Waste Pig Fat
On my quest to learn more about sustainability I’ve come across the most beautiful homemade soaps that are made from excess lard and tallow in Somerset. Their products have fantastic names including 'Weaner Cleaner' & 'Dirty Gurty' which was enough to convince me. The concept behind them is equally fantastic however, so I caught up with Emma from Hog & Tallow to find out more about their use of pig fat to create some very special products.
Q. When did you first have your idea for Hog & Tallow Soaps?
A. About 2 years ago. Myself, Jess and our partners have a smallholding and produce our own meat. It’s very important to us that the animals have a great life, so we feed them organically and ensure we use as much of their produce as possible.
We love making salamis, chorizo, air dried hams and even have our sheep skins processed to make beautiful rugs. The one thing we always seemed to have way too much of was the animal fats. So after making lardo and cubing it for black pudding, we started researching using it for things like candles and soaps. When we started looking, we realised it was a relatively easy thing to do. We gave it a try and were really excited about the results!
Q. Have you always been passionate about waste and sustainability?
A. Absolutely. On our smallholding we keep pigs, chickens and sheep and try to be as self-sustainable with our meat as we can. We use as much of our animals as possible and the soap has been a fantastic addition. Having a gardener husband, we grow most of our own veggies and teaching on an organic farm is a fantastic way to share our values about sustainability and our passion for nature and the environment.
Q. Can you explain the process of making these soaps using various waste/foraged items?
A. When making cold processed soap, you will usually find a variety of hard and soft fats. Most soap will have popular fats or oils such as shea butter, coconut oil and palm oil. These fats and oils are very beneficial for our skin but we started to wonder about the carbon footprint of these soaps – you can’t really buy them locally!
Traditionally soap was made with lard (pig fat) and tallow (cow fat) as these would have been the only fats available, however time has moved on and now we are able to access more exotic oils and fats. Sadly now the idea of animal fat has become unpopular.
We had to be careful because we wanted to use our waste fat but also make a soap that was great for skin, attractive and not just a gimmick – if using our lard and tallow didn’t produce a usable product this in itself would be wasteful! When researching how to use lard and tallow in soap it became apparent that these fats do have amazingly beneficial properties for our skin – particularly as tallow is very similar to the layer of fat under our skin. We also needed some soft fat, which also needed to be locally sourced. We contacted a nearby rapeseed grower - rapeseed has a high level of Vitamin E so is absolutely fab for the skin - and then began the process of trialling ratios of lard, tallow and rapeseed.
Q. You also use foraged ingredients, what sort of things do you use?
A. The other major ingredient in soap is a liquid – usually water but can be any liquid which gave us the idea of using waste liquids such as beer from local breweries and raw milk from local dairies etc. Then we got really excited as we realised we could infuse the water with foraged herbs and botanicals – especially those with skin loving/rejuvenating properties. We also only use natural scents in the form of essential oils and are currently working to see if we can process some of the essential oils we use locally. We trialled a few soaps among friends and colleagues and had a great response. People began buying them and were particularly interested in the sustainable approach to sourcing the ingredients. Beef/pig fat is generally incinerated if not used by the butcher and we are also lucky to know a few organic farmers who we can source our animal fats from.
Q. Where do you make them? Is it easy for people to get their waste to you?
A. We currently make them in my kitchen – we contact farmers and local cottage industries to see if they have any waste we can use and then collect it ourselves – we never have to go far as there are so many lovely local people.
Q. Hog & Tallow is a sideline project currently, so what do you do for your day jobs?
A. We both work on the land. I work on an organic farm as an environmental education officer where I teach children and adults about organic farming, nature and the environment and Jess is the head gardener at Knightshays Gardens.
Q. Where can people buy your lovely soaps?
A. We sell at various craft fayres which we advertise on our Facebook and Instagram pages. Our next event is Tobyfest at Forde Abbey Gardens where we will also be doing soap demos!
We also have an Etsy site so you can buy online!