Let me just preface this with my intentions with this very opinionated blog post. Its merely to bring attention to this subject which doesn't get enough attention. Not to put down any businesses so to speak. So please don't interpret it that way. Things can get lost in translation.
For makers, small business owners and potential customers do you trust where your tallow is being sourced? Might split a few hairs with this. I suppose it needs to be talked about.
Hello, and welcome to my totally unconventional blog where I expound on thoughts and information with anyone who wants to read about it.
Today I am going to be looking into the world of tallow. There is so many businesses popping up as of late selling tallow products. Its amazing to me how many are out there now. When I started in late 2020 there were a few mostly on Etsy but not too many outside of the bigger companies. Now here we are in 2023 and there are probably thousands of small businesses that are selling tallow skincare. We are talking grass/fed and finished kidney suet which is the most prized fat out there in my opinion. The holy grail, the king fat, this is because it contains higher amount conjugated linoleic acids, and other vital nutrients and minerals over grain fed cows. Its really makes a difference in what the cow is fed.
So, in light of all of that I was wondering if there are so many new businesses out there where are they all getting their tallow? I'd say all of the claim to have the prized grassfed and finished suet fat which is the best of the best in the animal fat world. My thought is: How is there enough beef fat to keep up with the demand. It truly is a limited item. Grassfed and finished beef suet is not easy to come by. Unless you know a farmer, who processes a large number of cows often then it's actually really difficult to find. It's true you can buy beef suet from some butchers, but it is more than likely not grassfed or its grass fed, and grain finished, and it can get quite expensive.
I wonder if businesses are being totally honest about where they are sourcing it? Most larger companies (sprouts, trader joes, whole fools...i mean foods) who sell grassfed beef are not allowed to just sell their fat without proper licensing (so they say). When my journey started, I looked for a supplier for 4 months before I got in touch with my rancher. I tried out all the bigger companies buying tallow in bulk, but the quality was not that of grass-fed kidney fat.
Essential depot, Sulu organics, and several others out there claim theirs is grass fed and finished, but the texture and look of it say otherwise. Its the consistency of Crisco and has hardly any smell. My thoughts are its muscle fat that is heavily refined and probably has another ingredient added to it. Also its very cheap, you can get 8lbs for around 40 dollars. So my conclusion would be that its not true kidney fat.
So how do you know if what your buying is the real deal. The reality is unless you've handled actual kidney fat and rendered it yourself you might not be able to tell the difference in the consistency and feel of it. But nonetheless there can be several ways to identify quality. Real grass-fed suet will be very hard almost like candle wax, there are times when it can be a little bit softer, but it's still solid, and it comes in several colors from white to a light yellow. There should be a light beef smell, not overly strong, but it should still be there. This would indicate that no other ingredients have been added to change the smell like baking soda or other chemicals. Or that it hasn't been heavily refined. If you're buying from a small business that renders their own tallow products and they are claiming its grassfed and finished from their local family farm, then I would rest assured. Most smaller businesses have no reason to lie most of the time, and you can look at their socials and gage their lifestyle from the pictures they post. Also, the price will be considerably higher than that of bigger corporate businesses. Quality over quantity applies here because rendering tallow is not easy. It takes time, and a large amount of fat to get a decent amount of tallow. From my rendering experiences I can usually get say 10-15lbs of tallow from 20lbs of fat. Sometimes more sometimes less. It's a lot of work which is why quality tallow will not be cheap.
If you're buying a tallow product to use on your kids and it says the only ingredient is grassfed tallow, and its whipped light and fluffy and spreads like marshmallow then it's probably not kidney suet. If you whipped up kidney suet it would definitely harden when comes to room temperature. There needs to be an added oil to keep it soft and spreadable.
All of this came up because I was talking to my rancher and another tallow maker about the sheer amount of tallow businesses popping up every day right here in Arizona where I live. We all agreed on the thought that businesses just werent being honest with their claiming its kidney fat from grassfed cows. Being a rancher, he knows all the other ranchers around the state that sell grassfed beef, and it truly is limited and usually only sold in private sales (not sure how it works in other states, I know some farms sell their fat to the public). Some cattle farms do process their own livestock, but they are under strict regulations and don't just give the fat away, most I have found send their cattle to larger processors. And They don't just give the fat away either. The processors usually do not sell the fat or give it away if the customer doesn't want it. They are not technically allowed to do so due to the Food and drug administration. They can only send it out to other larger companies who they are contracted with who then use it for their own purposes. Which makes me wonder how are these businesses able to keep up with demand if there really is a limited amount of kidney fat out there? Are they buying it already rendered on places like Esty? Which is anywhere from 11-13$ a pound and higher. So say you buy 7 lbs of rendered kidney fat it can cost you anywhere from $90-$120 or more. Which isn't terrible, but that can add up quickly. Which is probably why so many businesses sell their tallow products for high prices like $30/2 ounce jar.
