Tallow is a rendered form of beef or mutton fat, primarily made up of triglycerides.

Tallow made by rendering calf suet

In industry, tallow is not strictly defined as beef or mutton fat. In this context, tallow is animal fat that conforms to certain technical criteria, including its melting point. Commercial tallow commonly contains fat derived from other animals, such as lard from pigs, or even from plant sources.

Tallow consists mainly of triglycerides (fat), whose major constituents are derived from stearic and oleic acids.

The adjacent diagram shows the chemical structure of a typical triglyceride molecule.

The solid material remaining after rendering is called cracklings, greaves, or graves.[1] It has been used mostly for animal food, such as dog food.[2][3]

In the soap industry and among soap-making hobbyists, the name tallowate is used informally to refer to soaps made from tallow. Sodium tallowate, for example, is obtained by reacting tallow with sodium hydroxide (lye, caustic soda) or sodium carbonate (washing soda). It consists chiefly of a variable mixture of sodium salts of fatty acids, such as oleic and palmitic.[4]


Beef Tallow
Nutritional value per 100 g (3.5 oz)
Energy3,774 kJ (902 kcal)
0 g
100 g
Saturated42 g
Monounsaturated50 g
Polyunsaturated4 g
0 g
Other constituentsQuantity
Cholesterol109 mg
Selenium0.2 mg

Fat percentage can vary.
Percentages are roughly approximated using US recommendations for adults.
Source: USDA FoodData Central

The composition of the fatty acids is typically as follows:[5]


An 1883 ad soliciting tallow from butchers and graziers for soap production in the Hawaii newspaper The Daily Bulletin

Tallow is used mainly in producing soap and animal feed.[6]


A significant use of tallow is for the production of shortening. It is also one of the main ingredients of the Native American food pemmican. With a smoke point of 480 °F (249 °C), tallow is traditionally used in deep frying and was preferred for this use until the rise in popularity of plant oils for frying. Before switching to pure vegetable oil in 1990,[7] McDonald's cooked its French fries in a mixture of 93% beef tallow and 7% cottonseed oil.[8] According to a 1985 article in The New York Times, tallow was also used for frying at Burger King, Wendy's, Hardee's, Arby's, Dairy Queen, Popeyes, and Bob's Big Boy.[9] Tallow is, however, making a comeback in certain nutrition circles.[10] See also roux.


Greaves (also graves) or cracklings is the fibrous matter remaining from rendering,[1] typically pressed into cakes and used for animal feed, especially for dogs and hogs, or as fish bait.[11] In the past, it has been both favored and shunned in dog food.[2][3]


Tallow can be used for the production of biodiesel in much the same way as oils from plants are currently used.[12]

Aviation fuel

The United States Air Force has experimented successfully with the use of beef tallow in aviation biofuels. During five days of flight testing from August 23 to 27, 2010, at Edwards Air Force Base, California, a U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster III flew using JP-8 conventional jet fuel in three of its engines and a 50/50 blend of JP-8 and HRJ biofuel made from beef tallow in one engine on August 23, followed by a flight with the same 50/50 blend in all four engines on August 24. On August 27, it flew using a blend of 50% JP-8, 25% HRJ, and 25% coal-based fuel made through the Fischer–Tropsch process, becoming the first United States Department of Defense aircraft to fly on such a blend and the first aircraft to operate from Edwards using a fuel derived from beef tallow.[13]


Tallow also has a use in printmaking, where it is combined with bitumen and applied to metal print plates to provide a resistance to acid etching.

The use of trace amounts of tallow as an additive to the substrate used in polymer banknotes came to light in November 2016. Notes issued in 24 countries including Canada, Australia, and the United Kingdom were found to be affected, leading to objections from vegans and members of some religious communities.[14][15]


A tallow candle

Tallow once was widely used to make molded candles before more convenient wax varieties became available—and for some time after since they continued to be a cheaper alternative. For those too poor even to avail themselves of homemade, molded tallow candles, the "tallow dip"—a reed that had been dipped in melted tallow or sometimes a strip of burning cloth in a saucer of tallow grease—was an accessible substitute. Such a candle was often simply called a "dip" or, because of its low cost, a "farthing dip"[16] or "penny dip".[17]


Early in the development of steam-driven piston engines, the hot vapors and liquids washed away most lubricants very quickly. It was soon found that tallow was quite resistant to this washing. Tallow and compounds including tallow were widely used to lubricate locomotive and steamship engines at least until the 1950s. (During World War II, the vast fleets of steam-powered ships exhausted the supply, leading to the large-scale planting of rapeseed because rapeseed oil also resisted the washing effect.) Tallow is still used in the steel rolling industry to provide the required lubrication as the sheet steel is compressed through the steel rollers. There is a trend toward replacing tallow-based lubrication with synthetic oils in rolling applications for surface cleanliness reasons.[18]

Another industrial use is as a lubricant for certain types of light engineering work, such as cutting threads on electrical conduit. Specialist cutting compounds are available, but tallow is a traditional lubricant that is easily available for cheap and infrequent use.

The use of tallow or lard to lubricate rifles was the spark that started the Indian Mutiny of 1857. To load the new Pattern 1853 Enfield Rifle, the sepoys had to bite the cartridge open. It was believed that the paper cartridges that were standard issue with the rifle were greased with lard (pork fat), which was regarded as unclean by Muslims, or tallow (cow fat), which is incompatible with Hindu dietary laws. Tallow, along with beeswax, was also used in the lubricant for American Civil War ammunition used in the Springfield rifled musket. A combination of mutton tallow, paraffin wax and beeswax is still used as a patch or projectile lubricant in present-day black powder arms.

