Animal Fat vs. Vegetable Oil

First off some definitions so we can all be on the same page; for the purpose of this comparison:

Animal Fats include butter, ghee, lard, tallow, and any other fatty substance rendered from animal flesh.

Vegetable Fats/Oils include the industrial seed oils, soy, canola, corn, cottonseed, sunflower, safflower, peanut, etc.

The difference between a fat and an oil can generally be described by the viscosity at room temperature; fats are solid and oils are liquid. Another thing that can be determined by the same measure is whether the fat is saturated or unsaturated, with saturated fat being generally solid. The unsaturated fats can be further broken down into polyunsaturated (PUFA) and monounsaturated (MUFA) which is important and will be the topic of another post.

Where they come from:

Animal Fats are rendered from the flesh of animals or, in the case of butter and ghee, separated from the milk fat of said animals.

Vegetable Oils, which I will refer to as industrial seeds oils from here on out, are mechanically and chemically extracted from commodity grass crops.

Cooking oil manufacture involves cleaning the seeds, grinding them, pressing, and extracting the oil from them. In extracting, a volatile hydrocarbon such as hexane is used as a solvent.
After extracting, the oil is refined, mixed with an alkaline substance, and washed in a centrifuge. Further washing and refining follows, and then the oil is filtered and/or distilled. It is then ready for packaging.
For the full detail check HERE
To make fats (solid at room temp) out of industrial seed oils you have to hydrogenate them, (e.g., trans-fats) which I think we all agree is bad at this point.

How long have we been eating them:

Fats derived from animal sources (animal fats) have been part the human diet forever. They have only recently (1980s) fallen out of grace a la USDA Guidelines based upon the “Lipid hypothesis” stemming from Ancel Keys’s 7 Country Study in which he drew a correlation between saturated fat and Cardiovascular Disease (CVD). A quick google search of either of those terms will render plenty of information for you to form your own opinion of that study’s legitimacy.

Industrial seed oils have been around for quite a while; olive, peanut, and soybean oils have been processed without the use of chemicals and used sparingly by indigenous people dating back to 3000 b.c. The major difference of course being that they used them as much for skin treatment as food and consumed insignificant amounts. The real upswing in consumption of industrial seed oils here in the US started with the Nixon administration and USDA Secretary of Agriculture Earl Butz whose primary task was to normalize the cost of food in an effort to get Nixon reelected. Below are a few graphs showing how significant our intake of Industrial seed oils, polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA), has become on the last 100 years.

This is a direct result of processed food consumption. Below is graph showing intake of fats added to foods, e.g., shortening in crackers.

And as a result, here is graph showing our bodies accumulation of Linoleic Acid (LA) a pro-inflammatory omega-6 fatty acid generally found in industrial seed oils.

The take home is that only in the last 50 years have we started eating them in any substantial quantity.

Here is another graph with a similar curve.

There are a few more graphs and charts that follow this curve including the intake of sugar, specifically Sucrose and High Fructose Corn syrup (HFCS) but that is a whole other post.

How we’ve been eating them (how do they get in our diet):

We get animal fat primarily from eating animal meat and cooking with the fat either as a nonstick substrate or shortening.

We ingest industrial seed oils from either cooking with them or as ingredients in processed foods, the latter of which accounts for the vast majority of intake. The Standard American Diet (SAD) has been purported to derive as much as 20% of its calories from soy oil alone and I don’t know anyone who cooks with soy oil directly indicating that industrial foods, those that are engineered and built, are the primary source.

How are they good or bad for us:

Animal fats are good because they have been part of our diet forever and we are well adapted to eating them. They are considered chemically stable and do not change (oxidize) much if at all during cooking. They are energy dense and signal the brain to convince you to stop eating. They are bad only if you think they are bad, generally speaking the entire fat phobia our nation has experienced over the past 30 years has been debunked time and time again VIDEOS HERE. One thing that seems to hold true is that eating saturated fat can raise LDL cholesterol but that is only part of the story. The type of LDL that is elevated is the Type A which is the  large, light, and fluffy kind of LDL we need to keep cholesterol moving through the circulatory system on its way to work. Another way that animal fat can be bad is if the animals were fed a diet that they are not made to eat, i.e., grains. When ruminant animals, cows, goats, sheep, eat grains they get sick and sick animals get pumped up with antibiotics and steroids to keep them alive until slaughter. It is also known that a grain based diet for these meat animals causes a change in their lipid profile eschewing the omega 6:3 in an unfortunate direction. In-turn, we eat the meat, cook with the fat, and inevitably suffer the resulting issues caused by a high omega 6:3 ratio, namely systemic inflammation.

