The University, in conjunction with Cotton Incorporated, has developed a gossypol-free, non-GMO cottonseed variant suitable for use in food products.
Presence of gossypol (a natural phenol) in cottonseed has previously prevented food use as it is toxic to most animals and also reduces the bioavailability of protein in the crop.
This year, farmers in Mexico will plant 3,000 acres of the cottonseed variant with the goal of significantly increasing this acreage the following year.
Speaking to BakeryandSnacks.com, professor from New Mexico State University Efran Delgado said the biggest appeal for snack manufacturers was price and the GMO-free tag.
“The price is obviously a big appeal for manufacturers because it’s a by-product. But also, it’s GMO-free and interest in GMO-free is growing massively around the world,” he said, following his presentation at the AACCI’s 2014 annual meeting in Providence, Rhode Island.
Cottonseed meal used in snacks
Delgado’s team had developed extruded snacks using cottonseed meal in combination with nixtamalized corn – a grain widely used in tortilla production one that was familiar among Latin American consumers.
Production using cottonseed meal and this corn resulted in snacks high in protein and low in fat that had an appealing crisp texture, compared to commercial extruded snacks already on the market, he said.
“Thanks to the cottonseed meal, we obtained a crispy product so we didn’t have to fry afterwards. We also included the spices before extrusion, so we didn’t have to use any fat coating at the end of processing,” he said.
The optimal cottonseed meal content was 10%.
End protein content in snacks containing this level of cottonseed meal was 12.8 g per 100 g of product. This compared to an average of 6.4-7.2 g in commercial extruded snack products.
Fat content was also significantly lower than market comparisons – 6.2 g per 100 g product versus anything between 26-32 g.
“We still have to work on increasing our mineral and fiber content which we believe we’ll be able to increase, along with protein, as we increase the cottonseed meal content,” he said.
Engaging and convincing farmers
While 3,000 acres would be planted this year, there was work still to be done on engaging a broader farming network, Delgado said.
“The interest is to start convincing the farmers that beside the lint they can obtain, they can obtain a by-product – the seed – which has food applications.”
Uptake would be limited to drier areas that didn’t have pest problems, he said, but there would be no shortage in the future of farmers able to grow this non-GMO variety.