What is tallow made of? Discover the origins of this versatile substance

Tallow is an overlooked, yet versatile substance that has been used for centuries. Despite this, many people are still unaware of what it’s made of, and how it’s used in our everyday lives. In this article, we’ll explore what tallow is, its origins, and how it’s used in different industries, so that you can better understand this remarkable substance.

The Origins of Tallow

Tallow is a substance made from animal fat, usually from cattle or sheep. It’s been around for centuries, being used by the Romans, the Greeks, and many other ancient cultures. It was once considered an essential commodity, used for everything from soap-making to lighting. In fact, it’s been said that tallow was even more valuable than gold in some parts of the world.

The primary use of tallow today is for the production of soap, candles, and as a lubricant in the manufacturing industry. It’s still harvested from cattle and sheep, as well as from other animals such as deer and horses.

The Production Process of Tallow

Tallow is usually produced through a process known as rendering. During this process, the animal fat is heated until it melts, and then the liquid fat is strained so that any impurities are removed. The solidified fat is the tallow that we know and use today. The final product is a mixture of saturated and unsaturated fats, with a melting point of around 40°C.

The quality and composition of tallow can depend on the animal it’s sourced from, as well as the rendering process used to produce it. Different types of animal fats will yield different melting points, which can affect how the tallow is used in different industries.

The Properties of Tallow

Tallow is a versatile substance with many unique properties that make it useful in a range of industries. Some of its most notable properties include its ability to produce a solid, hard, white fat that can withstand high temperatures. It’s also very resistant to oxidation and has a long shelf life. Additionally, tallow is cheap to produce, making it a cost-effective alternative to other industrial oils and fats.

Tallow in Soap Production

One of the most common uses for tallow today is in soap production. The combination of tallow with other oils such as coconut or palm is used to produce a hard, long-lasting soap that is both cleansing and moisturizing. The properties of tallow make it ideal for soap production, as it can produce a dense lather and is readily absorbed by the skin.

Tallow-based soaps have been used for centuries for their cleaning and soothing properties. They are particularly useful for people with dry or sensitive skin and are often used in natural beauty products as a moisturizing ingredient.

Tallow in Candle Production

Candles are another industry that relies on tallow. Tallow candles have been used since ancient times and are still widely produced today. They’re made by melting the tallow and casting it into molds, where it will solidify as it cools.

Although tallow candles have largely been replaced by cheaper alternatives, they still hold a place in the marketplace due to their unique properties. Tallow candles burn more slowly and evenly than other types of candles, and they have a brighter flame. They also don’t produce as much smoke or residue as other candles, making them a favorite among candle enthusiasts.

Tallow in the Manufacturing Industry

The manufacturing industry is another area where tallow is used. It’s used as a lubricant in the production of everything from machine parts to cosmetics. Tallow’s unique composition makes it a good lubricant as it’s resistant to high temperatures and doesn’t clog up machines or moving parts.

Tallow is also used as a rust inhibitor, as well as a plasticizer in the manufacturing of plastics. It can be used as an additive in polymer formulations, which helps to enhance the flexibility, durability, and heat resistance of the final product. It’s also used as a feedstock in the production of biofuels.

Tallow in the Food Industry

Tallow is still used in the food industry, albeit to a lesser extent. It’s used as a cooking oil, particularly in traditional dishes such as Indian or Mexican cuisine. It’s also used as a flavor enhancer in the production of processed foods such as chips, crackers, and other snacks.

In recent years, tallow has been the subject of some controversy due to its high saturated fat content, which has been linked to heart disease. Some people are also concerned about the ethical implications of using animal fats in food production, particularly if the animals were raised in factory farms or were treated cruelly during their lives.


Tallow is a versatile substance that has been used for centuries. Despite its widespread use, many people still don’t know what it’s made of and how it’s used. This article has explored the origins of tallow, its properties, and its uses in different industries, from soap to candles, manufacturing, and even the food industry.

Frequently Asked Questions About Tallow

  • What is tallow made of? Tallow is made from animal fat, usually from cattle or sheep.
  • What is tallow used for? Tallow is used in soap production, candle making, manufacturing, and as a cooking oil.
  • Is tallow good for the skin? Yes, tallow is beneficial for the skin as it’s readily absorbed and provides moisture.
  • Is tallow environmentally friendly? Tallow is a natural substance and can be sustainable if sourced from ethical and sustainable farms.
  • Is tallow still used today? Yes, tallow is still used today, particularly in the production of soap and candles.


  • Barrick, G. (2009). Rendering technology. In 39th International Congress of Meat Science and Technology, (pp. 106-109).
  • Boskou, D. (2009). Olive oil health aspects. Journal of chemical technology & biotechnology, 84(9), 1299-1307.
  • Caponetti, E., Durante, M., & Pucci, C. (2002). Saturated fatty acids: beyond cholesterol effect. Italian Journal of Food Science, (14), 33-48.
  • Lin, P. H., & Aronson, W. J. (2006). Atherosclerosis: from biology to therapy. Medical Clinics, 90(1), 49-71.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *