Letter Regarding Crisco in Home Economics Classrooms

Starting in the 1920s, the amount of packaged goods available for American consumers soared. It was the role of a woman, the primary spender of the household, to know which brands and types of products were the best for her family. Home economics students were being trained to make these decisions, but this letter from Dean Fisher to President Hughes shows the complexity of those decisions. President Hughes' concern also shows how worried Iowa farmers were about their synthetic competition.


March 29, 1932—

My dear President Hughes:

            In reply to the recent inquiry concerning the reason for not using lard to the exclusion of Crisco and other refined fats in class work of the Home Economics Division, we wish to present the following facts. 

            In the classes in which food preparation is taught, we use practically all brands of both animal and vegetable fat in order that the students may understand, through actual experimentation, the characteristics of each and will be able to judge which is most suitable for a particular cooking use.  It is not until the melting point, fuming point, ease of classification and keeping qualities together with the way each fat acts in pastries, cakes and deep fat frying, are known, that the student is in a position to make an intelligent judgment as to the best fat for any particular cooking process.

            We have found that lard, owing to its free fatty acid is especially superior for shortening.  On the other hand, lard does not have as good keeping qualities as the hydrogenated products of which Crisco is one.  This lack of the keeping quality of lard is a very real problem of the housewife as evidenced from the large number of letters from women in the state asking how to prevent rancidity or how to salveage lard that has become rancid.  It is the keeping quality plus the ease of clarification which causes us to choose some of the hydrogenated fats for use in the large quantity classes in Institution Management.

            We have recently received a sample of a product manufactured by the Cudahy Packing Company, labeled “Clix” which is advertised as a refined lard product.  If this proves to have the valuable shortening characteristics of lard together with improved keeping qualities, it should soon become a rival of Crisco and the other hydrogenated fats now on the market.

            In the basal diets of our animal research work, we must use a fat that is free from vitamin content.  Since lard carries traces of vitamin A, it cannot be used.  Because Crisco is the best known fat absolutely free of vitamin content, we use it in our animal research laboratory. 

Sincerely Yours
GF (Genevieve Fisher)