Why My Family Loves Lard

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Today I’m rendering lard in my kitchen.

Wait, did I just say a dirty word? You’d certainly think so. When I say the word “lard” to some people, they do a double-take, as though I’ve just uttered some foul language and should go wash my mouth out with soap.

The picture shows two young adults who appear to be happy and healthy because they are imbibing. All joking aside, their vibrant health was not from the alcohol they drank nor their sparkling personalities. Lard is certainly not new to the human diet, but over the last 100 or so years, it’s been increasingly absent from our tables and kitchens.

Why is lard such a misunderstood food?

I’ve got one word: Marketing. Fats have been wrongly villanized in medical and health communities for many decades.  This translated over to the food industry very well, and just as lard was once marketed as a health food, unhealthy, artificial fats started being marketed to the public just after the turn of the 20th century when hydrogenated vegetable oils were created. It was more cost-effective to produce these products because the meat industry had a monopoly on lard and tallow used for soaps, candles, and cooking.

Proctor & Gamble hired a chemist to create a product that resembled lard so they could produce soap and other products for less money. It looked so much like lard, “Crisco” was born. It was at this time that saturated fat and cholesterol in particular, became “unhealthy” to consume.  No longer were people encouraged to eat real animal fats, but instead, fake, modern fats. Despite the fact that lard is comprised of 40% monounsaturated fat, as a culture, we’ve continued to bestow a most unfair criticism of it. All because, dare I say it…it’s an animal fat!

Deaths from heart disease were rare prior to 1920s in the U.S. Prior to that, tallow (beef fat) and lard were the most widely used for cooking. Around the turn of the 20th century, shortening (think Crisco) started becoming a more commonly used “fat” in people’s kitchens. Read this history of cottonseed oil and how it took the place of lard and tallow in American kitchens due to the discovery of hydrogenation.

Perhaps lately you may have seen some of the various articles circulating around proclaiming lard’s true health benefits. Here, or perhaps here. Of course, these articles are heralding the benefits of real, unhydrogenated lard which is very important. Most of what you’ll find on the consumer or commercial markets is hydrogenated lard, if you can find it at all. The other point they make which I don’t agree with is that because it has less saturated fat (about 40%, as compared to other animal fats like dairy and red meat), it’s better for us.  This couldn’t be more false.

Lard is really a health food!

Actually, we need many different kinds of fats in our diets to be healthy. That includes saturated fats, monounsaturated fats, and even a little polyunsaturated fats – but from real foods that are unadulterated. The source is of key importance. For thousands of years, people have eaten real fats, and this practice has ensured the survival of humankind. Dr. Weston A. Price discovered in his travels that there were no successful plant-based societies, and that those who were eating animal fats in their diets were healthiest.

A recent article on the Weston A. Price Foundation site by Dr. Kaayla Daniel reveals just how detrimental plant-based diets can be, that they are actually responsible for depleting our bodies of critical nutrients such as B12, and lead to high mortality rates caused by heart disease.

The way food is produced now has contributed greatly to metabolic disorder of which heart disease, obesity, food allergies, auto-immune disorders, hormonal problems, diabetes and blood sugar problems, and other problems like cavities and osteoporosis are all a part. But conventional medical and health professionals seldom mention this fact. They just say fats and meats and cholesterol are bad for us to eat.

If you do consume lard, you’ll want to render it yourself from the fat of hogs on pasture. Local farmers who are mindful of sustainable practices can provide this healthy fat for very little cost or sometimes free. Last year I wrote a post about the Forgotten Craft of Rendering Lard. For recipes on how to render your own and where to get the best lard, a bit about the history of lard, and more about why it’s such a wrongly feared, but beneficial health food, please read it and pass it along to those you know who could benefit from reading it.

Benefits of lard from pastured hogs

  • Excellent source of Vitamin D, of which most people are deficient
  • Boosts the immune and digestive system (which are intertwined)
  • Supports cardiovascular and arterial health
  • Provides lasting energy for the body, and keeps blood sugar and metabolism even
  • Enhances bone, cartilidge, teeth, and muscle health
  • Benefits the liver and pancreas by
  • Can be used for higher heat cooking since it contains saturated fats, which are stable in heat – up to 375 degrees
  • Is generally odorless and does not impart the “pork” taste to other foods, so is versatile in many types of cooking

How do I love lard? Let me count the ways!

We use lard for so many things we do in our kitchen. Here’s just a few uses:

  • home-made refried beans
  • desserts and pies
  • frying vegetables
  • braising meats
  • cooking potatoes (and especially, home-made french fries!)
  • popcorn
  • fried plantains or apples
  • stir-fry
  • cooking eggs, pancakes, crepes, and other breakfast foods
  • cracklings (which I have yet to try, but if you asked the Ingalls family whether they are good, you’d get a resounding YES!)

So, if you’re thinking about using lard for cooking, you should know it has amazing health benefits as well as versatility in many things you can prepare…but most of all, that it’s definitely not the enemy it’s been made out to be by conventional health sources.

Like many things, scientists have at one time condemned it and are now starting to come around again. Remember the scare we had for many years about how eggs were bad for our health? Now eggs are considered healthy to eat again. But eggs aren’t healthy to eat because they don’t have as much cholesterol as we once thought. It’s because eggs have nutrients we need for health – CLA (conjugated linoleic acid), Omega 3 essential fatty acids, cholesterol, Vitamins A, D, E, K, minerals like calcium, iron, zinc, phosphorus, and magnesium, folate, B6, B12, and choline, . Just like lard from hogs on pasture, eggs from hens on pasture are much higher in these essential nutrients.

The problem has been that because our food system has changed so many traditional foods from what they used to be – life-giving, nutrient-dense components of health – we are now seeing the results on our well-being, which is a decline in health due to the consumption of foods that are barely recognizable from what they once were – processed, irradiated, pasteurized, full of hormones, antibiotics, pesticides/herbicides, residue from chemical fertilizers, GMOs, and other harmful substances.

More information:
The forgotten craft of rendering lard
The importance of dietary fats
Looking for lard in your area? Check out:
Lard Lover’s network

This post is part of Sarah The Healthy Home Economist’s Monday Mania Carnival and

Mind, Body, and Sole’s Wildcrafting Wednesdays Blog Hop. 

5 Comments

  • February 27, 2012 - 1:13 PM | Permalink

    Great, thorough post. Thanks for calling out the “healthier unsaturated fats” myth. I’ll direct the next person who gives me grief about lard right here.

  • February 28, 2012 - 3:10 PM | Permalink

    Lard is great, as long as it comes from pastured hogs and is not hydrogenated. I am careful never to buy the hydrogenated lard sold in most supermarkets – that stuff is processed so its very molecular structure is artificially changed, which allows it to be stored at room temperature.

    I tasted the hydrogenated stuff once, and it was horrible. Never again!

    But the lard Raine is talking about, real lard from pastured hogs, is a very old food and a cooking treasure, along with being full of great nutrients.

    We roasted a chicken yesterday, simply seasoned but basted with pastured lard, with some potatoes in the pan. So easy, so simple, and incredibly delicious. The lard kept the chicken meat moist, while the crisp skin was beyond great. And the potatoes were incredible.

  • March 7, 2012 - 10:28 AM | Permalink

    What a great article! :) Thanks for sharing this, I might just have to use it in one of my classes. :)

    Thanks for sharing it with Wildcrafting Wednesday.

    ~ Kathy

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