History of Soy Oil Shortening - Part 2

by William Shurtleff and Akiko Aoyagi

A Chapter from the Unpublished Manuscript, History of Soybeans and
Soyfoods, 1100 B.C. to the 1980s

©Copyright 2004 Soyfoods Center, Lafayette, California

Page 1 | Page 2


Origins and Early Years (1840-1889) . Whereas Europe, as we have seen, experienced an acute shortage of fats starting in the 1800s, the US, with its low population density and abundant agriculture output, had a good supply, with enough lard and eventually cottonseed oil to export to Europe. While the industrial revolution also made heavy demands on the US supply of oils and fats, the rise of shortening as a lard substitute was due more to abundance (of cottonseed oil) and to various technical considerations than to scarcity.

The shortening industry in America had its origins in the lard adulteration practices of the 1870s and 1880s (Weber and Alsberg 1934). Actually, since the early 1800s if not earlier, butchers and farmers had added harder fats (especially tallow) to lard to stiffen it during the hot summer months. In the 1840s a new rendering process, called steam rendering, was introduced in the US. This made it possible to render the fat from the entire carcass of a hog, but the resulting "whole hog lard" (later called "steam lard") was lower in quality because it was much softer than the traditional lard, rendered from the firm fat of the kidneys. Producers generally stiffened the new soft lard by adding harder fats, especially lard stearine (made by the emerging lard-pressing industry) and sometimes tallow. The lard oil produced during lard pressing was then used to adulterate other oils, such as olive and sperm oil. The practice of adulterating soft lard with other fats was soon carried to extremes.

Few meat packing companies refined their own lard by rendering and otherwise making it ready for market. Since trimmings, scraps, offal, and the like are prime targets for bacteria and insects, the packers liked to move such materials away from their regular production lines as quickly as possible. They sold these materials to companies known as "independent lard refiners," many of which, like the meat packing industry itself, were located in Chicago. Foremost among these was the N.K. Fairbank Company. The mixture of relatively soft lard and harder fats was sold by such companies as "refined lard." The typical consumer was not aware that it contained anything but lard.

The rise of the margarine industry in the US during the 1870s and 1880s led to the extension of lard adulteration. The margarine makers purchased much of the good quality "neutral lard," leaving the lard refiners with lard which was even softer than what they were used to. The margarine industry also bought large quantities of oleo oil, pressed from oleo stock, the best edible beef tallow. The large refiners had no choice but to accept a softer, lower quality lard and to stiffen it with still larger quantities of hard, low-cost oleostearine remaining from the pressing of the oleo oil. Occasionally lard stearine was also used for stiffening. At least, however, the supply of hard stearine balanced the supply of soft lard. Inadvertently adulteration advanced another step.

Perhaps the most important early factor in the rise of the shortening industry in America was the rise of the cottonseed industry and the rapid increase in the production of by-product cottonseed oil during the 1870s and 1880s. Production of cottonseed begun experimentally in the US in the late 1700s and was not really commercialized until after the Civil War (1864-68). Output rose from a mere 11,300 tonnes (25 million lb) in 1874-75 to 118,800 tonnes (262 million lb) in 1889-90. During this period, the wholesale price of lard ranged from 0-50% more than that of cottonseed oil, in part because the oil was seen as a by-product of cotton manufacture. The earliest known use of cottonseed oil as an adulterant or extender for lard was in about 1875, when the stearine from winterized cottonseed oil was used like oleostearine to stiffen and lower the price of lard. The earliest known use of regular cottonseed oil as an extender dates from 1880, when an estimated 4.0 million lb (1,814 tonnes) were used (Weber and Alsberg 1934). Crude cottonseed oil is dark red in color and has a flavor and odor that make it very nearly inedible. Fortunately, as mentioned above, the French had made major advances in the refining, bleaching, and deodorizing of vegetable oils prior to 1850. These set the stage for subsequent advances in America.

