Lard is infamous for making crispy fried chicken, flaky pie crusts and raising cholesterol levels, with the last one being a falsehood debunked by recent research (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3650498/). Contrary to popular belief, lard is a nutrient rich source of healthy fats, if sourced from a farmer that practices sustainable matured farming methods.
So what made lard fall out of favor in American households? Simply well-targeted advertisement, the desire to be “modern” and a national best seller book called the Jungle. In 1906 Upton Sinclair wrote The Jungle, a fictionalized portrayal of the harsh working conditions of the Chicago meat-packing industry. In the novel, Sinclair described the gruesome and unsafe working conditions that were apart of the lard production, even describing a scene where workers fell into rendering tanks only to be discovered too late, leading the public to be horrified of the possibility that their lard contained human body parts. Sinclair’s motive was not to kill the lard industry, but actually an attempt to sway political sympathy for a socialist movement. He later stated, “I aimed at the public’s heart, and by accident, I hit it in the stomach”.
The Jungle was widely successful, and at the same time, Proctor and Gamble were working on a way to turn cottonseed oil into hard soap. What they ended up with though was hydrolyzed lard, and seeing their opportunity, they marketed the product as a clean, pure and digestible alternative to leaf lard.
The Skinny on Lard:
- Lard is a healthy fat
- Monounsaturated fatty acids (known as MUFA’s) are one of the healthy types of fats, avocados and olive oils are more of the widely known MUFA’s but pasteurized lard is also part of this uncontroversial group of healthy fats. MUFA’s help lowers the risk of heart disease and help lower LDL (bad) cholesterol while maintaining HDL (good) levels. They also help with improving the function of blood vessels and help with blood sugar control(http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/fat/art-20045550) and (https://healthyforgood.heart.org/Eat-smart/Articles/Monounsaturated-Fats). According to the USDA, lard is composed of 45% monounsaturated fat, making it one of the best sources of monounsaturated fat for a paleo lifestyle along with avocado oil. Lard does contain a substantial
- The amount of saturated fat (which we now know has been unjustly vilified) in lard is about 39%, which is key in helping to protect the monounsaturated fats from oxidation (http://anhinternational.org/2013/02/13/saturated-fat-is-not-the-culprit-in-heart-disease/).
- Lard is a good source of Vitamin D
- Pasurized lard is a great source of Vitamin D and cholesterol (http://empoweredsustenance.com/lard-is-healthy/ and https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4735054/)
- Lard is low in omega-6’s, pasteurized pigs have higher amounts of omega-3’s. Pastured lard has is low omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acid ratio (3.6:1), which supports a healthy heart (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3076650/). While margarine has a ratio of (24:1), which is typical for the standard American diet that is estimated at 30:1 ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acid ratio.
- Leaf lard is the most common type of lard used in cooking and baking because it has a neutral flavor and is a very stable fat that is resistant to oxidation. Leaf lard is rendered from the soft fat found around the kidneys and loins of the pig. It doesn’t impart any meaty, or porky flavor.
- Fat lard is lard that is rendered from any type of fat found on the pig and usually has more of a porky flavor.
- Leaf lard is popular for making cooking because it has a high smoke point of 370* which makes it ideal for sautéing and frying. It’s moisture content and molecular structure also makes leaf lard a favorite among bakers for perfectly flaky pie crusts.
- Today is it almost impossible to find true leaf lard in the grocery stores. But the market is slowly expanding, with EPIC and Proper Foods selling leaf lard online (https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00N09XSRK?th=1).
- Visit your local farmer’s market to find pastured leaf lard.
- If you local farmer or butcher shop doesn’t carry pastured leaf lard, you can also render your own! Simply ask your farmer or butcher for lard (many will give this away for free) and try rendering it yourself (http://nourishedkitchen.com/how-to-render-lard/)
- Whatever you chose to do, don’t buy lard in the supermarket without reading all the ingredients. Crisco is a vegetable fat turned into a solid form at room temperature by the process of hydrogenation and contains no health benefits.
- Cookbook/recipe ideas