Butter production
Butter production
© Min. de l'Agriculture

Oil from Rieu firm
Oil from Rieu firm
By c. J-M Duriez

Ethiopian butter
Ethiopian butter
© Faye/CIRAD

 

Oils and fats belong to two categories: those so-called “invisible” are contained in the food, for instance meat, fish or eggs. Those so-called “visible” are obtained through separation of the fat component of agricultural products (as is the case for vegetal oils). We consume mainly invisible fats.

Olive oil, ayoli preparation
Olive oil, ayoli preparation
Prêt de J-M Duriez

Symbolic is the olive tree in Mediterranean areas. Its oil is linked with myths and history. The Romans would oppose the olive oil consumed by “civilized” people to the fats consumed by northern “barbarians”: lard, fat bacon, butter…

Fats or lipids are from vegetal or animal origin, the vegetal origin being more important. Numerous oilcrops are to be mentioned: soyabean, palm oil tree, rape, sunflower, groundnut…

Extraction of edible oil goes back to the remotest antiquity. Production has been improved and diversified at the agro-industrial age.

Rajahstan butter pot
Rajahstan butter pot
Coll. Agropolis-Museum

Margarine is an agro-industrial produce going back to the XIXth century, when it was necessary to provide sailors and low-income populations with cheap fat; it is nowadays an abundant and diversified item in supermarkets.

Take notice: oil is not only utilized for salad dressing, and butter for its taste… “essential” fatty acids are indispensable to life.

Average world consumption of oils and fats is cerca 12 kg per capita and per year. It is three times higher in industrialized countries than in poor countries.
In industrialized countries where animal food consumption is high, animal fats are plentiful… Often to excess, doctors would say.