In about 1880 the N.K. Fairbank Co. developed new methods for bleaching with fuller's earth. These and subsequent refining improvements during the 1890s made possible the addition of larger quantities of cottonseed oil to lard without affecting the color. One of the earliest ancestors of what are now called "shortenings" was prepared by Fairbank by mixing together 60 parts steam-rendered lard, 38 parts of cottonseed oil, and 8 parts oleostearine. The oleostearine, much stiffer than tallow, allowed greater dilution of the lard with cottonseed oil. This new product, the first lard compound containing a substantial proportion of vegetable oil, soon proved to be such a success, in part because of its lower cost, that Fairbank gave up making and selling pure lard and put all his efforts into his new "refined lard." The development in 1883 of the lard cooling roll gave the product improved consistency and color. Starting in about 1883 America found itself awash in a flood of cottonseed oil, resulting from a sharp drop in exports (protective tariffs had been thrown up in Europe) and a rapid expansion of domestic acreage. This plus the high price of lard in the early 1880s gave a powerful stimulus to the use of still more cottonseed oil as an extender in "refined lard." The typical consumer still had no idea that "refined lard" was in fact more than one-third cottonseed oil and almost 10% beef fat.

As the cottonseed oil industry grew it began to get organized. In 1884 the American Cotton Oil Trust was formed, and in 1889 its name was changed to the American Cotton Oil Company. The Southern Cotton Oil Company was formed in 1887. The first move made by the cottonseed oil companies was to start making lard compounds or shortenings containing a substantial portion of cottonseed oil. They then set to work trying to control supplies through the control of crushing mills and oil refineries. Perhaps in anticipation of this move Armour and Company, in the early 1880s, became the first large meat packer to start refining its own lard and it soon became a pioneer in the production of shortening, eventually buying its own cottonseed oil mills and refineries. The independent lard refiners were less fortunate, for their supplies were controlled from both sides by competitors. In about 1886 N.K. Fairbank and Co., along with smaller firms and after a long, hard fight to maintain the supremacy of refined hog's lard over cottonseed oil, was forced into the camp of the American Cotton Oil Co. The last major independent refiner followed suit in 1888. Another important influence leading to the disappearance of the independent refiners was the decline in lard processing, owing to inroads made from the mid-1880s by petroleum products on the demand for lard oil for illumination and lubrication. The disappearance of the independent lard refiners after 1888 aligned the industry into two groups of companies in two widely separated locations: The cottonseed oil companies in the Cotton Belt of the South and the meat packers and slaughterers, engaged in production and marketing of animal products, in the Corn Belt of the North Central states. The meat packers dominated the compound/shortening industry until the outbreak of World War I, and it was only the existence of the united cottonseed oil companies that prevented complete domination. The packers produced shortenings both with and without cottonseed oil.

In 1887 compound/shortening passed soap as the leading US outlet for cottonseed oil, and it stayed the leading use for many decades thereafter. (Exported cottonseed oil was used mainly for salad oil, soap, and margarine.) In the late 1880s N.K. Fairbank and Co. and Armour and Co. made an estimated 90% of all lard compounds sold. In 1887 Fairbank, the largest single consumer of cottonseed oil for use in shortening, was reported to have absorbed 20% of the annual US oil output. Shortening probably took half of all cottonseed oil produced by that time.

The earliest patent in the US for the production of shortening or lard compound was issued in 1871^ to Henry W. Bradley of New York. It was also the first to use oil in shortening; the formula called for 7 parts of refined vegetable oil, 3 parts beef or mutton suet, and 2 parts hog lard or stearine. A second patent to the same man that year covered a process for deodorizing cottonseed oil for cooking use. The first patent for shortening made with only vegetable oils and fats was issued in 1882^ to Oscar Coumbe of Washington DC. His product was called Oleard. The first trade marks for shortenings were registered in 1882. Purola, registered that year, was the first shortening to be advertised. In 1884 the first lard compound (marketed as such) was introduced by the N.K. Fairbank Co. and in 1915 its brand name was registered as Snow White. In 1886 Fairbank introduced Victoria (registered in 1912), and in 1887 Cottolene (registered that year); it contained 80-85% cottonseed oil and 20-15% oleostearine.

