Monday, October 19, 2009


My public library puts new books prominently on display, in hopes that readers will definitely judge a book by its cover. A few weeks ago, I saw displayed a book with the word "Fat" on it. Below that 3-letter word was a raw well-marbled beef rib eye steak, balanced upright on a plate. A beautiful looking cut of meat and a beautiful example of the book’s title.

Of course, I borrowed the book. A wonderful book it is too. For the food curious, it explains dietary fat, particularly animal based dietary fat. For the food historian, it mentions the historical significance of animal fat (Who knew Michelangelo snacked on lardo, a raw cured pork fat? That was never mentioned in my art appreciation class!) For the food lover, recipes using---you guessed it---fat.

Of particular interest to me were the Fat charts, which broke down the percentage of unsaturated and saturated fats in the more common animal fats. Here is my compilation of it:

% Monounsaturated 57
% Polyunsaturated 11
% Saturated 28

% Monounsaturated 50
% Polyunsaturated 13
% Saturated 33

% Monounsaturated 45
% Polyunsaturated 21
% Saturated 30

Lard/Bacon Fat:
% Monounsaturated 45
% Polyunsaturated 11
% Saturated 39

% Monounsaturated 43
% Polyunsaturated 23
% Saturated 29

Beef Tallow/Suet:
% Monounsaturated 42
% Polyunsaturated 2
% Saturated 47

Lamb Tallow:
% Monounsaturated 40
% Polyunsaturated 9
% Saturated 47

% Monounsaturated 30
% Polyunsaturated 4
% Saturated 50

The figures vary with the breed and diet of the animal. The figures sum of the figures may not equal 100 due to water and connective tissue in the fat, and in the case of butter, milk solids.

Suet is specifically the fat that surrounds the kidney of an animal.

Tallow is the rendered fat from cattle and sheep

Dripping is the fat and meat juices that drip from the meat as it cooks. There are two components to dripping: the fat and the meat juices. After refrigerating the drippings, the fat will solidify and can be skimmed off and used as you would any other fat. The meat juices are concentrated flavor and will jellify when refrigerated. It is a good addition to sauces, soups and stews.

(adapted from Fat: An Appreciation of a Misunderstood Ingredient with Recipes by Jennifer McLagan)

I thought it would be fun to see how the monounsaturated portions of these animal fats stacked up to olive oil. Olive oil has one of the highest monounsaturated fat percentages at 72.9 % (Sat 13.8%, Polyunsat 10.5%). On the Megs Monounsaturated Fat Score it is assigned a score of 10

Megs Monounsaturated Fat Score (MMFS):
Olive oil = 10
Goose fat = 7.8
Duck = 6.9
Lard/Bacon fat= 6.1
Turkey= 5.8
Beef Tallow/Dripping= 5.7
Lamb Tallow=5.4

Maybe having roast goose for Christmas isn't a bad idea.

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