All this to say it's important to make sure where you are buying your tallow is a reputable source and good quality. I'm not talking about businesses who truly do know their farmers and have a connection to a cattle ranch most of them disclose that, although anyone can say this. This is more for businesses who don't source their fat from a reputable source. Now, it really is up to the business owner if they are going to sell grassfed/finished tallow products or grain fed. If your business is growing, then chances are you are going to have to find another supplier for your tallow to keep up with the demand which could make cutting corners seem more appealing. It's amazing the things you realize being in a niche like animal-based skincare. My rancher also told me he gets calls every day from people asking to buy his fat to which he tells them no. I understand why, he is more than likely tired of dealing with people constantly asking him on top of all the other things that he has to do. Not only that he only has a certain number of cows processed every month so again its very limited there isn't really enough to go around so to speak.
Businesses can make any claim they want. A way they can cut corners with tallow is saying its grassfed/finished kidney suet when really it's a cheap big brand like sulu then adding a harder butter to it like coco butter, or shea, or beeswax to make it firmer. The everyday person might not be able to tell the difference, throw some essential oils on there and your golden right? But that isnt fair to the customer, and its bad business practices, it also shows that honesty and integrity are not more important than making a profit.
So why does any of this matter and why am I talking about it? It's important because consumers and business owners need to be aware of this, not being honest in what's in your product is a big no no. What if someone has a reaction to something because it's not what it was claimed to be? What if someone has an allergy and the full ingredient list wasn't disclosed. Not being upfront about where your ingredients are sourced is setting the stage for problems in the future. It shows that money is more important than the well-being of the customers. Certain customers might not want to buy a product that has other ingredients added to it, or isn't totally organic or is grain fed, or is muscle fat and not kidney fat (muscle fat doesn't contain the same amounts of nutrients as kidney and is a greasier softer consistency), or was refined with high heat and baking soda, or is mostly shea and coco butter but being claimed to be tallow.
Of course, it's not up to me to hold anyone accountable or weed out the fakes but being a tallow producer and maker who really holds much value to honesty and transparency, these are issues that should be talked about and looked at whole heartedly. I work hard in my business and have for close to three years now, I make sure what I am providing is up to my own values/standards. I love being able to provide the real deal to not only customers but other makers so they can not only grow their businesses, but trust that they're getting quality tallow. But quality is going to cost more. I don't want anyone to feel they have to cut corners because it's not worth it if you have to do that. Why even have a business at all if you can't provide a quality product. Small businesses are not under any strict regulations here in the states so there really isn't any accountability.
If you don't have the amount of quality tallow needed to supply your customers or to meet the demand then be honest and get creative, add other more easily obtainable ingredients such as shea butter, cocoa butter, beeswax, mango butter etc. Just be clear about it don't claim its pure tallow just to make a buck.
I am on Etsy and have been for almost two years now, although I'm not a fan of Etsy practices or fees. It's another way to get my business out there and gain some revenue. It's there I see the sheer amount of other tallow makers selling tallow, I would guestimate it's in the 300 range new ones appearing every day. And i would venture to say that not all of them are delivering on what they are claiming i.e. therapeutic grade EO's, or 100% grassfed/finished hand rendered kidney suet. I'm sure a lot of them are legit but due to the mass number of shops in that niche popping up its questionable especially when they are making claims that their tallow can heal eczema, is noncomedogenic and heals acne (that's not true for everyone with tallow) etc. That shows that some of them didn't do their research and are just jumping onto the bandwagon because there is money to be made. It's not fair either to the other businesses who put in the time and hard work being honest and delivering a top-notch product. The honest and transparent businesses will more than likely stand the test of time and the waves of adversity. But this is the reality of the world we live in, this happens everywhere on much bigger scales not just in the tallow skincare niche.
Well thank you if you made this far for listening to my rant. As a Tallow Skincare business owner, I really care about these issues that seem to be becoming more common. People will always try to capitalize and exploit anything where there is money involved. So just be aware of this and do your research whether your a consumer or a provider of these types of services. We all should be researching things heavily before we just go along with a trend.
Grassland Beauty signing off