Lard has all but disappeared from the modern American household, and now when mention of the word comes up, people shudder. They fear the dreaded problems with lard. BUT, do said problems truly exist? Or are they just misconceptions perpetuated by companies and scientists? Let's take a look...
Fats come in three types: saturated, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated. In this order they are: not great, good, and best. Now I know people are going to get on me about saying saturated fat is "not good" instead of labelling it "bad", but I really don't see it as bad. Is too much bad? Yeah, probably. But it occurs in nature in foods that our forefathers ate, and you know what? I don't think its bad. At least, it wasn't until we started mucking about with its chemical structure.
Now the big scare is trans-fats. Guess what! Lard doesn't have any. None, zero, zip, zilch, nada. Studies have shown that trans-fat is much worse for your health than saturated fat. Lard has about 40% saturated fat (compared to coconut oil's 85% and palm kernel oil's 80% **source**). Lard also has about 45% monounsaturated fats. That's a very respectable number from a health standpoint.
So from a health standpoint, Lard is good. There are proponents out there that are doing studies showing lard to be high in Omega-6 fatty acids, and showing the many other health benefits of lard. But there is a caveat.
Come on, you knew it was coming, right? Well, the boxes of lard that you get at the store are hydrogenated. This means that Hydrogen is added to increase the stability of the fat thus eliminating the need for any special storage conditions. By adding Hydrogen to the fat, the producers are eliminating a lot of the fat benefits listed above. Never fear, you can buy pig fat from local farms in order to render your own lard, or if this is too much work or too scary for a beginner, there are farm markets that sell "real" lard that is not hydrogenated.
As with anything, I urge you to do your own research and to look into the facts. If you agree that this wonderful ingredient is not the health terror we've always been told, let me tell you, it works WONDERS to pastries, baking, etc.