How is Palm Oil Made?

Published on: March 14, 2024

Palm oil, a highly versatile and widely used vegetable oil, is derived from the fruit of oil palm trees, primarily the African oil palm (Elaeis guineensis) and, to a lesser extent, the American oil palm (Elaeis oleifera) and the maripa palm (Attalea maripa). The process of making palm oil involves several stages from the cultivation of the palm trees to the extraction and refining of the oil. Here’s an in-depth look at how palm oil is made.

Cultivation of Oil Palms

The journey of palm oil begins with the cultivation of oil palm trees, which thrive in tropical regions around the Equator. These trees are grown in large plantations predominantly found in Indonesia and Malaysia, which together account for around 85% of global palm oil production. Oil palms are preferred for their high productivity, as they yield more oil per hectare than any other major oilseed crop. The trees start producing fruit, which resembles a large reddish cluster, within 3 to 4 years of planting and can continue to be productive for up to 30 years.

Harvesting the Fruit

The oil palm produces bunches of fruit known as fresh fruit bunches (FFBs), which are harvested manually or with the aid of machinery. Harvesting involves cutting down the FFBs from the palm trees when they are ripe. The ripeness of the fruit is crucial for the quality of the oil extracted; hence, workers are trained to identify the optimal harvesting time. The harvested bunches are then transported to a mill for processing, typically occurring within 24 hours to prevent spoilage and ensure maximum oil quality.

Extracting the Oil

At the mill, the first step is sterilizing the FFBs using steam. This process kills enzymes, prevents spoilage, and loosens the fruits from the bunches. After sterilization, the fruits are separated from the bunches in a process called threshing. The separated fruits are then pressed in a digester to extract the crude palm oil. The oil is squeezed out from the fruit’s pulp in a screw press, and the remaining solid waste is used as organic fertilizer or fuel.

Refining the Oil

The crude palm oil extracted is then sent for refining to remove impurities, odors, and unwanted contaminants, resulting in a clean, refined product. The refining process includes degumming (removing phospholipids), neutralization (removing free fatty acids), bleaching (removing color), and deodorizing (removing odor and taste). The refined palm oil is then ready for packaging and distribution, entering the market as an ingredient in a vast array of products, from foods to cosmetics and biofuels.

Environmental and Ethical Considerations

While palm oil production is economically significant, it has been associated with various environmental and social issues, such as deforestation, habitat degradation, and violations of indigenous peoples’ rights. Sustainable palm oil production practices, certified by organizations like the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), are increasingly being adopted to address these challenges. These practices aim to balance the economic benefits of palm oil production with the need to protect the environment and ensure social equity.

In conclusion, the making of palm oil is a complex process that starts from the cultivation of oil palm trees to the extraction and refining of the oil. As consumers, being aware of the origins of palm oil and choosing products that contain sustainably sourced palm oil can contribute to the promotion of responsible production practices, thereby helping to mitigate the environmental and social impacts associated with its production.

Join us at Palm Done Right, where we are passionately committed to transforming the industry through transparency, integrity, and sustainability.

Embrace the power of organic palm oil, a product that not only enriches your health with its natural benefits but also respects our planet and its inhabitants. Our red palm oil is a testament to purity and quality, retaining its wholesome nutrients and vibrant color without harming the earth. We stand for sustainable palm oil, ensuring that every drop you use contributes to the support of environmentally friendly practices, the protection of wildlife, and the empowerment of communities. Make the choice today to be part of a movement that values ethical responsibility, environmental stewardship, and premium quality. Choose Palm Done Right, because together, we can make a difference for our health, our planet, and our future.

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with Palm Done Right

Palm can be grown for good, bringing benefits to:

  • Our planet, due to palm oil’s land efficiency.
  • Local communities, due to the economic development oil palm production creates.
  • Our market, due to palm oil’s versatility and functionality as an ingredient, lifting product quality and performance.

Together, we can influence change for:

  • Manufacturers that are still using conflict palm oil for their products.
  • Retailers that are still listing products that contain conflict palm oil.
  • Brokers and distributors that are still supplying their customers with products that contain conflict palm oil.
  • Shoppers that have the power to vote with their dollar.

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