The Benefits of Cottonseed Oil in Food Processing

Monday, January 24, 2022
The Benefits of Cottonseed Oil in Food Processing

Cottonseed oil is used widely in food processing, but like many edible vegetable oils draws concern for its environmental impacts, including contribution to climate change. Using life-cycle assessments, researchers analyzed several vegetable oils, including U.S.-produced cottonseed oil, and determined that cottonseed oil offers advantages for climate change compared to other seed oils, among them a reduction in related impacts by up to 83%. The research shows that the cultivation phase is the main impact driver for all of the oils analyzed, which supports the need for continued advancements in agriculture. 

Comparative Life Cycle Assessment of Edible Vegetable Frying Oils

Valentina Prado, Jesse Daystar, Steven Pires, Michele Wallace, Lise Laurin

Published Transactions of the ASABE. 64(6): 1717-1733. (doi: 10.13031/trans.14515)
Copyright 2021 American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers


Edible vegetable oils are a major source of climate change impacts and an environmental concern in the processed-food industry. This study consists of a cradle-to-grave life cycle assessment (LCA) of refined U.S. cottonseed oil (CSO), global soybean oil, U.S. canola oil, and palm oil sourced from Indonesia and Malaysia. Considering the oils equivalent for deep frying, they are compared on a 1 kg of oil basis. Analysis includes sensitivity analyses for modeling allocation choices and oil mixes as well as uncertainty analysis. Results show that the cultivation phase is the main impact driver for all vegetable oils analyzed, which favors CSO (U.S.) because it is a co-product. Refined CSO (U.S.) can reduce climate change impacts by up to 83%. Overall, refined CSO (U.S.) was a top performer in six of the eight impact categories evaluated. When ranking the oils, refined CSO (U.S.) was the preferred choice. Despite being the preferred choice, there are tradeoffs with CSO, such as water scarcity. In the context of global-scale commercial frying applications, e.g., McDonald‘s daily French fry production of 9 million tons per day, switching the frying oil to refined CSO (U.S.) represents potential savings of 1,130 to 2,188 tons of CO2-eq d-1. For fast-food chains seeking to reduce their climate change impacts, refined CSO (U.S.) may be useful in frying applications. However, opportunities may exist for improvement in water use efficiency in the cultivation phase, which reinforces the need for continuous improvements in agriculture.