Written by Zac Kreider
There are a lot of unknowns regarding vegetable oils. What is healthy? How should you use different oils? Most people probably have never considered how oils are extracted - but you should! Regardless of the type of oil, there are only two ways to extract oil from a seed. The most common extraction in the market is hexane petroleum solvent, with expeller-pressed being the second option.
Hexane petroleum solvent extraction can extract almost all of the oil from the seed. The seed is first pressed to crack the seed molecules and allow for a small amount of natural oil extraction. This meal, as we call it in the industry, is then mixed with hexane solvents. The hexane solvent forces the remaining oil from the seed, creating a slurry mixture of oil and solvent. The slurry is then heated to a temperature that allows the hexane solvent to burn off leaving the oil behind. This process allows for a very high oil yield. The majority of the companies that process this way turn the meal into livestock feed. Fat is an important nutrient for animals, and unfortunately, when using the solvent extraction process, the fat that has been stripped from the meal now has to be added back into the meal. Adding fat back into a diet in this manner doesn’t allow for proper absorption. New research is showing that animals that have been fed with a solvent-extracted meal may show signs of health and reproductive issues. Some of this meal is even ending up in pet food brands.
Expeller pressed is a natural form of extraction; this form only uses pressure to extract oil. The seeds are pre-pressed to begin the oil extraction process. After the initial press, the meal goes through a final press to squeeze additional oil from the seed. No matter how much pressure is applied, this process can not remove all of the oil from the seed. Colorado Mills is also a livestock feed company. If you based our volumes off of pounds of product we are ⅔ livestock and ⅓ oil. Colorado Mills started out as a livestock feed company and grew into the oil business when we built our refinery in 2010. Our founder’s goal was to create a high-quality livestock feed for the local ranching community via the expeller pressed processing. Colorado Mills’ goal is to achieve 90% extraction from the seed. The remaining 10% of the oil that remains is in the fiber of the seed. When the fat is in the fiber of the meal it forces the animal to properly digest the nutrients versus passing it through as waste. Being a heart-healthy high monounsaturated fat, the animals that are fed our sunflower-based feeds are performing above market expectations.
Next time you are shopping the oil aisle at the supermarket, keep the expeller pressed oils in mind. You may also see it labeled as ‘naturally extracted’. Read the labels on health and beauty products also as expeller-pressed oils are highly sought after. If you are a current customer of Colorado Mills, now know a little bit more about our story and our premium sunflower oil.