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The Skinny on Lard

A classic ad, launched at the beginning of lard's public demise.

I haven’t found a good local source of lard — AKA good old-fashioned rendered pig fat.

(If you live in the Texas Hill Country and know where to get lard, please let me know!)

Before the age of hydrogenated Crisco, Lard was King. Only the industrial revolution, with it’s filthy animal husbandry, gave lard a bad name. Science promised us better, healthier fats and gave us… hydrogenated vegetable oils (the HORROR!).

And now, for whatever reason, all the lard available in grocery stores is hydrogenated. I have no idea why.

These days, lard is making a comeback. Don’t believe me? Check out this article in the San Francisco Chronicle.

From the article:

“It’s not the demon that it’s portrayed as,” says Shirley Corriher, a biochemist and author of several books on the science of cooking.

Lard could also play a role in restoring an important balance between the types of polyunsaturated fats in our diets, says Susan Allport, author of “The Queen of Fats” (2006). In the last century, use of corn, peanut, safflower and sunflower oils, which have high levels of omega-6 fatty acids, surged in the American diet. Consumption of omega-3s, found in leaves and some animal fats, has flattened or fallen.

The ratio between these two fats, which carry out completely different tasks within cells, appears to be critical – and way out of whack. Typical lard is low in omega-6s, which alone argues for its use over most seed oils, Allport says. Better still, free-range pigs that feast on greens and tubers instead of grains produce meat and fat with higher levels of omega-3s

What’s that you say? Free-range meats are higher in Omega-3s and offer a healthier balance of fats?


The article continues:

The organic and sustainable food movements contend the industrial food system’s reliance on drugs, chemicals and unnatural feed are sickening humankind and the environment in manifold ways. The increasing use of lard fits right in – it’s hardly ecologically consistent to buy a free-range animal and then toss out 15 or more pounds of a perfectly usable part.

“That’s one of our core beliefs,” says Scott Vermeire, farmers’ market manager for Prather Ranch Meat Co., the organic animal operation in the Mount Shasta foothills that began retailing lard from Berkshires earlier this year. “We try to have the most reverence for the animal by using it from head to tail.”

Fortunately, the specific properties of pork fat make it a versatile tool, a veritable lipid chameleon. Because of its high smoke point, lard is exemplary in frying and sauteing, producing the clean and crisp results that Perbacco’s Terje seeks. Because lard has little water and melts into comparatively large crystals, it acts as ideal spacers between layers of dough, creating flaky and tender pastries.

I appreciate the age old ethic of consuming every usable part of an animal, and the writer in me especially liked the phrase “a veritable lipid chameleon.”

So, a group of friends and I are thinking of getting together to render lard ourselves. The SFChronicle article included a handy recipe for doing just that.

I’ll keep you posted on the results.

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I am a passionate advocate for REAL FOOD -- food that's sustainable, organic, local, and traditionally-prepared according to the wisdom of our ancestors. I'm also an author and a nutrition educator. I enjoy playing in the rain, a good bottle of Caol Ila scotch, curling up with a page-turning book, sunbathing on my hammock, and watching my three children explore their world.
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29 Responses to The Skinny on Lard
  1. skinnygirl
    December 16, 2008 | 11:36 am

    I clicked through to the article and was amazed to read about all those chefs giving lard rave reviews. It’s inspiring. I’ve always substituted butter when pastry or cookie recipes called for shortening, and just lived with the less than ideal result. I never even thought to use lard, which is apparently what shortening was invented to replace.

  2. Anita
    December 16, 2008 | 11:53 am

    ME TOO! I want some lard too! I live in Missouri!

  3. Anita
    December 16, 2008 | 4:04 pm

    Just talk to a lady about lard today. She told me, “When you have a pig butchered or know of someone who butchers pigs, ask them to save you the fat so that you can render your own lard.”

    Just thought I’d let you know.

  4. KristenM
    December 16, 2008 | 5:31 pm

    Anita,

    That’s what we’re planning on doing, soon! I was even thinking of calling some local “green” pig farms and asking what they do with the fat that people don’t claim. Do they sell it? Chuck it?

  5. Anna
    December 16, 2008 | 6:32 pm

    I render lard, using pork fat from hogs raised by a nice couple in the rural part of my county. Love the stuff. Now I save the olive oil for salads.