There were a number of attempts to control shortening by legislation during the 1880s, just as there were with margarine. The widespread practice of food adulteration became a national issue during this decade. The first legal test of lard compounds took place in 1881 in the McGeogh Case, the main result of which was to notify the public for the first time of the extensive practice of lard adulteration. The widespread publicity hurt the lard industry. During the 1880s there was extensive anti-margarine legislation; the first state laws were passed in 1884 and the federal Margarine Act was enacted in 1886. Attention was focused on butter and butter substitutes rather than lard and lard substitutes since (1) the growth to prominence of the margarine industry preceded by some years the extensive practice of lard adulteration, (2) dairy interests were well organized and had great political clout, (3) many small dairy farmers, especially in the northeastern states, feared that margarine would lead to their demise, and (4) few hog farmers took an interest in the adulteration of lard or the growth of the compound industry since they apparently failed to realize that lard compounds cut into lard sales and thus reduced the selling price of hogs.

Nevertheless there was some important legislation related to lard compounds. In 1886 Massachusetts became the first state to pass legislation requiring mixtures of lard and other fats to be labeled "lard compound" instead of "refined lard," a misleading term widely used since the 1870s. In 1888 the British government fined sellers of adulterated lard. In the US the term "compound lard" had begun to appear in trade circles by the mid-1880s, then in 1888 Armour and Company and N.K. Fairbank Co., two of America's larger lard compounders, found it expedient to announce that henceforth they would label all mixtures of pure lard and other fats as "lard compounds." By the late 1880s an estimated 90% of all lard compound was being correctly labeled. These efforts by the industry to police itself were important in diffusing federal attempts to tax lard compounds as margarine was being taxed. The subject of lard adulteration first drew congressional attention in 1887, the year after the federal Margarine Act was passed. Federal bills were introduced between 1888 and 1893 and one bill passed the House in 1890 but the Senate never took action on it. Thus it was not until the passage of the Food and Drug Act of 1906 that the whole problem of adulteration and misbranding was dealt with on a federal level. It was in large part because of the anti-margarine legislation that the development of alternative sources of fat in the US evolved in the direction of shortenings. Well into the 1930s, per capita consumption of shortenings was 3-4 times that of margarine.

During the 1870s and 1880s then, a series of events had conspired to push the lard refining industry from simple adulteration, through more and more extensive adulteration, to the ultimate achievement of a new food industry, with the cottonseed oil companies in control. The percentage of all cottonseed oil used in shortening grew from 21.2% in 1880 to 46.5% in 1889, at which time cottonseed oil constituted an estimated 70% of the ingredients in shortening. By the late 1880s US shortening consumption was about one-fourth that of lard.

The Meat Packers and Major Expansion (1890-1909). During this period the shortening industry expanded rapidly, for several reasons. First, shortening sold for about 80% the price of lard, largely because the price of cottonseed oil was only 54-67% that of lard, due to rapid expansion of cottonseed oil production. Second, the quality of cottonseed oil was greatly improved by advances in the deodorization process, initiated first by Eckstein in 1891^ and then by David Wesson in 1899^. Wesson's vacuum deodorization process was a real breakthrough. The first new shortening produced by the Wesson Process Company (affiliated with the Southern Cotton Oil Co.) was Snowdrift. It was also the first commercial all-vegetable-oil shortening, thus a real milestone.

The principal outlets for shortening during this period were probably bakeries, restaurants, and other food establishments, rather than the household trade. Most shortening was sold in bulk to the food industry and marketed chiefly as an inexpensive substitute for lard. The most popular retail brand was Fairbank's Cottolene. A quote from the USDA Yearbook of Agriculture , 1903, gives an interesting insight into the use of vegetable oils for cooking at that time:

. . . In domestic life there has always been in the mind of the American housewife a somewhat inexplicable prejudice against the use of vegetable oil for cooking purposes; and until recent years lard had completely usurped the functions here that from remote antiquity had been accorded in many countries to vegetable oils. That this prejudice is being gradually mollified there is no doubt, but it is a tribute to its persistence that vegetable cooking oil even now gains surreptitious access to the American kitchen only under the guise of packages and labels suggestive of lard . . .

