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
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
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
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.