  6. Spinner
    December 17, 2008 | 8:59 am

    Hey there, Kristen! I just found your blog from your guest post over at Cheeseslave. I happen to live in Austin and do know where to get some good, pre-rendered lard. I originally contacted them to get fat that I could render myself, but they’ve done the work already. And I’m lazy.

    Peach Creek has forage-raised berkshires, http://www.peachcreekfarm.us/. They have a stand at the Austin Farmer’s Market (4th and Guadalupe). I’ve also bought bacon, ground pork and a pork shoulder roast from them. So yummy. I used the lard to make two very failed pie crusts. I cried. I didn’t follow a recipe and I was tired when I started. Not a good combination. I still have one stick left and am waiting to use it until I have time and energy to follow a recipe.

    I’m going to start obsessively reading *all* your posts now. Work is slow.

  7. KristenM
    December 17, 2008 | 11:53 am

    Oh, God bless you, Spinner!

    That’s great news. How much does it cost? And I wonder if it would still be more cost effective to render it ourselves?

    Either way, I’m excited and can’t wait to pass this news on.

  8. Amber
    December 18, 2008 | 8:49 am

    I went to Whole Foods looking for lard a few weeks ago and they didn’t have any. In fact, the guy behind the meat counter didn’t even know what lard was! However, they offered to give me any fat scraps they had for free. Now that I have a recipe for making lard I might have to go back and take them up on the offer.

  9. Spinner
    December 18, 2008 | 12:42 pm

    I believe I spent $5/lb. and it was more cost effective to get the pre-rendered at that time. One thing that don’t sell is the pre-renedered leaf lard. I think that’s what it’s called. You know, the fat from around the organs?

    Can you tell me where you are getting your raw milk?

    Thanks!

  10. Ed Bruske
    December 18, 2008 | 5:01 pm

    Pork fat actually qualifies as a mono-unsaturated fat, just like olive oil. Since mono-unsaturated fats are not solid at room temperature (saturated fats are), the lard coming from places like Smithfield typically are hydrogenated so that they can be delivered to you in a neat, brick-like package.

  11. KristenM
    December 18, 2008 | 7:24 pm

    Ed,

    What I don’t get is this: why not just deliver the lard as a liquid, then? Sure, if/when you put it in your fridge it’ll solidify, but what’s so important about it being in a neat, brick-like package?

  12. Jan
    January 7, 2009 | 4:33 pm

    I’m gonna stick some lard into an NMR machine and find out what’s there. Lard is solid fat; unsaturated chemical bonds tend to mak polyunsaturated fats, well, oils. Maybe there are omega-3’s there … but they are oils usually. Lard has got to be full of unsaturated or trans fats, else it wouldn’t be solid. And that is one reason food processors use hydrogenated oils: they are more saturated and tend to be solids, which is more convenient, if not healthy, for many kinds of cooking, candies for example. Maybe wikipedia will tell me; it always surprises.
    oh… forgot … no more acess to NMR :(
    -J

  13. KristenM
    January 7, 2009 | 4:55 pm

    Jan — That’s just it. Good lard isn’t solid at room temperature. You have to refrigerate it or hydrogenate it to get it to be solid. That’s why I was looking for a good source of unhydrogenated lard. Lard is mostly mono-unsaturated fat (48%), with the remaining being saturated (40%) and poly-unsaturated (12%). The amount of Omega 3s and Omega 6s will vary based on the pig’s diet, but the more a pig eats like a pig (natural foraging) the better the ratio between the two (sometimes getting as even as 1:1).

  14. S
    October 7, 2010 | 10:13 pm

    while fresh lard is a much better option than anything fake and hydrogenated have you ever researched pork products?pork is an unclean meat..full of toxins just like shellfish. pigs dont sweat and have a very high percentage of body fat where most of the toxins they eat are stored.this is true even when they eat a natural diet.i wish i could direct you to a website but ive gotten most of my information from books. that being said there are places to find it if you are interested.if you live in the hill country it shouldnt be very hard to find a local farmer raising pigs who just might sell products at a farmers market.even if he doesnt sell lard if he sells any type of fresh pork product he would probably have the material and might be willing to render the excess fat for lard or sell the fat to you.another place to find lard is at mexican markets. look for any that has a butcher shop or ‘carneceria’ inside.they almost always sell fresh rendered lardby the meats. its quite cheap too,although i doubt theyll be selling any from organically raised pigs.

