A group of like-minded organizations, companies, and individuals formed the Healthy Fats Coalition, a new educational initiative dedicated to the proposition that healthy fats aren’t merely having a moment—they’re here to stay, as an essential part of the American diet.
As an awareness campaign, the Healthy Fats Coalition reflects the marked change in what Americans think about the health benefits of healthy, minimally processed animal fats. The HFC seeks to create an enlightened conversation about the food we eat, though news and editorial commentary, social media conversations, opinion surveys and more. Its mission is simple: affirm that animal fats deserve a central place in the American diet and in the popular imagination.
Coast Packing Company, the leading supplier of animal fat shortenings in the Western U.S., took the lead in organizing the HFC. The Coalition’s founding supporters are an appropriately diverse group. They include the Weston A. Price Foundation, a nonprofit, tax-exempt nutrition education initiative; Bottega Americano, a popular Italian restaurant in San Diego; Fatworks, a Boulder, Colo.-based online retailer of premium traditional fats—beef tallow, lard, and duck fat; Tendergrass Farms, of Floyd, Virginia, supplier of certified organic processed meat and poultry products: Elizabeth Swenson, author of The Artisan Lard Cookbook; and HeartBrand Beef/Akaushi Cattle, Flatonia, Texas, among others.
“We feel that animal fats have been demonized for too long,” Gustafson says. “Fat matters both for taste and for general health and well-being. The reality is that animal fats have tangible health benefits, are nowhere near as problematic as they once were thought to be, and their artificial/manufactured substitutes are far worse than originally believed. We see the Coalition embracing today’s compelling food culture, and recognizing that minimally processed animal fats belong in the kitchen—at restaurants and at home.
“We understand that the entire discussion around food, nutrition, healthy eating and balanced diets is confusing at best—at times, the zigs and zags over what to eat and not eat can seem overwhelming,” he says. To help fulfill the campaign’s mission to educate, the HFC website includes a Resources page—a one-stop repository of the very latest books, research studies, videos, news articles, public and trade events.
HFC is not a trade organization or in the business of promoting individual products or brands, Gustafson notes. Although commercial interests are welcome to participate in the campaign, the HFC is not itself a commercial organization. Support for the HFC involves no cost or obligation among participants. The Healthy Fats Coalition asks only that supporters post the HFC badge on their websites and various social media channels, and add their voices and ideas to the ongoing conversation.
Underscoring the sea change in attitudes, the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Internal Medicine recently released a report implicating the sugar industry for manipulating information to shift responsibility for heart disease away from sugar and toward saturated fat intake.
In her 2014 New York Times bestseller, “Big Fat Surprise” (Simon & Schuster), Nina Teicholz wrote: “The rush to banish animal fats from our diets has exposed us to the health risks of [artificial] trans fats and oxidizing vegetable oils. If we had not abandoned meat and dairy, we could still be using lard, tallow, and butter as our principal fats for cooking and eating. These fats are stable, do not oxidize, and have been consumed since the beginning of recorded human history.”
“If there’s a silver lining to those low-fat years, it’s this: we learned that fat is the soul of flavor,” Teicholz says. “Food is tasteless and cooking nearly impossible without fat. Fat is essential in the kitchen to produce crispness and to thicken sauces. It is crucial in conveying flavors. It makes baked goods flaky, moist, and light. And fat has many other, essential functions in cooking and baking.”