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  • Writer's pictureGwen

What is Tallow?

Updated: Mar 29

Welcome to the first of four posts in a series about tallow.


Tallow is a type of rendered animal fat that is obtained from the fatty tissues of animals, most often cattle (beef tallow) or sheep (lamb tallow).  For beef tallow, the primary sources of fat include the suet, which is the dense fat located around the kidneys and loins of the animal. In the case of lamb tallow, the term broadly encompasses fat from various parts of the animal, including the internal organs and areas where fat accumulates under the skin. We only use the suet fat (from around the kidneys) and the caul fat (around the other internal organs) in our soap.

  

Consumers are often familiar with lard, and so clarifying the difference can be helpful. Tallow and lard are both rendered animal fats used for various overlapping purposes, but the basic difference in terminology is due to the fact that they come from different animals. Lard is obtained from pigs and is primarily sourced from various fatty tissues found throughout the pig's body.


Tallow is composed mainly of triglycerides, which are molecules made up of fatty acids and glycerol. It contains a mixture of saturated, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated fats, although the specific composition of tallow can vary depending on factors such as the animal source, diet, and processing methods. Lard also contains a mix of saturated, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated fats, but it typically has a higher percentage of monounsaturated fats compared to tallow. This higher monounsaturated fat content can result in a softer texture at room temperature. The organ fat (suet and caul) is considered to be higher quality with more of the beneficial components. 


The process of making tallow or lard involves melting and purifying the fat through heating, separating the solid components from the liquid, and straining out any impurities. The resulting tallow is a semi-solid substance that is typically white or pale yellow in color. Some people continue this purification process through the use of salts and water to further render the soap. The goal at this point is usually to make the tallow white and completely odorless. There is debate about whether this further rendering negatively impacts the beneficial qualities of the fat.


Tallow has been used for various purposes throughout history, including cooking, soap making, candle making, and skincare. I have asked for our suet and caul fat back in order to make soap to start but considering that was a surprise to me, I’m sure there are other products on the horizon that we haven’t considered yet. At a minimum, I will try rendering more of the other fats to make standard cooking tallow for Brody to try. This all stems from our goal to show respect for the animal by utilizing as much of it as possible while reducing waste. It’s also a return to things made more simply with ingredient labels you can actually understand!    


Image: Frozen caul fat (Tallow) from our lambs back from the abattoir. We ask for it to be vacuum sealed.


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