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Lard Vs. Tallow

In this article:

Definitions

History of Use

Our Sources

Fatty Acid & Nutrient Profiles

Preferable Uses

Defining Lard and Tallow – What Are They?

Lard is the rendered fat from swine animals
  • Lard is the rendered fat from swine – commonly known as pig’s fat.
  • “Rendered” fat means that the fat is heated to a melting point (around 120-150 degrees F) for a short period of time to filter the fat from any other natural meaty substances that remain after butchering.
  • The end result is called lard and is shelf-stable for up to 6 months in the right environment.
The final rendered lard is shown above – it is much softer than tallow due to the fatty acid profiles listed below
Tallow is the rendered fat from bovine animals.
  • Tallow is the rendered fat from bovine – commonly known as cow’s fat. Tallow is also the name used to define other animal fats, which can be confusing.
  • “Rendered” fat means that the fat is heated to a melting point (around 150-170 degrees F) for a short period of time to filter the fat for purity.
  • The end result is called tallow and is shelf-stable for up to 12 months in the right environment.
The final rendered tallow is shown above – it is much harder than lard due to the fatty acid profiles listed below

History of Use for Lard and Tallow

History of Lard Uses

  • FOOD: Since the dawn of humanity, humans have eaten the fats of wild animals, including hogs and swine. Fats were rendered from cooking meats over a fire and also using those fats to cook other plant matter, making them more digestible.

Lard has extensive uses in baking as a natural, healthy shortening – providing a flaky, hearty and delicious crust or bread.

  • SOAP: Animal fat soaps were the original soap made. Likely discovered by accident – a crude form of soap was reported to happen from the fat drippings cooked over a primitive fire mixed with a natural lye made from wood ash that had been filtered with rainwater, resulting in a soapy substance!
  • BEAUTY: As long as people have been using lard for food purposes, it easily migrated its way over to the beauty counter of women and men.

As lard is rendered animal fat, the composition of the lard oil is most similar to the composition of human skin’s natural sebum. This makes it often a suitable moisturizer for individuals who have sensitivities to commercial moisturizers.

Many people on the lard train like to claim that lard contains Vitamins K & B, but these claims have yet to be accepted by nutritional scientists. More on this is found below!

Lard also has a history of use for haircare. Since medieval times women have used pig fat to help regrow hair with success. Women also used to set and condition their hair with lard. The combination of lard and starches produced rigid curls and stiff hair styles for women and men in the 17th and 18th centuries.

While lard is wonderful for skincare and haircare, there are stability issues that prevent it from mainstream commercialization – which is why we add an extra dose of natural Vitamin E for preservation. Lard does not always have a consistent color, appearance, and odor from batch-to-batch based on seasonal diet and environmental exposures of the pigs.

History of Tallow Uses

  • FOOD: Since the dawn of humanity, humans have eaten the fats of ruminants, including bovine. Fats were rendered from cooking meats over a fire and also using those fats to cook other plant matter, making them more digestible.
  • SOAP: Animal fat soaps were the original soap made. Likely discovered by accident – a crude form of soap was reported to happen from the fat drippings cooked over a primitive fire mixed with a natural lye made from wood ash that had been filtered with rainwater, resulting in a soapy substance!
  • BEAUTY: Tallow has a long history in humanity of being used to soothe and moisturize skin. It is only in more recent times that plant oils and petroleum based products have taken the place of tallow in skincare.

As tallow is rendered animal fat, the composition of the tallow oil is similar to the composition of human skin’s natural sebum. This makes it often a suitable moisturizer for individuals who have sensitivities to commercial moisturizers.

Many people on the tallow train like to claim that tallow contains Vitamins A, K, & B, but these claims have yet to be accepted by nutritional scientists. More on this is found below!

While tallow is great for skincare and a hair pomade, there are stability issues that prevent it from mainstream commercialization – which is why we add an extra dose of natural Vitamin E for preservation. Tallow does not always have a consistent color, appearance, and odor from batch-to-batch based on seasonal diet and environmental exposures of the cows.

  • CANDLES: Tallow once was widely used to make molded candles before more convenient wax varieties became available—and for some time after since they continued to be a cheaper alternative. For those too poor even to avail themselves of homemade, molded tallow candles, the “tallow dip”—a reed that had been dipped in melted tallow or sometimes a strip of burning cloth in a saucer of tallow grease—was an accessible substitute. Such a candle was often simply called a “dip” or, because of its low cost, a “farthing dip” or “penny dip”.

Our Sources – Where Do We Get Our Lard and Tallow?

The source of fat we use is extremely important to us as source affects many nutritional factors of lard and tallow:

  • Pasture-Raised, Grassfed fats are very important to retain the most natural, balanced, and nutritious fatty acid profiles, which contributes to the effectiveness of our claims (described in more detail below). For instance, sunlight exposure is absolutely crucial for the development of Vitamin D3 levels.
  • Hand-Rendered fats are important to make sure no additives were unnecessarily mixed into the final product (such as nitrates, BHT, chemical bleaches, chemical preservatives, etc.) Hand-rendering also insures that the temperatures were never raised to scalding levels, which destroys some vitamins and other nutrients.
  • Farm-Fresh, Local fats are very important to insure the provision of the freshest, most nutrient-dense fats available.