Tallow is used to make a biodegradable motor oil by a Stamford, Connecticut–based company called Green Earth Technologies.[19]

Tallow is also used in traditional bell foundry, as a separation for the false bell when casting.[20]


Tallow can be used as flux for soldering.[21]

Balms and beauty products

Tallow has a long history in humanity of being used to soothe and moisturize skin,[22] and the word for sebum (the fat naturally produced by human skin) is the same as that for tallow in some languages, including Latin.

As tallow is rendered animal fat, the composition of the tallow oil is similar to the composition of human skin's natural sebum.[23] This makes it often a suitable moisturiser for individuals who have sensitivities of commercial moisturisers.[24] Tallow contains Vitamins A, D, K, E, & B12, conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA) with natural anti-inflammatory properties, oleic acid (omega 9), palmitic acid, and stearic acid, which have beneficial healing and soothing properties.[25]

While tallow can be useful for skincare there are stability issues that prevent it from mainstream commercialisation.[26] It does not always have a consistent colour, appearance, and odor from batch to batch.[26]


Mutton tallow is widely used as starch, lubricant and softener in textile manufacturing. Pretreatment processes in textiles include a process called sizing. In sizing, a chemical is necessary to provide required strength to yarns mounted on the loom. Mutton tallow provides required strength and lubrication to the yarns.

Mutton tallow is also used as softener in textile finishing. Tallow dimethyl ammonium chloride is the most common example.

See also


  1. "Greaves: a high-protein solid which is left following the extraction of tallow from animal by-products during the rendering process". Archived from the original on 2019-06-22. Retrieved 2018-10-28.
  2. Nicolas Jean Baptiste Boyard, Manuel du bouvier et zoophile: ou l'art d'élever de soigner les animaux 1844, 327
  3. "The Sportsman's Dictionary; Or, The Gentleman's Companion: for Town and Country". G. G. J. and J. Robinson. December 6, 1785 via Google Books.
  4. Ruth Winter (2007): A Consumerýs Dictionary of Household, Yard and Office Chemicals: Complete Information About Harmful and Desirable Chemicals Found in Everyday Home Products, Yard Poisons, and Office Polluters. 364 pages. ISBN 9781462065783
  5. National Research Council, 1976, Fat Content and Composition of Animal Products, Printing and Publishing Office, National Academy of Science, Washington, D.C., ISBN 0-309-02440-4; p. 203, online edition
  6. Alfred Thomas (2002). "Fats and Fatty Oils". Ullmann's Encyclopedia of Industrial Chemistry. Weinheim: Wiley-VCH. doi:10.1002/14356007.a10_173. ISBN 3527306730.
  7. "Mcdonald's Turns To Vegetable Oil For French Fries". chicagotribune.com.
  8. Schlosser, Eric (2001). Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of All-American Meal. Houghton Mifflin. ISBN 0-395-97789-4
  9. Irvin Molotsky (November 15, 1985). "Risk Seen in Saturated Fats Used in Fast Foods". nytimes.com.
  10. Ramachandran, Divya; Kite, James; Vassallo, Amy Jo; Chau, Josephine Y; Partridge, Stephanie; Freeman, Becky; Gill, Timothy (September 21, 2018). "Food Trends and Popular Nutrition Advice Online – Implications for Public Health". Online Journal of Public Health Informatics. 10 (2): e213. doi:10.5210/ojphi.v10i2.9306. ISSN 1947-2579. PMC 6194095. PMID 30349631.
  11. Oxford English Dictionary, s.v.
  12. Thamsiriroj (2011). "The impact of the life cycle analysis methodology on whether biodiesel produced from residues can meet the EU sustainability criteria for biofuel facilities constructed after 2017", Renewable Energy, 36, 50-63.
  13. "C-17 Conducts Flight Test With Biofuel - Aero-News Network". www.aero-news.net.
  14. "Why there is processed cow in Canada's money. Hint: you can blame it on the polymer". nationalpost.com. November 30, 2016.
  15. Petroff, Alanna. "It's not just the U.K. These countries also have animal fat in their money". cnn.com.
  16. E. Cobham Brewer (2001). Wordsworth Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. Wordsworth Editions. p. 342. ISBN 9781840223101.
  17. The Nautical Magazine and Naval Chronicle for 1866. Cambridge University Press. 2013. p. 153. ISBN 9781108054904.
  18. "Cold rolling mill lubricant - US Patent 4891161". patentstorm.us. Archived from the original on September 29, 2007. Retrieved April 5, 2007.
  19. Motavalli, Jim (February 5, 2009). "Oil Goes 'Green,' with the Help of Some Cows". The New York Times.
  20. Forschungen, Institut für kunst-und musikhistorische (2002). "Glockenguss". ISBN 978-3-7001-3043-7 (in German). Retrieved 2022-10-28.
  21. "Tech Help-Flux". www.fantasyinglass.com.
  22. Fieldhouse, Crystal. "Traditional Uses Of Tallow and Other Animal Fats & Oils". Ecology Skincare.
  23. "Is Tallow a Good Face Moisturiser". vidar.com.
  24. "Is Tallow a Good Face Moisturiser". vidar.com.au.
  25. "How to Make Tallow Balm: Ultimate Skin Healing Moisturizer". Bumblebeeapothecary.
  26. "Tallow For Skin: The Good And The Bad Sides Of Using Tallow". Misumi Luxury Beauty Care.
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