Shortening is a semisolid fat used in food preparation, especially baked goods, and is so called because it promotes a "short" or crumbly texture (as in shortbread). Shortening is fat or lard from an animal or vegetable. The term "shortening" can be used more broadly to apply to any fat that is used for baking and which is solid at room temperature, such as butter, lard, or margarine. Shortening often has a higher smoke point than butter and margarine, and it has 100% fat content, compared to about 80% for butter and margarine.
Crisco, a popular brand in the USA, was first produced in 1911. In Ireland and the UK Cookeen is a popular brand, whilst in Australia there is no equivalent, and, contrary to common belief Copha is not a substitute. While similar to animal derived shortening such as butter or lard, it is cheaper to produce; originally, lard was far cheaper and edible oils came at a higher cost. Shortening also needs no refrigeration, which further lowers its costs and increases its convenience, especially for people who live in countries without refrigeration. As a substitute for butter, it can lengthen the shelf life of baked goods and other foods. With these advantages, vegetable shortening gained popularity, as food production became increasingly industrialized and manufacturers sought low-cost raw materials. Vast government-financed surpluses of cottonseed oil, corn oil, and soy beans helped found a market in low-cost vegetable shortening.