“It didn’t just fall out of favor…it was PUSHED,” according to Robert Smith of NPR. How unfair that the financial might of giant business and corporate interest removed this pure, all-natural fat from our kitchens.
Animal fat has been around many times longer than the FDA – why were we so quick to toss lard “under the bus”?
A century ago, lard was big money and a standard pantry item with which EVERYONE cooked. It was stable, cooked everything beautifully, and it was extremely affordable.
Its attributes were, and still are;
- Terrific fat for frying, as it is able to withstand high heat
- Unsurpassed for flaky pastry crusts, especially when combined with butter
- Can be refrigerated for 2 months or up to 2 years in the freezer
- Has antimicrobial properties
- Contains just 40% saturated fat (as compared with 60% for butter)
- Level of monounsatruated fat (the “good” fat) is 45% (as compared with butter’s paltry 23%)
- The saturated fat in lard contains 1/3 stearic acid, shown to have a beneficial effect on cholesterol levels
- It is high in oleic acid
- Lard has only half the level of saturated fat found in palm kernel or coconut oil, often used commercially in its place.
While the move away from our ethnic and country roots may have contributed to the disappearance of lard in our American diet, the big food industry certainly did their part. Their mass market and money-fueled advertising helped to convince us that their highly processed and chemical impregnated products would make our life so much better than this “old school’ fat we had been using.
So how did we lose lard?
Historically, your friends at Proctor & Gamble owned a large number of cottonseed oil factories producing oil for candles & soap. Along came the electric light bulb, which put an instant “crimp” in their oil business. Their next question was, “what will we do with all of this cottonseed oil?” Along came a scientist with a formula for hydrogenation, and voila, Crisco was born! That name is a contraction of “crystallized cottonseed oil.”
What followed of course, was a massive ad program to discredit nasty old lard. They told you about this wonderful product produced in a lab by those food scientists in their tidy white coats. So… out with the PIG and in with BIG Business. Poor old lard didn’t have a chance.
As is so often the case of late, the pendulum is beginning to swing back. The health sciences have proven that moving back to the earth and eating locally and sustainably produced foods should be our focus. We now seem to understand that natural, less, or unprocessed foods are the best thing we can do for our families’ nutrition.
The obituary of solid shortening was written as soon as we found out it was full of the evil “Trans Fats.” These thankfully died, or were at least “mortally wounded,” along with high fructose corn syrup and the rest of the “franken-foods,” once we found out the Whole Horrible Truth. When McDonalds, New York City, and the State of California banned Trans fats, hopefully your hometowns took notice. What a shame that so many Americans were the ” test case Guinea pigs for this experiment” with the resulting obesity epidemic.
Just in time for your holiday cooking, order our all-natural, farm-fresh, totally natural, non-hydrogenated Mangalitsa lard — rendered here on our farm for your holiday pies. Grandma definitely knew best!!
Pete Wells of the NY Times food editor, refers to lard as “the most elegant fat I’ve ever met.”
For more information and some great recipes check out a book by Jennifer McLagan, author of Fat: An Appreciation of a Misunderstood Ingredient