Starting in the 1890s the meat packing industry, centered in Chicago, began a major involvement with shortening. A number of major meat packing firms, including Swift and Co. and Nelson Morris and Co., followed Armour and Co. into the shortening industry. Armour's earliest brand was Vegetole, registered in 1893. By 1900 US shortening consumption had climbed to about one-third that of lard. (It would rise briefly to equal that of lard in 1919.) Noting the trend, meat packers had started buying their own cottonseed mills by 1902 and their own refineries by 1905. The meat packers made compounds or blended shortenings, containing both animal and vegetable fats, a practice they continued into the period after World War II, although by then a large proportion of their output was purely vegetable shortenings.

The Pure Food and Drug Act and the Meat Inspection Act, both passed in June 1906, led to federal inspection of companies making shortening. The latter act contained the first specific definition of lard compounds, limited use of this term to products containing over 50% lard, and required that all ingredients be listed in the order of predominance on products shipped in interstate or foreign commerce.

Introduction of Hydrogenation and Soy Oil (1910-1919) . The development of the process of catalytic hydrogenation in the early 1900s (as described earlier) and its application to the production of shortening in the US starting in about 1911 quickly transformed the shortening industry. Prior to that time, it was not possible to convert liquid oils to solid fats, except by mixing in hard fats such as stearine from beef or lard. The cottonseed oil companies grew increasingly concerned over their dependence on their competitors for one of their key ingredients, hard animal stearine and the limited supply of those fats. Chemists at the cottonseed oil companies intensified their search for suitable substitutes for oleostearine and tallow, and soon discovered that these substitutes were to be found within the resources of their own laboratories. Hydrogenation, in short, liberated shortening manufacturers from their dependence on the meat packing industry, while also improving the stability of the oils. Hydrogenation ushered in a new era of shortening manufacture.

The first company to make a shortening using hydrogenation was Procter & Gamble Co. Prior to their acquisition of the rights to the Normann/ Crossfield patent on hydrogenation in 1909 (see Chap. 48), Procter & Gamble was a soap manufacturer (Ivory soap); they made no edible products. Initially they started experimental production and wholesale marketing of a shortening containing hydrogenated oil and a very small amount of oleostearine, but they soon dropped the oleostearine to make an all-vegetable-oil product. In 1911 Procter & Gamble introduced a retail-sized shortening brand-named Crisco, which was an abbreviation of the words "crystallized cotton oil." The company had the wisdom to market it as a new vegetable product with new properties, not as a lard imitation. Its absence of any animal fat was featured in the company's fabulously expensive and persistent nationwide advertising campaign. Crisco's bland flavor, whiteness, stability (resistance to oxidative rancidity), uniformity, and general good performance as a shortening and cooking fat soon won it the favor of both housewives and bakers. Soon many other companies began to make and market hydrogenated shortenings following Procter & Gamble's lead, and after the P&G patent was declared by the courts to be invalid, hydrogenation came to be widely used in making vegetable shortenings. By 1912 the effects of the hydrogenation process were beginning to manifest themselves and in that year the production of shortening was estimated to be more than half that of lard. By the start of World War I in 1914 hydrogenation had achieved considerable importance.

The earliest known reference to soy oil in connection with shortening was in 1912, when Ellis in US Patent 1,047,013, recommended the use of hydrogenated soy oil in making a "lard substitute." The earliest known use of soy oil in shortening dates from 1914, when 719 tonnes (1,585,000 lb) were used; this was only 0.1% of the total oils and fats used to make shortening that year in the US. The peak use of soy oil in shortenings prior to World War I (paragraph or page missing here at bottom of page!!.??)

There were three main reasons for the very limited use of soy oil in shortenings during this period. First, it was not widely available since a tariff had cut off imports in 1921 and domestic production was just getting started. Second, it was rarely less expensive and usually slightly more expensive than cottonseed oil during this period. And third, as Weber and Alsberg noted in 1934,". . . soy bean oil is not so satisfactory as cottonseed oil, because it is difficult to refine so as to make it permanently white and bland in flavor."

Cottonseed oil continued to be by far the predominant ingredient in shortening during World War I and the postwar period. It accounted for an estimated 92% of total raw materials in 1912-14 and 80% in 1920. The two main animal fats used were oleostearine and edible tallow.

