Lard is the layer of fat found along the back and underneath the skin of a hog. The hog's fat is purified by washing it with water, melting it under constant heat, and straining it several times. Lard is an important byproduct of the meatpacking industry. It is valued highly as cooking oil because there is very little smoke when it is heated. However, demand for lard in cooking is declining because of the trend toward healthier eating. Lard is also used for medicinal purposes such as ointments, plasters, liniments, and occasionally as a laxative for children. Lard production is directly proportional to commercial hog production, meaning the largest producers of hogs are the largest producers of lard.
Prices - The average monthly wholesale price of lard in 2007 (through May) rose by +26.5% to 26.78 cents per pound, but remained below the 32-year high of 28.69 cents per pound posted in 1984. The record price of 29.65 cents was posted in 1975.
Supply - World production of lard in the 2005-06 marketing year (latest data available) rose by +3.0% yr/yr to 7.720 million metric tons, which was a new record high. The world's largest lard producers are China (with 45% of world production), U.S (7%), Germany (6%), Brazil (5%), former USSR (4%), Spain (4%), and Poland (3%). U.S. production of lard in 2005-06 rose 7.9% yr/yr to 1.206 billion pounds.
Demand - U.S. consumption of lard in 2007 (annualized through September) rose +12.6% to 251.496 million pounds, up from last year's record low of 223.428 million pounds. The current level of consumption is only about 20 of the consumption seen in 1971 of 1.574 billion pounds.
Exports - U.S. exports of lard in 2005-06 fell sharply by -67.5% to 94.0 million pounds, and accounted for only 8% of U.S. production.