Tallow is a lipid that humans have used for centuries. They commonly used it as a skin moisturizer, as well as in candles and soap-making.
In the past few decades, it became common to use tallow in bird feed, and today, it is still a very popular ingredient.
As a lifelong hunter, I will give you ideas on how to use tallow from deer, what it does and how it can benefit your outdoor experience.
- Deer tallow is fat derived from a deer's body, similar in nutrition to tallow from other ruminants but harder to extract due to deer's lean meat.
- Despite its unappetizing taste, deer tallow has various uses, including skincare products, soap-making, and candle-making.
- Deer tallow is also mixed with seeds, mealworms, or fruit to create a nutritious bird feed called suet.
What is Deer Tallow?
Simply put, deer tallow is fat that comes from a deer's body. It is usually made by rendering fat from around the deer's internal organs but can also be harvested from fat deposits anywhere around the body.
Rendering is a process where fat is heated until it turns into liquid form.
Rendering is generally done by placing the fat inside a large pot and melting it over slow heat.
Once cooled, the tallow solidifies and can then be stored for an extended period or used for various purposes.
It is well known that deer is a leaner meat than beef or lamb. That means it can be more challenging to extract large quantities of tallow from deer.
However, the tallow itself is similar in nutrition compared to that of other ruminants. An ounce of tallow contains 253 calories that all come from fat - no protein or carbohydrates.
The fat content is split between 13.9g of saturated fat and 11.7g of monounsaturated fat. There are also smaller amounts of polyunsaturated fat and omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.
It has 30.5 mg of cholesterol and 22.3 mg of choline. There is also a small amount of selenium in deer tallow.
Deer Tallow and Food
Tallow has been used for centuries as food because of its high calorie load.
In the early days of America, tallow was mixed with dried meat and dried fruit to create pemican. This meal was invented by Native Americans and adopted by early traders because it was high in energy and stored well.
“Deer tallow is notoriously bad tasting and quickly ruins a perfectly good meal. Personally, I recommend using it as an excellent leather conditioner.”
- Robert James Foort, Owner of Bowshunter.com
Today, deer tallow is not frequently used for food. For those who still eat pemican, beef and buffalo have overtaken deer tallow as a base because most people find they have superior taste and texture.
Indeed, many find that deer tallow, once congealed, is too thick and greasy for pleasant consumption. People have described it as eating "deer-flavored chapstick.”
In fact, deer tallow has been said to ruin the flavor of just about everything, so I do not recommend using deer tallow for cooking.
How to Use Deer Tallow
So, even though deer tallow may taste like rubbish, it still has a variety of uses. It is found in several applications.
Many people used tallow products to moisturize skin and hands, especially in dry climates or seasons . The high lipid content of the tallow acts as a protective layer to shield the skin from harsh weather conditions.
Tallow products can help skin that becomes dry and cracked because of washing with hot water and using hand sanitizer repeatedly. Deer tallow's cholesterol and saturated fat levels mirror those of skin, making the two quite compatible.
Tallow, when set, has a fairly waxy consistency. Therefore, most moisturizers with tallow will be cut with another oil like coconut, palm, or shea butter.
However, those oils tend to be more solid, so you will need substantial amounts to cut the tallow. If you want to ensure the deer tallow is the main ingredient of your skincare product, mixing in olive oil is an excellent choice.
A popular use of deer tallow is in making soaps and other cleaning products.
One reason it is commonly used is that it has an extremely high melting point, so the soap bars are hard.
Any traditional soap-making process that includes fats/oils, lye, water, and iodine/fragrances can be used to make deer tallow soap .
People note that deer tallow by itself does not make soap with a lot of suds. Thus, the recommendation is to add an additional fat source, such as coconut oil, olive oil, or castor oil.
Rendering tallow creates a grease that is good for candle-making because it burns without leaving much residue. Additionally, tallow holds its shape well because it is such a hard fat. This means there is little need to add other ingredients during the candle-making process.
"So when I first started this I was wondering if it was going to be worth it or if it was just going to be one of those things that I crossed off of my “want to try” list. The conclusion? I NEED MORE DEER! I am in love with this soap. I also like the fact that I’m using something that is just going to get thrown out anyways."
- Amanda Gail, Soapmaker
You can simply heat rendered deer tallow, pour it into a mason jar or mold, and allow it to harden again. Best yet, even though you will burn your tallow, there is remarkably little odor associated with the candles.
Deer Tallow Bottom Line
So, you can see that deer tallow has an abundance of uses, though likely not as an addition to your dinner.
Beyond the applications outlined above, deer tallow is also routinely mixed with seeds, mealworms, or fruit to create a healthy and nutritious bird feed called suet. This food works great as:
- An extra source of calories when food sources are scarce
- An extra supply of nutrients to allow birds to breed in spring successfully
- An extra source of energy to make sure birds have enough energy to fly away from predators
Tallow's usefulness makes it worth investing time in learning how to make your own at home or finding vendors who offer quality deer tallow products.