During the early 1900s major changes were taking place in the structure of the shortening industry. The introduction of hydrogenation and all-vegetable shortenings split the industry and set it on two divergent courses. The meat packers continued to make shortenings of the compound or blended type, but only as a sideline. They used hydrogenation (though in small amounts) only for the manufacture of highly hardened cottonseed oil or vegetable stearine, to serve as an occasional substitute for stearine. The cottonseed oil manufacturers, on the other hand, made vegetable shortening as a main product and they promoted it heavily. Because cottonseed oil was produced mainly in the southern states, the center of activity in the shortening industry moved there from Chicago. By the late 1920s Texas and Tennessee were the leaders in shortening production, with Illinois a distant third. In 1916 an industry survey showed that the cottonseed oil manufacturers (led by Procter & Gamble) made about 50% of all shortening, the Big Five meat packers (led by Swift & Co.) made about 42.5%, and other slaughterers made the remaining 7.5%. Total shortening production that year was 380,568 tonnes (839 million lb). The meat packers had now moved heavily into production and refining of cottonseed oil, and in 1916 the Big Five (led by Swift) produced 31.8% of the total, as opposed to 52.2% produced by the five largest refiners (led by Procter & Gamble, Southern Cotton Oil Co. and American Cotton Oil Co.).

In America both lard and cottonseed oil were produced in surplus. The country basically decided to convert the cottonseed oil into lard substitutes and export the lard. From the 1890s until World War I large quantities of shortening were exported to Europe (the peak was 16,780 tonnes in 1907) and to the West Indies (the peak was 14,500 tonnes in 1908).

By the start of World War I a largely vegetable oil cooking fat had been able to make a place for itself in a market long almost completely dominated by lard, and the shortening industry had reached maturity. US per capita lard consumption was remarkably constant from 1900-1920, averaging about 5.5 kg (12 lb) a year. The earliest statistics for shortening show per capita consumption of at least 3.8 kg (8.3 lb) in 1912, increasing to a peak of 5.27 kg (11.6 lb) in 1919, which almost equalled the 5.4 kg (11.9 lb) that year for lard (Fig. ??). Clearly World War I was a boon for shortening. During the war, bakers were required to use vegetable-oil shortening exclusively in bread to allow lard to be exported to northern Europe, where people were not accustomed to using compound. Many bakers learned for the first time how to use shortening and found that it was a quality product. These statistics also demonstrate clearly that shortening found a market in addition to rather than only as a substitute for lard, for lard consumption stayed steady as shortening consumption rose. Indeed shortening found a new market in large part by attracting those who used little or no lard, including Jews, Moslems, and vegetarians, as well as cost conscious industry users such as bakers and confectioners.

The Rise of Soy Oil (1920-1939) . Soy oil did not start to be a major ingredient in shortening until the late 1930s, but important developments took place after 1920 that prepared for its rise to prominence. During the period from 1920-1929, the amount of shortening made entirely from vegetable oils by all companies except meat packers rose from 54% to 79%. By 1927, half of all vegetable oils in the US were used in shortenings (Horvath 1927). From 1925-1932 lard production averaged about 181,400 tonnes (400 million lb) a year versus 136,100 tonnes (300 million lb) for shortenings. Shortening prices, which had averaged 80% those of lard from 1900-1915, first passed those of lard in 1922, then again after 1930. Yet shortening continued to sell because of its preferred attributes. Although in the early days vegetable shortening had found it necessary to make itself as much as possible like lard in appearance and texture, by the 1930s lard was finding it advantageous to adopt some of the preferred characteristics of shortening. Lard was refined, deodorized, and made more uniform (and also more bland). Brand names for lard were introduced. In the early 1930s, 66-75% of all shortening was still sold in bulk to the commercial and industrial trade, rather than to households. With the former trade price is paramount and standardization and uniformity are prized; tradition yields easily to anticipation of profit and ease of use. The decline in home cooking with urbanization and the expansion of commercial baking favored shortening over lard. Shortening brand loyalty was slowly strengthened. In 1935, the year of a great lard shortage in the US, for the first time, per capita shortening consumption passed that of lard, reaching about 5.5 kg (12 lb) a year.

