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Last Updated: Monday, 15 November, 2004, 12:12 GMT
Lard lovers face national crisis
Christmas pudding
Lard is vital for traditional Christmas pudding and mince pies
Christmas dinners throughout the UK are under threat this year from a shortage of lard as Eastern Europeans stockpile cheap cuts of pork.

Increased demand from recently-joined members of the European Union has led to a shortfall in available pork to turn into lard, retailers say.

New members, which include Hungary and Poland, are buying within the EU to avoid a levy on non-EU imports.

Lard can be used to make mince pies, Christmas pudding and roast potatoes.

Empty shelves

Supermarkets in the UK have already warned that stocks are running low and now there are fears that the shortage could spark panic-buying, leaving empty shelves in the run up to Christmas.

There has been unprecedented demand from Eastern European countries such as Poland and Hungary for the cheapest cuts of pork

Somerfield said it has already been forced to limit the number of tubs of lard on sale at each of its stores.

It had advised shoppers to check their local stores when possible to see if another delivery has come in.

"There has been unprecedented demand from Eastern European countries such as Poland and Hungary for the cheapest cuts of pork to meet their demand for sausages, salamis and pies," said a spokeswoman for Somerfield.

"This upsurge in demand for cheap cuts of pork-meat normally used to make the lard has lead to a serious shortfall in lard production throughout the European Union."

Lust for lard

If the lard mountain keeps melting, professional chefs are recommending that foodies use margarine or cooking oil instead.

Lard is made from hog fat
The fat is richer than many other fats
Ideal for flaky biscuits and pastries
Lard has fewer calories than butter
One tablespoon contains 13 grams of fat, 116 calories and 12 milligrams of cholesterol
Cross-channel swimmers cover themselves in the fat to keep warm

The current crisis has probably not been matched since lard rationing during World War II.

Despite warnings about ballooning obesity rates in the UK and a trend towards the use of vegetable fats, many people - particularly the over 50s - swear that lard is lord.

They insist that it makes better tasting pastry, and frown on the use of margarine, which, they claim, makes pastry too short as well as being more pricey.

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