U.S. cotton producers grow almost 15% of the entire world’s crop, and consumers generally recognize the fiber’s value in supplying them with T-shirts, blue jeans and other clothing. But ongoing efforts by Cotton Incorporated have focused on some of cotton’s lesser-known byproducts and outputs.
"The general public doesn’t understand that cotton is a food crop, and cottonseed oil has been used for more than 100 years," says Tom Wedegaertner, director of cottonseed research and marketing for Cotton Incorporated. "But unless they read labels, they don’t see it."
Because cellulose from cotton linters is 99% pure, it is a valuable binding agent for a variety of foods, from gum to syrup to salad dressings, Wedegaertner says.
"In fact, light beer would not have a head if it weren’t for cellulose from cotton linters," he says.
Wedegaertner adds that cottonseed oil is a popular choice in many restaurant fryers because of its neutral taste and high smoke point. Americans consume about 3 pints of cottonseed oil each year on average, yet most don’t understand that cotton is such a rich source of food. Cotton Incorporated is committed to changing that perception.
The latest endeavor is a joint collaboration with Wisconsin-based Botham Vineyards, Inc., to market a new line of flavor-infused cottonseed oils under the Acala Farms brand name. The name was inspired by the Acala cotton species that produces the seed for these oils, says Sarah Botham, president and director of marketing.
"The cotton is grown in New Mexico and throughout the U.S. Cotton Belt, and we’re proud to be supporting America’s cotton producers in this way," she says.
The oils come in five flavors, which are available online at www.acala-farms.com. Botham says they are developing retail relationships so they will be able to more widely distribute the oils. Wedegaertner says Cotton Incorporated will continue to develop additional products with Acala Farms.
"Our collaboration with Acala Farms to introduce the flavor-infused oils is just the beginning of this initiative," he says.