Soy oil was starting to make its move, as domestic soy oil production increased rapidly after the mid-1930s. Soy oil also got a boost in 1933 with the passage of the Agricultural Adjustment Act, which called for a considerable reduction in cotton acreage and hog numbers to reduce surpluses. By the mid-1930s cottonseed oil and soy oil were the only two major ingredients used in shortening. The amount of soy oil used in shortening skyrocketed from a mere 221 tonnes (489,000 lb) in 1933 to 51,660 tonnes (113.8 million lb) in 1936, up to 91,173 tonnes (201.6 million lb) in 1939. During this same period the amount of cottonseed oil used in shortening decreased slightly, being replaced by soy oil.

In 1931 (the first year for which such figures are available), 31.5% of the soy oil used in the US was used in shortenings, making that the single largest use; 21% was used in salad and cooking oils, 1.5% was used in margarine, and 37% was used for nonfood industrial purposes. For most of the period from 1935-1968 (except for 1957-60), shortening was the leading food use for soy oil, accounting for 30-54% of all soy oil use (Fig. ??).

In 1934, in the depths of the Great Depression, the Institute of Cottonseed Oil Foods, Inc. was founded, with 19 large cottonseed oil companies as members. In April 1937 the name was changed to the Institute of Shortening Manufacturers, Inc., reflecting the growing importance of shortening. In 1947 the name was changed to its present one, the Institute of Shortening and Edible Oils, Inc., which has active headquarters in Washington, D.C. Its membership changed over the years as soy oil replaced cottonseed oil as the predominant oil in shortening.

Shortening Passes Lard. Soy Oil Passes Cottonseed Oil (1940-59) . US production of soy oil rose dramatically during World War II. In 1943 it caught up with cottonseed oil production and in 1953 it passed lard. In 1934 soy oil had accounted for only 0.2% of all oils and fats used in shortening. By 1940 the figure had reached 16% and by 1944 it skyrocketed to 50%, as that year soy oil passed the long-time leader, cottonseed oil, to become the number one ingredient in shortening, a lead it has kept to the present. Utilization of soy oil in shortening rose from about 90,720 tonnes (200 million lb) in 1940 to 521,640 tonnes (1,150 million lb) in 1959, a 5.75-fold increase in 20 years.

US per capita consumption of lard reached an all-time high in about 1940 of just over 6.4 kg (14 lb), then plummeted steadily thereafter, falling to about 3.4 kg (7.5 lb) in 1960 and only 1.1 kg (2.5 lb) in 1980 and 1981. This dramatic decline was part of a general trend in the American diet away from consumption of animal fats (including cholesterol and saturated fats), but also reflected the increasing quality and price advantage of shortening. The superior neutrality, stability, and uniformity of modern shortenings was preferred to the rather distinctive animal flavor, tendency to go rancid, undesirably soft texture, and poor creaming qualities of lard. All-hydrogenated shortenings found particular favor with bakers. The extensive use of high-quality, low-cost soy oil played a major role in the dominance of the cooking fats market by shortening in the postwar period. In about 1953 shortening passed lard to become America's leading cooking fat. (Four years later, margarine passed butter.) Shortening consumption climbed from about 5.5 kg (12 lb) per capita in 1953 to 8.3 kg (18.3 lb) in 1981. Throughout the entire period from 1910-1981 total US consumption of cooking fats (i.e., baking and frying fats; lard plus shortening) stayed quite constant, averaging about 10 kg (22 lb) per person per year and ranging from a low of 8.6 kg (19 lb) in 1920 to a high of 10.7 kg (23.5 lb) in 1950. The 1981 figure was 9.5 kg (20.8 lb) (Fig. ??).

As soy oil replaced cottonseed oil as the leading ingredient in shortening, the longstanding competition within the shortening market between the Cotton Belt with its cottonseed oil and the Corn Belt with its corn-fed hog and lard output ceased to exist. After 1946 the Corn Belt controlled both shortening and lard production. A large proportion of US shortening (and practically all that containing animal fat) continued to be made by the meat packing companies, which from the 1950s were under inspection of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Bureau of Animal Industry. Next to soy oil, animal fats were the largest ingredients used in shortening (Fig. ??), with roughly 435,000 tonnes (1,000 million lb) being used annually from 1960-1980. Lard predominated until 1966, when beef fats took the lead.

