Recent announcements by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration curtailing the use of trans fats in processed food in the United States appears to be good news for cotton and winter canola producers in the southwest, especially Oklahoma, Texas and Kansas, where both crops play important roles. Cotton and canola produce healthy cooking oils.
FDA spokesman Shelly Burgess says eliminating trans fats from processed foods could prevent as many as 7,000 people from suffering heart disease each year. While food processors have voluntarily stopped using trans fats in recent years, processed foods like microwave popcorn, frozen pizzas, margarine and some desserts still use them.
Producers Cooperative Oil Mill (PCOM) in Oklahoma City processes both cottonseed and winter canola. The mill has processed cottonseed for 69 years and canola for six years.
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Cottonseed oil is a very healthy oil for development of trans-free products. Cottonseed oil contains sufficient saturated fatty acids to make it a relatively stable vegetable oil, which makes it a heart-healthy cooking oil. Cottonseed oil is a good source of the essential fatty acid, linoleic, and, like other vegetable oils, is essentially cholesterol free.
Equally important, cottonseed oil is currently available in sufficient quantities to satisfy commercial food processing needs in a variety of applications.
Cotton is an important money crop grown across the Southern Plains. Planting varieties with built-in resistance to insect and disease and using the latest farming technology makes cotton a viable option across the Southern Plains.
A top money crop, cotton is used for cotton clothing and other fabric, but potential goes beyond the value of the lint. Processing plants like PCOM process the cottonseed for livestock feed, cottonseed oil and many other byproducts. PCOM has served cotton grower cooperatives in North Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas for nearly 70 years. It also processes cottonseed from facilities based in Arkansas and Tennessee.
Canola oil also offers a healthy option and has a healthy fat profile, neutral taste, light texture and high heat tolerance. It is ideal for everyday use in just about any cooking application. Canola oil has the least saturated fat of any cooking oil—half that of olive oil—and is free of trans fat and cholesterol. The FDA has authorized a qualified health claim for canola oil on its potential to reduce the risk of heart disease. About one-and-a-half tablespoons a day may keep the cardiologist away for just a few cents per serving. Canola oil is also a good source of omega-3 fat and vitamins E and K.
More recently, as the popularity of winter canola spread across the Southern Great Plains, PCOM began to process canola seed for biofuels and cooking oil. Agronomists changed the crop from a spring crop to a winter crop to make it a potent commodity to grow in rotation with winter wheat. It was introduced nearly a decade ago to reduce perennial weeds growing in continuously-cropped wheat. Grown in a rotation with wheat, winter canola breaks up the cycle of weeds like cheat and wild rye. Presence of the weeds in wheat sold by farmers reduces the price they receive at harvest. Canola is also a good money crop, bringing prices averaging from $3 to $4 per bushel more than winter wheat.
PCOM has been instrumental in the promotion and development of winter canola grown in the Southern Great Plains.