  15. Connie R
    February 6, 2011 | 8:03 pm

    I’ve been rendering lard for years….started when my youngest who was seven was diagnosed with severe acid reflux….relationship with his dr ended badly when I suggested instead of prescribing perscriptions (one of which was taken off the market 5 years later when linked to heart problems) I would prefer to know why he had acid reflux, wondered at the cause and suggested perhaps it was a food allergy….those were my initial uneducated thoughts….today he is 24….acid reflux flares up when he indulges in processed foods…..i embarked on an intense research mission for two years after his dr refused to speak to me where I learned this low fat no fat, chmical laden unnatural diet is killing our families. A little known fact about lard is that it is the next best dietary source of vitamin D second only to fatty fish. It used to be used in all breads and baked goods and there is a direct correlation between the introduction of vegetable shortenings and oils and the increase of heart disease, obesity and diabetes. I render it, and clean it and it comes out white as snow….makes the very best bread and pie crust. The health of my entire family improved. I am almost 50 years old, and have the hair, skin and nails of someone in her thirties. I run 5 mi three times a week and have experienced no symptoms of obvious onset of menopause. Switching to lard was the first step. There are significant others as well, but it my experience that vegetable oils are not the boon they were first purported to be.

    • EvaEva
      December 21, 2012 | 11:44 pm

      Thanks for your comments, Connie. Though I rarely have a need for lard, I am at this page now because I am looking for a place to acquire some leaf lard for a pie crust I’ll be making for Christmas. Ok, back to why I am thanking you for your post; – so, though I rarely have a need for lard, I do strongly advocate ALL natural fats, sugars, etc. I am vehemently opposed to any “diet” foods, and will go without unless I am really really hungry. I use only full fat milk, heavy cream, full fat yoghurt (with cream top), turbinado sugar, etc… My argument to the potential naysayer is to just eat less. I am not yet 50, but I am a size 6, just bought and evening gown in size 4, and continue to pursue my fitness/tone goals. Food should be beautiful and fulfilling. Food is love. It should feel good to eat. Our culture seems to have veered off into a strange FAT-BAD-CARBS-BAD!!! land and an even stranger relationship with food.

      To your point about how so much of what as sold as food is really destroying our bodies – I have another important piece to add to that. I have suffered with GERD since I was 8 years old. For a while, I took Prilosec, but I soon developed a tolerance to it and had to take more and more, so I just stopped it altogether. I have learned how to, without any pills, manage it with how, when, what, and how much I eat. One of the crucial moments in my education about this happened as follows; Over time, I had stopped using milk, using only soy ‘milk’. During that time, my incidences of debilitating heartburn flare-ups (they would take me out of commission for 24 hours) increased to an alarming level. (Oh, and PS, visits to doctors were utterly useless, so I stopped asking them about this). Then I read an article about how, because it costs less, most of the prisoners’ diets in the US are based upon soy, and over time, there has been a drastic increase GI afflictions such as GERD. The soy-based food may cost less, but the medical problems and cost of treating them far outweighs any savings that may be had. After reading that article, I decided to put whole milk and full-fat dairy back into my diet. My incidences of flare-ups decreased dramatically. I still get attacks, but FAR less frequently.

      It is far more worthwhile to me to wait for a better meal/cook a better meal that I know has the nutrition that my system needs, rather than just getting something because it is ‘convenient’. That convenience costs too much on the other side. Just my 2 cents. :)

  16. Katy
    August 2, 2011 | 4:26 pm

    Love this…Oh, and another reason we gave up lard as a nation? Because it was needed for the war effort during World War 2!

    http://mises.org/daily/5136

  17. Anne Barrett
    August 3, 2011 | 7:35 am

    The problem for many of us with Lard is that God said not to eat pigs. And lard, as you pointed out, is pig fat.
    would not rendered suet (beef fat) do the same job?
    well, no! We are told NOT to eat the fat of an animal at all!

    • Gail
      September 24, 2011 | 8:16 am

      I’m not a Biblical scholar: but in context (Acts 11) this refers to God extending salvation to Gentiles- giving Peter permission to eat with Gentiles without regard for the Jewish food restrictions. Just a thought…
      4 Starting from the beginning, Peter told them the whole story: 5 “I was in the city of Joppa praying, and in a trance I saw a vision. I saw something like a large sheet being let down from heaven by its four corners, and it came down to where I was. 6 I looked into it and saw four-footed animals of the earth, wild beasts, reptiles and birds. 7 Then I heard a voice telling me, ‘Get up, Peter. Kill and eat.’

