing more than one double bond).
CSO boasts relatively high levels of tocopherols (Vitamin E), natural antioxidants.
Like other vegetable oils, CSO is essentially cholesterol free.
America’s original vegetable oil, CSO dominated the U.S. market for almost 100 years, until the 1940s, and has maintained an important position in its role as a cooking and salad oil.
While crushing of cottonseed for its oil was documented in the early Hindu medical books, and small crushes took place in European plants during the first part of the nineteenth century, it was the invention of the cotton gin by Eli Whitney in 1794, and the need to deal with the cottonseed left over after the fiber had been removed, that spurred innovations in oil crushing. CSO is practically synonymous with those pioneering years of the oilseed industry, which included the introduction of the first vacuum deodorized CSO by Wesson Oil® in 1899.
Procter & Gamble acquired the U.S. rights to the hydrogenation patent in 1909 and produced the first all-vegetable shortening in 1911. The product was named kispo, which was later changed to Crisco®, short for crystallized cottonseed oil. Crisco is still the leading household shortening today and has undergone several reformulations. It still uses cottonseed oil.
The scientific and technical advances developed to process CSO became the cornerstones of the edible fats and oils industry as it is known today.
CSO enhances the natural taste of foods, rather than contributing its own flavor. CSO is well known for its desirable bland flavor.
Offering flavor stability, CSO is well known for the “nutty, buttery” flavor it develops when exposed to heat or light. Unlike other oils, CSO does not experience undesirable flavor reversion, the flavor oils take on once they begin to break down.
CSO has long been the “gold standard” oil in potato chip production for its ability to enhance the flavor of potatoes.
In taste tests, vegetable oil blends containing 75% or more CSO received the highest preference scores.
CSO’s neutral taste makes it perfect for frying seafood and oriental foods, like stir-fry. Its stability and neutral flavor make it an ideal frying oil for this sector. Historically, CSO has been popular in Japan and Korea, and CSO is increasingly being rediscovered as an ideal ethnic cooking oil in the United States.
CSO is stable enough to have a high smoke point as a frying medium, yet delicate enough to avoid coating a diner’s mouth when it’s used in salad dressings. Like other long-chain fatty acid oils, CSO with 0.01% free fatty acids has a smoke point of about 450 degrees Fahrenheit.
CSO is naturally stable without hydrogenation. CSO’s saturated fat level, ranging from 2328%, makes the oil stable without hydrogenation.
CSO is an ideal solution for any end-use where the goal is to have trans-free oils or minimize trans fat content in oils. CSO fits into all the various ways of creating a trans-free product, including high-stability liquids (cooking or salad), shortenings and spreads.
CSO is one of only a few oils that are stable in the beta-prime crystal form, which is desirable in most solidified products because it promotes a smooth, workable consistency usually referred to as plasticity. This characteristic provides a more universal functionality for CSO; it can be the sole source oil in a product or provide the impetus to force the crystal habit to the desired beta-prime from in blends with other oils that crystallize in the beta form.
CSO has long been preferred by fried-snack makers, and is used primarily as baking or frying fats or as salad or cooking oils.
CSO is used in all categories of edible fats and oils: liquid oils (cooking and salad), shortenings, margarines and spreads, and specialty products.
Despite a 10-15% “premium” over the price of soybean oil traded on the Chicago Board of Trade (usually 3-5 cents), CSO provides an economic solution to the complex process of matching oils with foods to produce a finished product that is both satisfactory to consumers and economical for the processor.
By eliminating or reducing the need for hydrogenation, CSO helps manufacturers save time and money associated with using this process.
Because of its desirable stability, CSO deep frying oils do not have to be discarded as often. The turnover rate of frying oils used by manufacturers (e.g. chippers) can be up to 100% daily and up to 20-35% per day by food service operators. Due to the large quantities of foods that are fried, bulk amounts of cooking oil are removed continuously and must be replaced. CSO lasts longer than many other oils, thus requiring less turnover and more cost savings.
CSO resists rancidity and therefore offers a longer shelf life for food products in which it is an ingredient.
Production and Availability
CSO is available in commercial quantities to satisfy the current demand for trans fat alternatives.
Annual U.S. production has averaged about 877 million pounds, or about 117 million gallons, over the last five years.
U.S. production in 2007 was about 880 million pounds.
Thirteen oil processing facilities, primarily in the South, produce CSO.
Typically one third of CSO supply goes into snack food production.
Because of the high demand for CSO among foodservice operators and snack food processors, CSO is not typically available at the retail level. Although, CSO is available to consumers in niche markets, e.g. in sporting good stores where turkey fryers are sold.
About National Cottonseed Products Association (NCPA)
Headquartered near Memphis, Tenn., the National Cottonseed Products Association is the trade association for the cottonseed processing industry. In addition to representing cottonseed vegetable oil for cooking, NCPA also is charged with promoting the versatile cottonseed’s other uses, including the following: cottonseed meal, a high protein supplement for livestock and poultry; hulls, a roughage for cattle feed; and linters, a cellulose feed stock for many industrial and consumer products. Its members include oil mills, refiners, product dealers and product brokers. NCPA is the oldest national cotton organization in America.