Soy Oil Shortening Rules Supreme (1960-1982) . Between 1960 and 1982 per capita consumption of shortening in households decreased slightly (with increasing use of vegetable oils for cooking) but institutional use increased very rapidly, especially among fast food chains. After 1961 shortening started to be produced with a higher content of polyunsaturated fatty acids (22-35% versus 6-15% previously). After 1968 this led to the development of liquid shortenings (containing 30-50% PUFA), which were favored by the food industry for their ease of use and metering or pouring.

The Institute of Shortening and Edible Oils published statistics showing that in 1960 shortening accounted for a surprising 46% of all oils and fats consumed in the US. (Salad and cooking oils accounted for 29% and margarine accounted for 25%.) Roughly a third of the shortening was sold in small containers (0.5-3.6 kg, mostly retail to homemakers), whereas 43% was sold in amounts larger than 3.6 kg (8 lb) but not larger than drums (55-gallons??), and 22% was sold in bulk, larger than drums. In 1967, when new types of statistics began to be kept, roughly 70% of all shortenings was the 100% vegetable oil type. This figure had reached 80% by 1981-82, when small containers accounted for only 17% of the total, medium size 36%, and bulk 47%. Clearly consumers were using less shortening, while institutions were using more, over 80% of the total. Major large-scale users were potato chippers, bakers, fast food chains, other food manufacturers, and restaurants.

During the 1960-83 period the use of chemical additives increased. Emulsifiers, especially monoglycerides and diglycerides, were thought to be essential to the development of liquid shortenings, but were also found in most household shortenings, which by the 1980s were used primarily for frying, but to some extent for general baking. Silicone compounds, such as polydimethyl siloxanes, which serve as antifoaming agents and delay smoking, were permitted in amounts up to 10 parts per million.

Soy oil was increasingly used as the predominant ingredient in the major brands of shortening, such as Crisco (which contained soy and palm oils) and Snowdrift (which contained soy and cottonseed oils). Some large shortening manufacturers, such as Kraft's industrial division and Anderson Clayton made private brands, for chains such as Safeway. One major innovation of the 1980s was butter-flavored Crisco??. Good for use in baking cakes, it sold for one-third the price of butter and contained no cholesterol. Most household shortenings contained 80-93% partially hardened (hydrogenated) soy oil and up to 20% completely hardened palm or cottonseed oil. They generally contained no animal fats, including lard. In 1978 the proportion of various ingredients used nationwide in all types of shortening were soy oil 61%, tallow or lard 25%, palm oil 7%, cottonseed oil 5%, and other oils and fats 2% (Erickson et al. 1980). As of 1983, shortening was the second largest use of soy oil, behind cooking and salad oils, but far ahead of margarine (Fig. ??), a fact that may surprise many consumers.

By the 1980s most supermarkets no longer sold lard, and those that did often sold it in a small (1-pound) box, marketed especially for use in Mexican cooking. The price per pound was about 20% more than shortening, and typical ingredients (for example in Armour lard) were lard and hydrogenated lard. Most of the lard and tallow produced in the US by the 1980s by renderers and recyclers using huge automatic rendering systems went into three main markets: livestock and pet feeds (41.3%), fatty acid production (22.7%), and soaps (21.1%) (Considine 1982).

The story of shortening largely replacing lard as the major American cooking fat during the period from 1880-1980 demonstrates the successful replacement of an animal product by a lower-cost, high quality vegetable product, and the importance of research and technology (hydrogenation, deodorization, etc.) in the process. The dominance of soy oil as a margarine ingredient again demonstrates its cost competitiveness, quality and versatility.


Shortening has never been used much in these areas, although some increase has occurred, primarily in baking industries, since 1960. Figures are scarce. According to Gander (1976), per capita consumption of shortenings and compounds in Japan in 1975 was only 0.9 kg (2 lb), only 12% of the US figure.


Page 1 | Page 2