Why the Heck Should We Care about Hexane?

Why the Heck Should We Care about Hexane?

Organic, non-GMO flax crumble

Whole, raw grain feed with a hint of toxic chemicals. Sound like the breakfast of champions you want for your animals? Yeah, doesn’t sound like it to us either. The foundation of Scratch and Peck Feeds is based on providing organic, non-GMO feeds and treats. How could chemicals be part of what we do? Yet, when deciding how to have our organic flax seeds processed into meal and oil, we were faced with two choices: hexane or oilseed crusher.

What the heck is hexane? It is a chemical extracted from petroleum and crude oil. Among the common uses for hexane are as additives in gasoline and varnishes, cleaning agents in furniture industries, glue for roofing and shoemaking, and a method for extracting edible oils from seeds. Wait, what? Did that sentence just use “glue” and “edible” in the same sentence? Yes, the same chemical that is used in many types of glue is used in products that we consume, such as cooking oils and salad dressings.

Hexane is commonly used in oil extraction from seeds and nuts. The seeds or nuts are initially pressed to extract oil, then soaked in the chemical to pull more oils out of them. The oils must then be refined to remove the toxin. The problem is, residue from hexane has been found to remain in the oil, which means that many products on our grocery store shelves may have traces of this chemical. Into our bodies it goes!

Fortunately, there is another option for oil extracting, known as oilseed crushing or expelling. Oilseed crushing is a chemical-free, traditional method where high pressure is applied by an expeller, which is a large screw press. The expeller is tightened to apply the pressure needed to separate the oil from the nut or seed. No heat or chemicals are used, and this method has been around for centuries.

So why are companies opting to use chemicals to extract oils, rather than oilseed crushing? The latter yields about 65-70% of the oil contained in the seed or nut, while solvent extraction yields nearly 99% of the oil. Expelling also takes more time than a solvent bath. As is too often the case, the eye on the prize of profit is bigger than the health of the people, hence the continued use of hexane.

We can never say it enough: You are what your animals eat. That is why staying away from hexane in obtaining the organic oil and meal in our feeds was a simple decision. Both of these ingredients derive from organic, non-GMO flax seeds we source from regional farms, so why would we want to then send them through a chemical process?

natural-selection-farmsTo obtain our oil for our feeds, we source organic, non-GMO flax seeds from regional farms. The flax is then delivered to Natural Selection Farms, Inc. (NSF) in Sunnyside, WA. NSF started out as a family farming operation, and in 2006 became Washington State’s first commercial seed crushing facility. NSF expels the oils from our flax seeds and sends us the product for use in our chicken, goat, pig, and turkey feeds. The oilseed pressing also creates a byproduct from the hulls of the seeds, called the meal. The consistency of this meal is not the right size for use in our feeds, so we have connected with a local company who uses the meal we are unable to use, thus furthering the reach of the flax seeds.

FloraBecause the flax seed meal contains nutrient-providing proteins, we still wanted to find a way to incorporate a meal into our feeds. Enter Flora in Lynden, WA, just a hop, skip, and jump from our mill. Flora manufactures and supplies high quality herbal products and natural remedies for us humans, and they grow many of their own organic herbs. They also do oilseed pressing for flax seeds, but their means of pressing creates a meal they are unable to use, yet is the consistency we desire for our feeds. Once again a byproduct that would otherwise go to waste is put to use!

Constant vigilance is needed in providing clean, organic, non-GMO animal feeds and treats, but it’s worth the effort. When something doesn’t fit with our commitment to people and planet, we find the solution that does align with our values. Your animals deserve it, and so do you.


  1. Linda Dawson December 14, 2016 at 11:29 am - Reply

    Thank you for this explanation and for doing things the right, healthy way. My chickens are thriving on your feed. They are happy and healthy.

  2. libby burr December 14, 2016 at 2:21 pm - Reply

    As always, we here at Bridger Animal Nutrition value your knowledge & commitment and always read your informative newsletters! This was a great example of leaning “the rest of the story”.
    We love what you do and so do our customers! Thank you
    -Libby Burr, owner

    • Scratch and Peck Feeds December 14, 2016 at 2:31 pm - Reply

      That is wonderful! Thank you, Libby! We work hard to ensure we’re producing the cleanest feeds and supplements for animals, and want our customers to be confident in what they’re purchasing. We can’t say it enough: You are what your animals eat!

  3. Trish December 20, 2016 at 11:54 pm - Reply

    It’s all about trust & these days so many companies can’t be trusted. Thank you for going the extra mile to provide us with safe feed we can trust!

    • Scratch and Peck Feeds December 21, 2016 at 6:42 am - Reply

      You are welcome, Trish. Producing clean, healthy feeds for animals is too important to take shortcuts — it’s worth it to us to go the extra mile. Thank you for supporting what we do!

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