Two experiments were performed to determine whether esterification is a major pathway of fatty acid utilization within porcine placenta and to determine what metabolic parameters may limit fatty acid transfer to the fetal pig. Maternal (endometrium) and fetal (chorioallantois) placenta were obtained by Caesarean section at d 110 of gestation in both experiments. Eight gilts were used in the first experiment. Tissue sections were incubated with palmitate at concentrations ranging from .25 to 2.0 mM. Maternal placenta metabolized palmitate at a higher rate than fetal placenta, although fetal placenta was more efficient in esterifying palmitate. Esterification composed the majority of palmitate utilization within fetal and maternal placenta. The second experiment evaluated the effect of dietary lipid on placental fatty acid metabolism and evaluated the ability of placenta to mobilize lipids. Fourteen gilts were divided into two groups of seven and fed a diet containing 15% tallow diet or a diet not supplemented with tallow (control) from d 90 to 110 of gestation. Dietary lipid had no detectable effects on lipoprotein lipase activity, [14C]palmitate metabolism, or lipolysis by the maternal or fetal placenta. Lipolytic activity of placental tissues was minimally affected by incubation with various proposed lipolytic activity of placental tissues was minimally affected by incubation with various proposed lipolytic agents. The data indicate that supply of fatty acids to the fetal pig may be limited by transfer of plasma fatty acids into the cytoplasm of placental cells or by regulatory enzymes for intermediate esterification; both types of limitations have been proposed to be influenced by fatty-acid binding proteins.