Lard, or rendered pork fat, is making a comeback. The once vilified cooking oil can be found once again in many restaurants and kitchens across America. If lard is not in your kitchen, here is a list of lard facts about why it should be.
Lard is traditional.
For centuries, lard was a staple fat in cooking and baking in many countries around the world and was viewed as being just as valuable as pork meat. Unfortunately, lard began to fall out of favor in the early 1900s due to the invention of Crisco. In an effort to profit from cottonseed, the by-product of cotton, Proctor & Gamble began to extract the oil through an extreme process of heating and cooling. Then, the cottonseed oil is hydrogenated in order to increase the shelf life of the rancid and unstable product. Crisco underwent an intense marketing campaign labeling it as a healthier as well as cheaper alternative to lard. Thus, through an advertising campaign, lard, a traditional cooking fat that had been used for thousands of years, began to disappear from kitchens across America.
Lard is versatile.
Unlike other cooking fats, such as olive oil or coconut oil, lard does not have a strong or overpowering flavor. Due to its neutral flavor, lard can be used in a variety of cooking preparations as it adds richness and a depth of flavor to food. Also, lard is exceptional in baked goods, such as pie crusts and biscuits, and is preferred by many bakers over shortening and butter.
Lard has a high smoke point.
A smoke point is the temperature for which oil smokes when heated. Since lard has a high smoke point, there are many cooking methods available to use with it. Lard can just as easily (and deliciously) be used to sauté vegetables as it can be used to deep fry chicken. On the other hand, oils with low smoke points are not as versatile and cannot be used in as wide a variety of cooking preparations as lard can. In addition, fats with low smoke points degrade faster when heated past their smoke point, which causes food to have a bitter or scorched flavor.
Lard is inexpensive.
Compared to other cooking fats, such as butter, high quality olive oil or coconut oil, lard is one of the most inexpensive fats to purchase. However, if already rendered lard is not available, ask a butcher or local pig rancher for pastured hog fat and render it at home.
Lard is local.
Typically, many people can find farmers or butchers who sell lard from locally raised pastured pigs usually within an hour from where they live. However, it is much harder to find local olive oil and impossible to find local coconut oil in the US. Thus, the carbon footprint is much smaller for lard as compared to other fats as well as fats that are made in factories, such as cottonseed oil and vegetable oil.
Lard is rich in vitamin D.
Not only can you obtain vitamin D from the sun but you can also obtain it through lard, which contains an estimated 1,000 IU per tablespoon. Lard is the second highest food source of vitamin D, with cod liver oil being the highest, and is actually suggested to be an even better source of vitamin D than the sun. People absorb approximately 100 to 200 IU of vitamin D for every 20 to 30 minutes of sun exposure while pigs have a much higher rate of absorption and are better able to store it due to the fat under their skin. However, this holds true only for pasture-raised pigs. In order for pigs to synthesize vitamin D, they must have access to sunlight. Factory-farmed pigs do not have access to sunlight and, thus, their lard does not contain vitamin D. Therefore, always buy lard directly from a pig rancher or a butcher who can tell you how the pigs are raised.
Lard is sustainable.
Pasture-raised pigs are a sustainable food source since they are prolific, efficiently convert kitchen scraps and a variety of other food into delicious meat, provide natural fertilizer for the land, and yield hundreds of pounds of meat as well as lard. On the other hand, a field of cotton or corn that is heavily sprayed with insecticides and processed in large factories to produce cottonseed oil and corn oil is not sustainable and places a heavy burden upon the land and environment to support it.
Lard is healthy.
Lard is approximately 48% monounsaturated fat, 40% saturated fat and 12% polyunsaturated fats. Yes, lard has monounsaturated fat, saturated fat as well as cholesterol and is healthy. Many people are starting to realize that saturated fat and cholesterol do not cause heart disease. (SOURCE) Even a heart surgeon advises against low fat diets and the consumption of seed oils (cottonseed oil, vegetable oil, corn oil) in processed foods. (SOURCE) However, the health benefits of lard are best obtained when it is from pigs that are pasture-raised and not factory farmed.