Questions About Camelina Oil & Hydrogenation

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The camelina oil label says it fell out of favor because it isn’t easily hydrogenated.  Why is that important?  Why did it fall out of favor with distributors and why isn’t it more mainstream today if it is so good?

Hydrogenation is a chemical process that makes oils firmer so they can be used in a wider variety of applications – it’s how vegetable shortenings & margarines are made.  It also makes oils far less likely to go rancid, dramatically increasing their shelf life.

Margarines, vegetable shortenings and products made with them were & are extremely popular in the US (though likely less so after the discovery of trans fats).  These products are a much cheaper substitute for butter, have a longer shelf life, and are lower in saturated fat (though they can be much higher in trans fats).

The fact that camelina oil doesn’t hydrogenate well isn’t an issue for consumers, but my guess is that it’s likely been a problem for camelina farmers in the commodity oil market – they likely couldn’t find as much industrial demand for their product.

And of course, farmers tend to grow what they think they can sell easily for a good price, so this likely worked against camelina seed as a crop.

As to why it isn’t more mainstream today, I can’t be sure, but my theory is that it primarily has to do with a) the farming/manufacturing trends discussed above and b) camelina oil’s low smoke point.

People in the US tend to think of culinary oils as cooking oils.  Most Americans aren’t used to keeping oils in their kitchen (with the possible exception of extra virgin olive oil) that are only used as a dipping oil, finishing ingredient, or in dressings.

– Question Submitted by Candis

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