Soap is made by combining fats and lye (sodium or potassium hydroxide dissolved in water, or another liquid - like milk, etc)..
One of the biggest decisions a soap maker will have is what fats to use in their soap creations.
When it comes to determining what fats will be used, the following is is a relatively straightforward guide:
- Locally sourced materials
- Materials that are produced organically or sustainably through Fair Trade standards
- Materials that will help to establish wonderful soaps that not only feel great on skin but will be advantageous for skin issues/health.
So what is Tallow?
Tallow is rendered suet. Suet is fat that surrounds the organs/kidneys of deer, cattle, sheep or even goats.
Once heated, that suet will liquify - it turns gold in color as it separates from the tissues originally intertwined in the suet (muscles, etc).
The liquified fat is then strained through a fine filter to remove any particles and impurities. It's then chilled, re-melted, and re-washed before it is stored.
The final color of tallow is light, odorless and pure. And no -- soaping up with tallow soap will not make you smell like beef fat. 😉
It is then used in many different applications - cooking, skincare and even cosmetics (soap making).
The History of Tallow
Tallow has been used for years - long before supermarkets were the norm, families used tallow to make candles, soaps, and for cooking day to day foods.
It has a high heat point (400 degrees) and doesn't easily go rancid - as a result, it's often used by Chefs across the globe.
Today, tallow can be found in a majority of cosmetics - often disguised under various names:
Sodium Tallowate, Myristic Acid, Oleic Acid, Palmitic Acid, Stearic Acid, and Lauric Acid.
However, there is one caveat: most of these every day products that have tallow are using conventionally farmed tallow.
Myths: All Tallow is the Same
One of the biggest myths about tallow is that it's cheap and abundant to source.
While that might hold some truth, picking up tallow is not simply as easy as "running to the local meat butcher" or grocery market and asking for the fat.
Why Grass-Fed Tallow is Best
Though it’s incredibly easy to source, and even more versatile to use, not all tallow should be considered the same.
Tallow rendered from grass-fed beef is a better option for those looking to take advantage of its benefits. Compared to grain-fed, factory farmed cows, tallow rendered from grass-fed beef is always a better option.
Conventionally-farmed cows are fed an unnatural diet of GMO corn and kept in confined areas with no access to pasture or regular, daily sun. Many toxins are stored in grain-fed animal fat, which, in turn, can end up in your food or skin care products.
(Wouldn't you rather be enjoying pasture than be trapped in that type of facility?)
If you are using tallow for cooking or skin care, it's important to seek sustainable sources. Most often that involves sources outside of your local supermarket. Find your local, ethical farmer that raises grass-fed, pastured beef cattle that is grass-fed and grass-finished.
Grass-fed cattle is a better option, as cows that graze on pasture reap higher levels of vitamins A, D, E and K because of the high levels of sunshine that they are exposed to during the day.
Animals in a confined farming facility not only eat GMO-grains, they are not given lovely pasture to simply do what they love - be themselves.
Just like our human body stores valuable nutrients in our fat to use later on, so do cows - store many nutrients in the suet (fat).
For this reason, it's a better option to support that ethical farmer - cows that are given a grass-fed pasture to move around and enjoy life.
Tallow from grass-fed, ethical farmers is by no means a "cheaper" option - when compared to plant-based butters, grass-fed tallow is considerably higher in price (unless of course you raise your own cattle).
Using tallow and milk in soap making is often times associated with a negative connotation to animal welfare.
In a time when we are grappling with the popularity of confined animal facilities, there are still ethical farmers that raise beef by way of old tradition.
We have a civic responsibility to support those farmers, though sometimes hard to find, who strive to treat their cattle with utmost care and respect during their time here with us.
After they are gone, moving forward and using that tallow for soap making and cooking is nature's way of closing that circle of life.
It represents the infinite nature of energy, meaning if something dies it gives new life to another.
No oil is perfect ~ in fact, palm oil, as popular as it is today, is destroying and damaging both rainforests and animals within. While some brands maintain that they use sustainably produced palm oil, the certifications are quite slippery... giving us all the more reason to forego altogether.
Yes, We Use Tallow
There are many negatives associated with using tallow for soap making. If you are selling your soap, many consumers like to see that the soap is made from vegetable oil - partly because of the false belief that animal fats are poor for skin.
Indeed, nothing could be more incorrect.
We opt to use tallow in soap making for many reasons. Not only does our grass-fed, grass-finished tallow make a lovely, hard bar with a nice, rich lather, it is rich in antioxidants, vitamins A, D, E and K (from grass-fed cattle only!)
It's also rich in the fatty acid called CLA - conjugated linoleic acid, which helps support healthy brain function, fat loss and cancer prevention.
Tallow closely resembles the human skin cell structure because both human skin and tallow contain 50-55% saturated fats.
Did you know... Tallow and Sebum (which is the oil we have naturally in our skin) both contain primarily triglycerides, which allow nutrients to be absorbed quite easily.
Those fats help provide skin cell integrity, assist the skin in retaining moisture, and replenishing the building blocks of our cells that often times decrease as we age.
Weston Price – Traditional Nourishing and Healing Skin Care
Weston Price – Fatty Acid Analysis of Grass-fed and Grain-fed Beef Tallow