Cotton 101: What’s Cottonseed Used for?

cotton boll cross-sectionWith grain crops like corn, soybeans and rice, the seed product is the primary commodity you sell. While that’s an everyday realization to farmers, sometimes consumers like myself have to pause to think about that. Yes, the beans we are eating are seeds as are the kernels of corn we are munching on. Well, cotton definitely differs.

Cottonseed are one of the parts of the cotton boll harvested in the picker and once the gin separates the seed from the lint there are a few options for what to do with it. I’ll walk through a few.

Livestock Feed — This one has been mentioned in the blog post that Kathy Swift, DVM wrote on what cattle eat. But I wanted to be sure I didn’t forget it. The seed is a source of good protein I understand. The seed isn’t fed to some other animals due to basic biology. The cotton plant and it seed includes gossypol, a naturally-occurring substance that is difficult for humans and other species with a simple stomach to digest so its fed only to ruminants. You can also feed the hull or meal from seeds to livestock.

Cottonseed Cooking Oil — Trucks from cotton gins frequently head to the press where cottonseed oil is produced. While very few consumers are familiar with cotton seed oil, as vegetable oils or canola oil tend to get the grocery store shelf space, cottonseed oil is something many chefs use.  It is probably one of the oldest oils in the South (according to the cottonseed oil facts) and offers a transfat free healthy oil.  One of the South’s treasures, Cafe duMonde in New Orleans uses cottonseed oil to fry up there famous beignets! You can read that and other tips from them on their website!

Planting Seed — In the US and most of the developed cotton-growing world, this is not a primary use of cottonseed. Yields have continued to grow due to advances in genetics and technology.  Some cotton gins and farmers are contracted to grow cotton seed for replanting in the subsequent season though and this provides a premium above the commodity seed price as they have some specific practices to employ to reduce the potential of outcrossing. (Cotton Trivia: cottonseed is the commodity vs cotton seed is used for planting seed that is preserved by

Land farming — A few times I’ve heard farmers talk about using cottonseed that was no longer viability for planting land farmed as it returns a lot of nutrients to the soil and helps rebuild. cotton-101

Personal Products — I don’t have a lot of connection with this first-had but I understand cottonseed oil can be cold-pressed to extract the finest quality of oil for use in cosmetics. According to e-how, “cottonseed oil has health benefits for the skin because it has a 50 percent omega-6 fatty acid content and is rich in natural antioxidants. The use of cottonseed oil in lotions will leave a smooth, silky feeling that will absorb into the skin and leave it well-moisturized.”

I’ve really enjoyed starting this cotton 101 series on my blog. I started with harvest and will keep going for a while! You can click on the linked photo to get to the list of posts on the subject.

About Janice Person

I'm Janice & this blog is about my passions -- photography, travel, agriculture & whatever else comes to mind. Putting all those things together is intriguing to me…. I can spend a lot of time soaking it up! It's almost always a colorful adventure!

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9 Responses to Cotton 101: What’s Cottonseed Used for?

  1. Barbara Brown November 9, 2011 at 3:13 pm #

    Thank you for your comments. I found them very helpful. I purchased cottonseed oil and thought I had peanut oil…so I am happy to find out that I made a good choice.
    Thank you,

  2. Hunderwasser January 9, 2012 at 3:28 am #

    nice post!
    i cant share this link :
    am i doing it wrong ?

  3. bill May 3, 2016 at 10:10 pm #

    Can whiskey be made from cotton seed


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