      8 “I replied, ‘Surely not, Lord! Nothing impure or unclean has ever entered my mouth.’

      9 “The voice spoke from heaven a second time, ‘Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.’ 10 This happened three times, and then it was all pulled up to heaven again.

      • Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little
        January 4, 2013 | 3:08 pm

        If the person you’re responding to is Jewish or Muslim, the Acts of the Apostles isn’t particularly relevant to them. And if they’re Christian, it probably isn’t news to them. In any case, it’s not very respectful to try to argue someone out of their food restrictions. (Or religious beliefs.)

        Unfortunately, I also can’t do a heck of a lot with animal fats because then I couldn’t feed my vegetarian loved ones. So I’ve been relying on vegetable shortening for my deep fry needs. Do y’all have a healthier yet still non-animal-sourced recommendation?

  18. Debbie
    August 22, 2011 | 4:26 pm

    Dai Due sells lard at the downtown Austin farmers market for $10/pint. “Fresh leaf fat from pastured hogs, slowly rendered and strained through a fine seive and jarred”

  19. peggy
    October 27, 2011 | 12:27 pm

    My grandmother was 98 1/2 when she died of natural causes (really a broken heart missing my grandfather). I always wondered how she managed to be so healthy up til her last day. She never went to the doctor, never had various tests, never took any medicines. And on top of that, she ate food made with LARD all her life, real butter, and whole fat cream. Nothing low fat or fat free ever passed her lips. Now that I am finding out that all that we have been led to believe is false, NOW it all makes perfect sense!

  20. Sue Peer
    November 11, 2011 | 7:36 am

    We raise and process our own pork. In appreciation for the gift of life we do our best not to waste anything. I was in a delimma about using the lard but this info helps that decision.

  21. Daniel
    May 24, 2012 | 3:42 pm

    Here in northern nj I found lard at a small mexican store. First I went to a big supermarket and stalked out the Mexican aisle until an old Mexican lady came by. I asked her where to find ingredients for tamales, and she told me where to go and what to ask for. The shop clerk set me up with everything i needed. Apparently lard is key to tamales because the masa (corn flour) is mostly tasteless, but the lard tastes like liquid gold. The tub I got was liquid like corn oil, but with white grains floating in the top 1/3. I assume those were the saturated fats separating from the unsatuturated ones. I was expecting something more the consistency of butter, but after reading this post the liquidity makes more sense. I have since rendered my own lard from scraps cut off pork ribs and roasts.

  22. Tanya M
    September 27, 2012 | 4:59 pm

    I just found out about Peach Creek Farms, they sell lard and other meat products. They are in Rosanky tx.

  23. Clara
    March 28, 2013 | 2:04 pm

    I just found leaf lard at one of my local farms. They even posted directions for rendering it on their website.

    http://www.cherrygrovefarm.com/2013/02/leaf-lard-doesnt-grow-on-trees/

    It is easy and delicious! And so are the cracklings-the bits left afterwards. Great snack, or topping for salads or something.

  24. Shellye
    April 2, 2013 | 10:19 pm

    So is it really “full of toxins” as claimed by “S” in October of 2010?

  25. David Long
    May 13, 2013 | 12:02 am

    I’ve found ‘pure’ lard in Richmond, VA. made by Smithfield at $2 a pound. The are a large pork producer and probably feed their animals GMO corn – but that’s he closest to organic and at least a step above lard with presrvatives.

  26. keli leo
    June 18, 2014 | 1:37 pm

    Kristen Michaelis

    Thanks for sharing this article. I enjoyed it. Still looking for real lard (leaf lard non-hydrogenated)in my local grocery store. Anyone that knows of a co-op with organic produce in the South-Central, TX area please let me know. I am very interested in one!

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Who Am I?

My name is Kristen Michaelis. I'm a nutrition educator, author, and mother of three. I adore hats, happy skirts, horizons full of storm clouds, the full-bodied feel of wind as I ride motorcylces, reading in my hammock, and a hearty shot of Caol Ila scotch. I'm also a rebel with a cause.
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