Consumer FAQs

Uses

Canola can be used for cooking oil, meal for livestock, and biodiesel. Check out our How Canola is Used page for more details. 

Canola oil has the lowest level of saturated fat of any oil, a fatty acid profile praised by nutritionists, and has other positive attributes. The primary differences between olive oil and canola oil most consumers base their purchase decisions on are flavor and smoke point. Check out the Health Benefits page for more details.

Canola seed contains from 35-45 percent oil with the remainder being meal. Seed is pressed to remove the oil. The remaining material is “cake” or protein meal used to feed livestock. There are not different or separate types of canola plants grown for oil and meal. Check out our How Canola is Used page for more details. 

It is amazing that such a small seed can produce oil! To extract the oil, canola seed is heated, crushed, and then extracted by either expeller pressing or solvent (hexane) extraction. The oil then goes through a series of steps before it is sold as food-grade oil for the consumer market. You can see a few photos of the processing steps in the Photo Gallery.

Dairy operations are the primary destination for canola meal as it is an excellent source of protein, and studies have shown increased milk production when canola meal is part of the ration. Swine, poultry, and fish farms also benefit from canola meal. The Canola Council of Canada has an excellent website, Canolamazing, with lots of information about canola meal.

Canola seed is offered in some custom bird seed mixes, particularly in mixes for smaller birds like finches.

Yes, canola oil has one of the highest smoke points of cooking oils and is an excellent oil for sautéing and frying. You can find more information on cooking with canola on our How Canola is Used page. 

False. After researchers at Temple University published results from a study with mice claiming that canola oil causes Alzheimer’s disease, several independent scientists in the U.S. and Canada countered the accuracy of the study and the results. Read more about it on the U.S. Canola website.

The Plant

Canola is a broadleaf plant that is in the same family of plants as broccoli, kale, turnips, and cabbage. It is an oilseed crop grown in many countries around the world. Learn more about the canola plant on our How Canola is Used page.

The plant forms a rosette (like broccoli) and will then grow upward, also known as bolting and elongation. Canola will reach a height of three to seven feet and has bright yellow, 4-petaled flowers. Each flower will form a pod, seeds will form in the pod, and once the plant and pods are mature the plant is harvested with a combine. Check out the Photo Gallery for pictures of canola from emergence to harvest.

Rapeseed is the predecessor to canola. The oil from rapeseed is used for industrial purposes and is not edible. Canola was created in Canada to be a healthy oil for human consumption and palatable meal for livestock. Read more about the history of rapeseed and canola n the Who We Are section of our website.

Canola and mustard are in the same family of plants, and from a distance, they do look similar. Canola seed is processed into oil and meal for livestock, while mustard may be grown for various end uses ranging from condiment mustard to a plow-down crop to battle nematodes in potato production. Scroll to the bottom of our How Canola is Used page to learn about more of the differences between canola and mustard plants, as well as sweet clover.

Yes! Canola is an excellent forage source for pollinators during flowering. Bumblebees, butterflies, honey bees, and countless other pollinators can be found frequenting canola fields during flowering. Refer to the PNW Publications page for a recent study about pollinators and canola, and our Helpful Links page for a link to the Honey Bee Health Coalition to learn more!

There are both GMO and non-GMO canola varieties available for farmers to plant. Processing facilities specify if they are accepting GMO or non-GMO canola seed, or both, so farmers know where to sell the variety they choose to plant. 

Canola in the Pacific Northwest

Canola is grown in all four PNW states – Idaho, Montana, Oregon, and Washington. Thirty states reported canola acreage in 2019. It is grown from coast to coast, with the greatest concentration in the Northern Plains, Southern Great Plains, and the PNW. Check out our Where is it Grown page for more details. 

The most recent data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture shows 234,000 acres in the 4-state PNW region, with just over 2 million acres in the U.S. North Dakota grows the most canola at 1.66 million acres, followed by Montana and Washington state. The Where is it Grown page has maps of canola acreage in the PNW and U.S.

Yes. There are processing facilities in Great Falls, MT; Warden, WA; and Rickreall, OR. Visit our Local Cash Bids & Marketing page for more information. 

Farmers like to grow canola because:

  • It is an excellent rotation crop to control grassy weeds that are a problem in crops like wheat and barley
  • It increases their crop diversity
  • The tap root of canola can break up soil and improve water infiltration and reduce runoff
  • They often experience increased yield in subsequent wheat crops in fields where canola was grown
  • The market price for crops like wheat and garbanzo beans are currently not very profitable for farmers, while the market for canola has remained fairly steady and can result in a positive bottom line for farmers.

More information can be found on our Production Strategies page.

When farmers apply chemicals to a canola field they are controlling weeds, diseases, or insect pests. Just like homeowners, farmers are required to follow the instructions on the labels of every herbicide and pesticide they use, and the chemical is specifically for what they are controlling. Did you know when you see a sprayer in a field, the majority of the liquid you see is water? The amount of chemical applied is typically the equivalent of a can of soda (or less) spread out in an area the size of a football field! Be sure to check out our Production Strategies page for more information.

Very little oil and meal produced in the PNW is exported to other countries. The U.S. is a net importer of canola oil and meal, with most of that coming from Canada. Demand is high from dairies in the PNW for the meal, and locally sourced oil is also highly valued.