Fatty Acid & Nutrient Profiles – Lard and Tallow Are Chemically Different!

First let’s review lard and tallow’s fatty acid profiles. Fatty acids are the building blocks of fat, these fats are necessary for all life forms including animals, plants, and microorganisms. All 3 categories of fats are essential for basic biological functions (including basic skincare and haircare) in their proper proportions.

Fatty AcidsLardTallow
Saturated Fats43%46%
Palmitic Acid
Stearic Acid
Myristic
28%
14%
1%
26%
17%
3%
Unsaturated Fats
(Mono & Poly)
57%54%
Monounsaturated
Oleic Acid
Palmitoleic Acid
47%
44%
3%
50%
47%
3%
Polyunsaturated
Linoleic Acid
Linolenic Acid
10%
10%
0%
4%
3%
1%
Lard and tallow are both affected by their diet, lard more-so than tallow. Pasture-raised, grass-fed lard and tallow will both have higher saturated fatty acids and lower unsaturated fatty acids – the table above is a round average estimate.

As you can see, the differences in fatty profiles vary but are still very similar! The main outlying difference in tallow from lard is that it has slightly more saturated fatty acids and an additional polyunsaturated fatty acid called Linolenic Acid. All of these minute chemical differences causes us to treat them very differently. We have to make products in various ways depending upon the fat we choose to use and their applications.

We also take into great consideration the different nutrients that (pasture-raised) lard and tallow offer. Let’s dive into that!

NutrientsLard (per 1 Tbsp)Tallow (per 1 Tbsp)
Vit. D3
Retinol-A
Choline
Vit. E
Zinc
Selenium
13 IU
5 IU
6.4mg
0.08mg
0.01mg
0.03mg
4 IU
0 IU
0 mg
0.35mg
0 mg
0.03mg
These numbers are according to educational and scientifically verified nutritional sources. You may do your own research – remember to look for scientific sources! Vitamin D3 levels are greatly affected by sunlight exposure – this is another reason why pasture-raised is so important! Did you know that Lard is the 2nd most concentrated Vitamin D3 food-source in the world, second only to Cod Live Oil?!

Due to lard’s larger nutrient profile and differing fatty acids, we find lard much more useful for certain applications than tallow and visa-versa – let’s dive deeper into that next!

Various Uses Based On All The Differences – Both Have Their Proper Places!

Lard’s Best Uses for Us

  • Hair Products
    • Since pasture-raised lard is lighter and softer in texture, higher in unsaturated fatty acids, and higher in certain nutrients like Vitamin D3 – it makes a perfect fat to use as a base for our shampoo soaps, conditioners, and hair oils!
  • Liquid Lotions & Scrubs
    • Since lard is lighter and softer in texture, it makes a perfect fat to use as a base for our liquid lotions and scrubs – insuring better stability for varying temperatures.
  • Soap Products
    • Since lard is low (0-2) on the comedogenic scale (0-5, coconut and palm oils being 4) it will not clog pores – great for facial soaps! Since it is higher in unsaturated fatty acids, it provides more bubbly lather and a squeakier cleanse.
    • A pure lard soap designed for the skin even cleanses and nourishes hair quite well – unlike pure tallow soap.
    • A pure lard soap designed for NOT washing the skin will even make a wonderful laundry, dish, and surface cleaning soap due to its superior lather abilities.
  • Bath Bombs
    • Since lard is softer at lower temperatures, it is great for fatty bath bombs – Insuring well-nourished skin and cleaner drains that won’t clog up as easily!

Tallow’s Best Uses For Us

  • Moisturizers
    • Since tallow is heavier and harder in texture, higher in saturated fatty acids, and higher in Vitamin E (also more shelf-stable) – it makes a perfect fat to use as the main base for our body butters and butter balms!
  • Soap Products
    • Since tallow is a heavier and harder fat, higher in saturated fatty acids and low (0-2) on the comedogenic scale (0-5, coconut and palm oils being 4)- it makes a good, moisturizing soap. Tallow soap has a creamy but flat lather, making it perfect for a hand/body soap!
    • NOT recommended for hair although with some practice and patience one could manage to use it as a shampoo soap – it tends to weigh down hair easily and causes more of a waxy texture.
  • Deodorants
    • Tallow makes a great fat base for our deodorants since it is hard enough to be stable, yet soft enough to apply and absorb easily on the skin.
  • Candles & Wax Melts
    • Since tallow is a harder fat, higher in saturated fatty acids – it makes a very useful candle fuel and wax melts. When mixed with beeswax in the correct proportions, tallow helps to create a brighter candle flame and softer wax melt for healthier scent distributions that require lower temperatures.

Have More Questions?

Feel free to reach out to us! You can ask us any questions via commenting below, our social media pages, email, or contact form all found in the links below. We are happy to help you learn more about this fascinating topic!

2 thoughts on “Lard Vs. Tallow

  1. So informative!!

  2. I learned so much. Thank you!

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