flecks of the peanut’s papery skin are incorporated into the mixture, which the team prefers on the higher side. The skin, like that of a potato, is very nutritious, but it’s also bitter.

Arriving at just the right specks-to-paste ratio is part art and part science.

Yes, we have no peanuts

Of course, all of this means nothing if you can’t get peanuts.

Ninety percent of American households buy peanut butter, which is the major use for peanuts produced in the U.S. The average American child will eat more than 1,500 peanut butter and jelly sandwiches before graduating from high school. “It takes 1,800 peanuts to make just one Kirkland Signature jar,” says Shauna.

Those numbers show the demand. So, what happens when supplies drop?

In 2011, with peanut prices low and cotton prices at an all-time high, many peanut farmers decided to grow cotton instead. A drought reduced the peanut crop even further. The result was a peanut shortage so severe that Costco couldn’t source enough peanuts and Kirkland Signature peanut butter disappeared entirely from warehouse shelves. “For more than a year, we had no Kirkland Signature peanut butter to sell,” says Shauna. “I don’t know how many calls we got!”

The peanut harvest

To avoid another peanut shortage, Costco’s buying team, in addition to working with the suppliers, began to create relationships directly with the farmers. “I’ve met some farmers two or three times now,” says Shauna. “They’re passionate about what they do.” The buyers visit the farms and fields to watch the harvest take place.

The harvest is a two-step process. First, a peanut digger slices through each row to loosen the soil. Then the peanuts are pulled out of the ground and turned over so they are

ALL KIRKLAND SIGNATURE peanut butters—Natural Creamy, Organic Creamy and new Natural Chunky Peanut Butter—are made with naturally sweet Valencia peanuts and sea salt, nothing more.

Costco’s new Kirkland Signature Natural Chunky Peanut Butter has even more of that nutty peanut flavor thanks to the addition of chopped peanuts.

When Costco made its first foray into
peanut butter seven years ago, with Kirkland
Signature Organic Creamy Peanut Butter, few
organic peanut butters were on the market. If
Valencia peanuts are difficult to grow, organic
Valencias are even more so, as converting a
conventional peanut farm into one that is
organic takes three years. Because organic
peanuts are grown without synthetic fertil-
izers, herbicides or pesticides, the growing
fields require much more manual labor than
conventional fields.

All three peanut butters should be available at most locations at the time of this magazine’s publication, with the exception of the Los Angeles region, which will begin stocking the new Kirkland Signature Natural Chunky Peanut Butter toward the end of September and the Northeast region, which will have Organic Creamy in November.—TS

Peanuts! Getcha

peanuts here!

exposed to the sun. They remain there for several days before a peanut combine raises the pods off the ground, separates them from their vines and deposits them in a hopper.

The peanuts must be free of mold and have a very low moisture content before federal and state inspectors will approve their sale to a processor. In fact, the peanuts are inspected and graded twice, at two different stages, by U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) regulators, and then tested by a third party once they have been ground into peanut butter.

Costco and its partners have continued to improve their systems and procedures for food safety. Recently, Costco buyers visited the newest supplier three times in three months to monitor and review the processing procedures. One producer had completely revamped its system from the ground up, and now has what Shauna describes as “probably the safest facility in the industry.”

Peanuts into peanut butter

Once the peanuts have been approved for
sale by the USDA, they are screened to remove
debris, vines and rocks. Then the shells are
removed and the peanuts are graded and
approved a second time by federal and state
regulators. Next the peanuts are roasted, both
for flavor and to kill any bacteria. Afterward,
they’re run across rollers to loosen and rub off
their skin, a process called “blanching.” Finally,
the peanuts are ground into peanut butter,
packed into jars and tested again before they
are shipped to Costco’s warehouses.

Kirkland Signature Natural Creamy and Natural Chunky peanut butters are sold in two-pack, 40-ounce jars, and the Organic Creamy in two-pack 28-ounce jars, rather than one jumbo jar, so they’re easier to store. The smaller size makes it easier to scoop out every last spoonful, too. Because all Kirkland Signature peanut butters contain no emulsifiers or stabilizers, the peanut butter and the peanut oil will separate naturally. So you may need a spoon to stir your jar before using the peanut butter in a favorite recipe, whether a peanut butter smoothie, a peanut butter satay or a peanut butter cheesecake.

Then again, sometimes the best way to appreciate all the effort that went into making it is the simplest: eat the peanut butter with a spoon, straight from the jar. C

 

Tracy Schneider lives with her husband and daughter in Washington state.

S H A UN A LO PE Z JIM FAGIOLO

References:

Archives