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How do you use sheep tallow?

Updated: Mar 29

This is our second post in our tallow series.

One of our goals here at Borderlands Farm is to try to use as much of the animal as possible. To me, this is a long-term goal that is going to require a series of time-intensive projects along the way to achieve, as I have already learned that things like lamb skin and sheep skin are complicated (and expensive!) to do on a small scale. We started with the sheep fat because it was the second opportunity that was brought to our attention that seemed feasible for us to tackle now (dog treats out of lamb organs came first). As I started to research uses of sheep tallow, four main products rose to the top. Folks from homesteaders to farmers to companies (mostly from Australia and New Zealand it seems) continue to make sheep tallow-based products today.

How is sheep tallow used?

Cooking: Sheep tallow has a high smoke point, which makes it suitable for high-heat cooking methods like frying and sautéing. Tallow imparts a rich and savory flavor to dishes, enhancing the taste of fried and roasted foods. It's commonly used in traditional lamb dishes and cuisines where its distinct taste is appreciated. Around the world, it is often used in cooking and baking as a substitute for butter or other vegetable oils.

Skin Care: Sheep tallow has been used historically as a skincare ingredient due to its moisturizing properties. It's argued that tallow’s fatty acids can help hydrate the skin, making it potentially beneficial for dry skin and other skin conditions. Tallow also contains small amounts of vitamin E. There is not a lot of reliable research in this area (especially when comparing beef to sheep tallow) probably because the skin care industry has been moving away from animal products for several decades.

Candle Making: Both sheep and beef tallow was traditionally used for making candles due to its wide availability. It was one of the primary sources of lighting before the widespread use of electricity. Natural candle blends (e.g. sheep tallow and beeswax) are more common now and can solve some of the drawbacks of using tallow in candles.

Soap Production: Sheep tallow is used to make soap due to its ability to produce a rich lather and provide moisturizing properties. Traditional soap-making often involved the use of tallow (beef and sheep) as a central ingredient. Unlike tallow candles which had some drawbacks, tallow fell out of favor not due to its performance in soap but due to the movement away from using animal products.

Which brings us back to why we are making soap out of sheep tallow. For us, tallow is a byproduct of meat production. We obviously aren’t growing lambs to make tallow! Making soap and other products with it allows us to divert that fat from the landfill thereby reducing waste. In our mind, using the whole animal shows respect to the animal and supports a sustainable food system.

Image 1: Our tallow soap trials.

Image 2: A collection of commercially available tallow products (salve, candle, cooking oil, liquid soap)

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