The Fats and Oils
A General View


Carl L. Alsberg
Alonzo E. Taylor

Directors, Food Research Institute

Food Research Institute
Stanford University, California

Fats and Oils Studies
No. 1 February, 1928

The Food Research Institute was established at Stanford University in 1921 jointly by the Carnegie Corporation of New York and the Trustees of the Leland Stanford Junior University, for research in the production, distribution, and consumption of food.

Carl Lucas Alsberg, Joseph Stancliffe Davis, Alonzo Englebert Taylor

Copyright, 1928, by The Board of Trustees
The Leland Stanford Junior University

Second Impression 1929

Printed in the United States of America
By Stanford University Press

Fats and Oils Studies
of the Food Research Institute

No. 1. The Fats and Oils: A General View
No. 2. Copra and Coconut Oil
No. 3. Inedible Animal Fats [In press]
No. 4. The McNary-Haugen Plan as Applied to Corn and Hogs [In preparation]
No. 5. History of the Lard-Compound Industry [In preparation]

Directors' Preface

War-time experience demonstrated the basic importance of the fats and oils for food, feed, and raw material for industry. The growth of international trade and increasing substitution of one fat for another in response to changes in consumers' preferences and manufacturers' technique have given rise to serious problems of public policy, especially with respect to food laws and tariff restrictions. Yet the literature dealing with fats and oils is notably deficient in its economic and statistical aspects, largely because these materials are so diverse in origin and use and are yet to a high degree interchangeable.

These considerations have led the Food Research Institute to undertake intensive investigations in this field and to begin publication of a series of Fats and Oils Studies. Emphasis is placed upon the economic phases of the trade, and upon the food rather than the industrial uses, though due consideration is given to relevant scientific knowledge. The principal objective is to develop an increased understanding out of which sound views upon questions of public policy and business practice may be evolved.

Each number of the series constitutes an independent consideration of a selected topic; but so intimate is the relationship among the various fats and oils that each study must be regarded as an integral part of the series.

A fairly intimate knowledge of the origins, manner of production, and technical uses of the several important classes of fats and oils is a prerequisite for study of their economic significance. It is therefore rational to present in this, the first of the series, a simple, elementary, and, so far as possible, non-technical exposition of the production, the technology, and the interrelations of the various fats and oils, which may serve as a background for the more specialized studies that are to follow. The purpose has been to prepare the reader, who is assumed to be without training in chemistry, chemical engineering, or biology, for intelligent reading of studies of particular fats and oils in which the emphasis is primarily economic even though some reference may be made to technical matters of production, manufacture, and consumption.

In the present treatise, little that is new is presented. Nearly all of the material could be found by diligent search in one or another of the many handbooks dealing with the chemistry of foodstuffs, with the chemistry of fats and oils, with the technology of the industries employing fats and oils as their raw materials, with the nutrition of man and domesticated animals, and with governmental supervision over the food trades. In no one place, however, does the information desirable for an understanding of the fat and oil trade as it affects agriculture and industry seem to have been collected in a form so simple as to be intelligible to those without technical training. To supply such a presentation is the object of this initial study.

Studies contemplated for the immediate future will deal with copra and coconut oil, inedible animal fats, the McNary-Haugen plan as applied to corn and hogs, and the history of the lard-compound industry.


I. Nature and Sources of Fats and Oils
Chemical and physical characteristics

Animal and vegetable sources
Edible and inedible fats
Drying and non-drying oils
Deterioration of fats and oils

II. Properties of Fats and Oils
Chemical composition

Triglycerids and fatty acids
Saturated and unsaturated fatty acids
Measures of unsaturation
Other useful tests

III. Fats and Oils Technology
Commercial production of animal fats

Hog fats or lard
Cattle and sheep fats or tallow
Production of garbage grease and similar products
Production of vegetable fats
Decolorizing or bleaching
Production of stearin
Substitutability as a technological objective
Soap making
Candle making
Lard compounds

IV. Conditions and Trends of Production
Influence of agricultural evolution

Animal fats as by-products
Vegetable oils major products
The question of relative costs
The position of dairying
Bearing of methods of producing vegetable fats
Responsiveness of production to price changes

V. Conditions and Trends of Consumption
Quantitative data unsatisfactory

Fats and oils in the diet
Influence of changes in food habits
Influence of changes in food manufacture
Development of lard compounds and margarin
Substitution in other food uses
Fats and oils in the arts
Special demands for peculiar properties
Substitutability in soap making

VI. International Trade in Fats and Oils
The international position in general

The position of particular countries and regions
Colonial sources of fats and oils
Competition of domestic and imported supplies

VII. Concluding Observations

Next: I. Nature and Sources of Fats and Oils

Back to the Biofuels Library

For further information see:
Oils -- King's American Dispensatory, by Harvey Wickes Felter, M.D., and John Uri Lloyd, Phr. M., Ph. D., 1898

Chemical Reactions of Oil, Fat and Fat Based Products

Food Fats and Oils (1994) -- online book (Acrobat file):

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