Back to the Basics: What is tallow?
We’re throwing it back to the basics today by introducing you to one of nature’s best gifts to humans – tallow!
This ingredient is fundamental to our products, being one of the two primary ingredients that creates our high-quality, nutrient-dense, shelf-stable bars. Outside of our product, tallow may not come to the top of your mind with other practical applications in our modern day. Sure, it’s a superior form of beef fat that has many health benefits, but exactly why it’s fundamental to our health as humans, and integrating it into our daily living is what we are going to uncover for you in this article.
What is Tallow?
Plain and simple, tallow is pure fat (also known as suet) rendered from various fatty meat cuts from animals, typically beef or sheep. Fat that is rendered from animals such as pig is commonly referred to as lard. The fatty cuts are known as suet and are melted down to an oil to allow for the removal of all impurities. This process is also known as rendering. Once the impurities are strained and removed, the fat is then left at room temperature to thicken and harden. Once left for a few hours to cool, the tallow is similar to a soft butter at room temperature.
Rendered tallow breaks down into a composition of 50% saturated fat, 42% monounsaturated fat, and 4% polyunsaturated fat.
Tallow is also known as the “old fashioned fat,” because it was the primary fat used for cooking before the introduction of seed oils. It was excellent for cooking due to its high smoke point, meaning it does not smoke very easily at high heats, if you go and ask your grandparents what they used to cook with, chances are they used tallow!
While your mind may wonder to other sources of health fats, such as olive oil, avocado oil, and coconut oil, the way in which these fats are processed can be problematic and allow it to turn rancid if not stored properly, or reduce the nutritional value by over-processing. Tallow will not only stay shelf-stable, but it is also conducive to the ancestral way of eating during the winter months for North Americans, as animals were the only sources of fat during the winter. We now have the ability to order any source of healthy fat with the click of a button, but there’s something to say about aligning with an ancestral way of eating based on what would traditionally be available.
Historical Significance of Tallow
While your grandparents would likely tell you about their cooking experiences with tallow as the common household fat/oil source, the historical significance of tallow dates way back to our ancestral times.
Tallow played an important role in the survival of the Native American populations of the Americas. Tallow was mixed with shredded bison beef and turned into pemmican to complement the tribe’s nomadic lifestyles of following the bison around the plains. During the pioneering of North America and the Great Fur Trade, pemmican was a vital food source that explorers adopted from Native American tribes to survive during their expeditions. Tallow was key in preserving food, keeping it from oxidizing and away from microbes that would spoil the pemmican. You can read all about the history of pemmican here.
Tallow was commonplace up until the 1970s with the introduction of vegetable oils. Even fast food chains such as McDonalds used tallow to fry and cook all of their food such as fries up until the 1990s. A major switch from tallow over to other forms including mostly seed oils – think canola oil oil, sunflower, safflower oil – happened due to “health experts” and some studies claiming saturated fat causes heart disease, and seed oils were also less expensive than tallow to manufacture and sell on the market. Even when eating out as an informed carnivore in modern day, something as simple as ordering a steak with sea salt can unexpectedly come greased with canola oil spray from the stove or grill. Dangerous poly-unsaturated fats (PUFAs), seed oils, and sneak soy-based ingredients in “keto-friendly” snacks are all things to be on the watch for.
While vegetable oils and seed oils are still widely used, carnivore and animal-based health advocates are shining the lights on the benefits of tallow and more people are turning back towards traditional cooking and eating habits for their health.
Tallow and Human Health
If you had to choose from all sources of fat, tallow and animal fat, especially from ruminant animals such as beef and bison, will be the best for your health. Not only does tallow provide a superior nutritional profile full of vitamins and minerals vital for us to survive and thrive, it acts as a transport mechanism for us to absorb micronutrients from other protein and carbohydrate sources.
Tallow compliments any other sources of animal fats in your diet, and provides your body with micronutrients that are both bioavailable and necessary for proper hormonal function:
- Vitamin A - which provides support for the proper development and function of eye and skin health.
- Vitamin D - which allows for proper calcium absorption and healthy bones.
- Vitamin E - which reduces inflammation and may help to prevent chronic illness and disease.
- Vitamin B12 - which allows for the proper development and maintenance of the central nervous system and healthy red blood cell formation.
As mentioned earlier, there are many studies that claim saturated fat is bad for consumption and human health, and yet this could not be further from the truth. A 2010 meta-analysis of studies researching the effects of saturated fat with heart-related diseases such as stroke, proved that there was no significant evidence to prove ill-effects on human health. In fact, studies show that vegetable oils come with disastrous consequences for human health, including obesity, cancer, diabetes, and other chronic illnesses. You can read all about how vegetable oils negatively impact human health along with the studies in this great article by Jeff Nobbs.
Tallow is compatible and optimal for those on a carnivorous, keto, and animal based diet. It is even more vital for omnivores and those switching over from vegetarian or vegan diets.
Uses for Tallow
The primary and most obvious use for tallow is healthy cooking. You can use it to replace all other cooking oils, including butter, ghee, olive oil, seed oils, and coconut oil. It’s ideal for cooking not only due to its impressive nutrient profile, but also for its incredibly high smoke point of 420 degrees Fahrenheit. Not only can you sautee and fry your ingredients in tallow, you can also fry all of your ingredients and bake all of your favourite pastries that will come fresh out of the oven with a flaky crust.
When it comes to cooking healthy meals, tallow can also be used to reach your goals for weight loss. It is rich in conjugated linoleic acid, which is a fatty acid that can help burn fat.
Stepping away from the obvious uses tallow has in cooking, it can also be used in your health and wellness routine by creating a body butter from whipped tallow, face/body lotion, makeup remover, a base for candles mixed with essential oils. You can even use saponified versions to replace your shampoo, soap, and toothpaste!
You can start using tallow by purchasing it from a local grocery store or farmer, or by creating it yourself with Bumblebee Apothecary’s recipe.
Pro Tip: Rendered tallow may be expensive in some areas, so you can always ask a local farmer, butcher, or grocery store if they discard their meat trimmings, which you may be able to go and pick up for free!
Tallow and The Carnivore Bar
Tallow is such an important ingredient for our bars and plays such a vital role in allowing us to create a high-quality, low-carb, nutrient dense bar for our customers like you. We are such huge advocates for this gift from nature, and encourage you to start using and consuming tallow for your health as soon as you can.
If you’re looking for a healthy alternative to your usual meal replacement bars for your upcoming travel plans, shop The Carnivore Bar now!