The animal fat that you see packaged as lard in the grocery is not lard as your ancestors would have used. That form of lard is a bizarre concoction of transfats that are hydrogenated in order to be more shelf-stable. Real lard has less saturated fat than butter and more monosaturated fat than it too.
[link to www.foodandwine.com
But let's be honest. Why would anyone use lard for health benefits? It's not the primary reason at all. The primary reason is sustainability and probability for typical agricultural areas. Animal fat from livestock or game animals is far easier to locate than finding plant oils. Does that surprise you? While we have many kinds of plant oils for culinary purposes (and some are multi-use for lamps), the difficulty is expressing the oil and collecting it in sufficient amounts by a small operation. Sure, corn, soybean, sunflower, are all oils to be sourced, but those products are better used by simply eating them. If you were to use a small hydraulic jack and a press to extract the oils(see previous postings), then you'd get very little from this activity, and then have something left over that's not very edible. Try it and see.
There are two candidates that could be grown: rapeseed (canola oil) and sesame, and both of these have been previous discussed as long term projects that produce good oils for cooking and creating oil lanterns that create light with high amounts of lumens and for culinary use.
Many animals produce grease from animal fat. We need to eat high calorie meals in a collapse scenario to get enough to sustain us because we'll be working so much harder each day. If you study any history or talk to any survival expert, you'll discover that the normal amount of food we consume is far less than you'd need from normal activity for rural life. It's just that we can purchase enough food and have many labor saving devices with the utilities coming in now.
Yes, there are game animals that have some fat on them, and yet many of these animals do not do well as livestock for they have special requirements or don't breed well in captivity. Pigs have historically been raised by many cultures. Roman soldiers raised them on the move because they provide a meat, grease, and other products, and they don't have high requirements for care. We've actually been using them as a source for over 10,000 years of human civilization, so when we made the move from being migrating hunter-gatherer societies into localized agriculture, we domesticated feral hogs into the ones used today.
[link to www.sfgate.com
The reason we have feral hogs again now, is that they were raised prior to the early 1800's on farms and allowed to free range. Penning them up and wallowing in mud creates bad sanitation. Pigs prefer to move about and will be far healthier if allowed to do so within reason. It's an on-going argument. See:
[link to blogs.nicholas.duke.edu
Regardless of these issues, like Britain in the midst of WW2, we'll be rural and urban homesteading and raising a pig for meat and lard, because we'll need sources and it's practical. Use proper health precautions and fully cook all meat, not just pork.
How to render it? Here's some instructions of how to create your own lard today. The hardest part of sourcing the fat as much is trimmed and because many of today's pigs have been bred to be leaner.
[link to www.howtobaker.com
[link to homesicktexan.blogspot.com
[link to www.thenewhomemaker.com
You may prefer to do it outside, as it creates an aroma that you're not used to. I think you'll end up liking it as an alternative to butter, as it produces good oils for baking and creates a crisping that is very difficult to produce otherwise.
And yes, one can use lard to produce a survival candle, but you'll most likely never do this short-term in a collapse. You need those calories far more than light. The First People made survival candles from soaking cattails in animal fat from buffaloes (see previous postings), so perhaps some of that will happen, but as most people struggle to create a homestead, then mostly you'll be working by daylight and firelight until you get things organized.
This method is more likely than rendering fat into tallow for candles. That activity will probably be an organized community activity based upon many animal kills which result in a lot of oils being generated, rendered, made into tallow, wick operations, candle dipping, etc. Besides that hams being smoked, lots of seasoned firewood, hickory gathered, smokehouses made, etc will also being going on. We take for granted these things, but they are the result of many people, truly craftsmen (or technicians to if you're politically correct) working intentionally in an organized way to produce them now. [To be honest, a craftsman is any person who has elevated their talent into an art
, not just doing a craft anymore, and a technician is anyone doing a technical ability.]
As a prepper becoming a homesteader, think in complex ways about all of the sustainability issues. We have a historic opportunity to create harmony from the chaos that will be generated. Either you can be part of the solution, and stabilize the community like your ancestors did, or you'll be fending off urbanites who will attempt to wrest away your supplies in an endless struggle. Which is better long-term?