Why I make lard soap
Lard and tallow make nice, white, hard bars of soap that's long-lasting in the shower. Lard soap lathers up with creamy, silky bubbles that are mild and gentle on your skin. Using animal fats for soap making can be traced back to almost 5000 years and it is just plain cool to make soap in a similar fashion in modern time.
But that is not why I make lard soap.
The lard I use is very special.
I do not just buy a tub of lard from soap suppliers. The lard for our Farm to Shower soap is from pastured-raised pigs from ethical farms. I have personally visited the farm where I sourced the lard from, and I plan to do the same for every potential supplier of lard.
A little while back I contacted a small integrated farm in Maple Ridge to source lard for soap. I was really excited when I learned that they have a couple pigs to be harvested soon. Two weeks later I got the bad news that the butcher forgot we want to keep the lard and threw the fat away. That was tragic. You see, I do not like wasting perfecting good stuff. And when you know how special the pigs from small scale farms are, you too will want to make sure no parts of the animals are wasted.
I understand not everyone is keen on using soap made from lard.
I can think of three reasons:
- The “ick” Factor. I get it. Most don’t associate personal care products with animal products. In Canada, soaps, as all other cosmetic products, are required to list the ingredients in INCI (International Nomenclature of Cosmetic Ingredients) format. "Adeps Suillus” is lard, and “Adeps Bovis” is tallow. Most companies list the ingredients as saponified oil or sodium fatty acid salts - “Sodium Lardate” is lard soap, and “Sodium Tallowate” is tallow soap. For example, Ivory bars contain tallow, so do Dove, Dial, Irish Spring, Jergens, Nivea, and the transparent facial bar, just to name a few. The animal fats in one single bar of commercial soap can come from hundreds, if not thousands, of animals that were raised in factory farms. We have no idea whether the animals were healthy or sick. Ick. Just saying...
- Animal rights. Those who make the conscious decision to support cruelty-free companies can rely on certifications such as the Leaping Bunny program, which actually does not exclude products manufactured with animal by-products. If you eat meats, then you should not have problem using products made from animals raised ethically in small scale farms.
- Vegetarians or Vegans. I respect that. I was almost exclusively plant-based for 3 months. The number of vegan-friendly products are increasing exponentially, including soaps from yours truly.
The last time I processed fat, I used my super soccer mom power to enlist help from Meat Craft to ground up 30 lb. of fat. Then I spent most of the day rendering the fat to lard, having 2 slow cookers and the oven going at the same time. Once cool, I emptied my freezer to store the lard that won’t be used immediately, because, unlike it’s shelf-stable counter part, my lard does not contain BHA and BHT.
My lard soap costs way more to make than my vegan soap.
As I was doing it, I questioned the scalability of such practice as a business. When time, money for utilities, and labour of love are factored into the equation, my lard soap costs way more to make than my vegan soap.
It is also not easy to source fats from small scale farms. There’s a limited supply, obviously.
As the general public learn more about the many benefits of healthy fats*, prices will go up and it will no longer be viable to use this beautiful ingredient for soap making.
So why am I still doing it?
I couldn't quite articulate it until I saw this Facebook post from Laurica Farm referring to an article from Urban Digs Farm:
Please understand, in no uncertain terms, we will not be in business much longer unless more people put their money where their mouth is. I understand that it is more convenient to go to the grocery store. But if you like the idea of living in a world with small family run farms, it isn't enough to just love what we do. You have to support us... even when it is inconvenient and even if it costs more. Trust me, no one in our industry is getting close to rich at this, but we're willing to keep at it if you'll meet us half way.
“Sustainable” and “Ethically Raised” are buzzwords we see a lot these days, but it’s not as simple as slapping a label on a package of meat.
Making soap with lard from local farms with transparency is my little way of supporting farmers practising sustainable agriculture. It feels good to do things that align with my values.
And maybe, just maybe, my soap can spark curiosities about our food system, one bar at a time.
* For those who want to find out more about the health benefits of fat, I highly recommend this podcast episode from The Ultimate Health Podcast as a starting point for your own research.