Industrial seed oils are bad because they are highly unstable as chemicals, are new to our diet, and are comprised almost entirely of omega 6 fatty acids chiefly (LA) which raises our omega 6:3 ratio from a healthy 1:1 or 2:1 up, in some cases, as high as 25:1.

So what are the consequences to human health of an Omega 6:3 ratio that is up to 25 times higher than it should be?

“The short answer is that elevated Omega 6 intakes are associated with an increase in all inflammatory diseases – which is to say virtually all diseases. The list includes (but isn’t limited to):

  • cardiovascular disease
  • type 2 diabetes
  • obesity
  • metabolic syndrome
  • irritable bowel syndrome & inflammatory bowel disease
  • macular degeneration
  • rheumatoid arthritis
  • asthma
  • cancer
  • psychiatric disorders
  • autoimmune diseases

The relationship between intake Omega 6 fats and cardiovascular mortality is particularly striking.”

Check out the rest of Chris Kressor’s post HERE

Are there any good vegetable fats/oils?

In word, yes. Coconut, palm, and olive to name a few. These three oils have been in use for thousands of years and each have their own claims to health and longevity. One thing separating coconut and palm from the rest of the pack it that they are primarily saturated fats, solid at room temperature, and therefore very stable and low in omega 6 fatty acids. Another is their limited processing from tree to frying pan.

Olive oil is a MUFA and has long been regarded a healthy oil, the rub is in heating it. Being an unsaturated fat it is not the most stable and will oxidize readily when heated, therefore it is best suited for salad dressing or pouring all over your gluten-free pizza.

The B-Shift breakdown:

Eat and cook with grass-fed/pastured animal fat, coconut, and palm oils.

Drink, dip and dress with California olive oil (trust me its better)

Steer clear of industrial seed oils by ditching processed foods.

Eat pastured and grass-fed/finished animals whenever possible.



16 Responses to Animal Fat vs. Vegetable Oil

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  2. zaid says:

    I feel a lot smarter after reading this cx

  3. james says:

    interesting graphs; but no source?

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  5. Chigozie Emmanuel says:

    I feel relief when i read this page about Fats i appreciate ur effect thanks and remain bless

  6. Nicky Hansard says:

    Great read. Absolutely spot on from my observations and readings. The last ice age ended roughly 10,000 years ago and lasted about 100,000 years. During that period based on the study of human remains and simple logic I believe it is safe to assume that our diet was at least 50% from animal sources. I’m not going to cite specific sources but it’s based on the availability of plant food that was human compatible during that period – very little for most groups and the evidence based on human remains and living sites indicates animal were a major source of food – that conclusion came from studying animal remains and looking for indications of meat consumption in the human remains. Fruit in the diet would have been almost nil.

    After the development of agriculture there is clear evidence of a significant decline in health – this occurred roughly 6,000 BC I believe. Human populations that took up farming became shorter – as much as half a foot, extreme dental issues and chronic diseases. The hunter gatherers before (not all became farmers and their health did not deteriorate which suggests the health issues directly tied to the farming life) had been supremely fit and healthy until death, without any of the issues their farming neighbours were experiencing. You may wonder why there aren’t more hunter gatherers if it’s so healthy, my theory being that agriculture can simply sustain a much larger population. They were basically displaced – 100 unhealthy farmers will still beat 1 healthy hunter/gatherer.

    Basically everything nutritional advirsory boards suggest as the ‘ideal’ diet is way off based on so many factors. We should be getting the majority of food from meat – also the entire animal is important, australian aborigines before being westernised would actually discard the ‘healthy’ parts of the animal and focus on the organs in times of plenty. The rest of the diet should be vegetables, preferably hardier vegetables that do better in a colder climate. Insects if you’re interested have actually been a valuable source of nutrition in other great apes.

    You especially want to stay away from dairy, most grains, processed foods and most simple carbohydrates. Some people don’t tolerate sea food well either.

    Caveat: everybody is different. Some people have developed the ability to digest milk into adulthood because their ancestors begun drinking it 1000’s of years ago. Some people probably have ancestors that were lucky enough to have access to fruit during the ice age or developed agriculture earlier than most thereby making them able to thrive on the typical ‘healthy’ diet (even they aren’t immune to the effects given enough time and high enough consumption) etc.

    I know this is a article in of itself but people have to learn about these things and the more noise we make the better :)

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  12. Adrian says:

    Great post! Thanks for sharing Animal Fat vs. Vegetable Oil

  13. Jimmy Long says:

    Thank you so much for the info. It was very helpful.

  14. Thomas says:

    Great post! Have nice day ! :) cdheg

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