October 2014 - June 2016

Areas of focus

Packaging · Product · Systems

Team: Ryan Pierson, Ryn Adkins,

Nick Zidzik, Ian DaRin (during research/glass jar phase)


How can we destigmatize a forgotten food and help sustainable pig farmers earn more for each pasture raised animal?


We worked with Grey Rock Farm, a small organic farm in Cazenovia, NY, to retell the story of lard, creating a brand, product and packaging system that could be replicated at hundreds of like-minded farms.


LARD /lärd/ noun

"fat from the abdomen of a pig that is rendered and clarified for use in cooking." Oxford English Dictionary

Lard has a complicated history in America. From WW2 rationing to low fat diets, this cooking oil has gone from prized to vilified several times over. When made from pasture raised pigs, it is a delicious and sustainable cooking oil. Small, organic farms across the country are missing out on a growing market for artisanal value added products. Meanwhile, markets in specialty foods, including a variety of different fats and oils, are growing rapidly.



To help shift the perception of lard, we created a unique and eye catching ceramic jar that could be reused and returned in Greyrock's existing packaging reuse programs with their local customers. Our jar was meant to be durable, enticing, and approachable, while using the brightly colored and opaque walls to conceal the lard and first glance. We found that as pure white as the rendered lard could be, many people's initial perception of was not aided by seeing it. 


We spent months rendering our own lard and cooking with it, understanding how to use it, store it and enjoy it as a cooking oil. We found that lard was very versatile, and, with the right flavors and techniques, worked great for both savory and sweet applications.

In order to show people the possibilities of cooking with lard, we created delicious natural flavors during the rendering process. This reduced the "porky" smell that some people disliked, and sparked new ideas such as maple lard pancakes, stir fried veggies with ginger lard or sage lard roasted veggies, along with classic recipes like flaky pie crusts. Pictured to the left is an early version prototype, when we were considering glass production.



Initially this project was constrained to glass manufacture, so after hundreds of sketches, dozens of models tested in the kitchen and on the shelf, several 3d printed prototypes and CNC cut pattern pieces, I created a cast iron mold into which our jar could be blown. After exhibiting the jar, and finishing the University related portion of the project (which had the glass constraint), I began examining other methods of production that would allow me to make a run of jars for Grey Rock Farm. 

Taking additional feedback on the form, transparency and durability of the glass jar prototype, I began working on a slip cast porcelain jar that could be produced more realistically while addressing some of the aesthetic and functional design concerns. I delivered 50 jars to Grey Rock Farm in the spring of 2016 where they are still being used today.



Knowing that there are hundreds of similar small CSA style farms raising heritage pigs on pasture, I developed a business plan for the lard project and pitched it at the NY State Business Plan Competition, winning seed funding to create our initial run of jars and explore other design for local food initiatives under the studio name "Design to Table". The mission of Design to Table was to "put producers on a platform", which we did through other design projects with local farmers and food makers, popup shops and art events for local artists and designers, and branding for small sustainable businesses.