“Our response was to remind people that cotton actually is a food crop: you've got cottonseed oil, which was America's original vegetable oil; you've got the seed, which has been used as a dairy cattle feed supplement for decades; and now new research is expanding the use of cottonseed protein to a wider range of livestock feeds and for human consumption.”

Growers routinely produce 25-30 gallons of edible cottonseed oil per acre of cotton, Wedegaertner says. Per capita consumption of cottonseed oil in the U.S. is about three pints per year, he adds.

Cottonseed oil is used in many products commonly found in kitchen pantries across the U.S., like potato chips, salad dressings, mayonnaise, hot dogs and more, but only consumers who read ingredient labels would recognize that fact.

“So in part, developing the flavor-infused cottonseed oils is a way to introduce U.S. consumers to the concept that cotton is a food product as a well as the most popular fabric in the world,” Wedegaertner says.

Most folks in the cotton industry know that cottonseed in various forms has been used in food products and for livestock feed for more than 100 years.

If you eat steak, cheese, butter or milk, chances are good there were some cottonseed products in the diets of the animals that produced those foods, but awareness of that whole side of the cotton business is low among average consumers.

One thing driving these new cottonseed oil products is research that can genetically eliminate gossypol, and thereby make the protein of the seed available in feed for a wider range of livestock, and for human consumption.

“Once cotton is grown using this technology, we can have cottonseed kernels that look like pine nuts — and all kinds of food products from gossypol-free cottonseed,” Wedegaertner says. 

The Acala Farms Flavor-infused Cottonseed Oils will help to educate the public that cotton is indeed already a food crop.  When the protein and nut products hit the market in a few years, there will be greater understanding that cotton is being grown not just for fiber but also for food.

Bain says consumers seem to really like the Acala Farms oils. “Most people sample one of the oils, then come back and try more,” he says.

Wedegaertner says consumers can see these high-end oils are flavorful, healthy and safe. “They often ask if these oils can be used for salad dressings, for frying, and for a number of food-related purposes — and, yes, they can,” he adds.

The gourmet, flavor-infused cottonseed oils marketed by Acala Farms sell for $5.99 per five ounce bottle.