Monthly Archives: September 2012

Peanut Butter, Poverty, and Salmonella

Peanut Butter Salmonella

Ever notice how we get told about salmonella outbreaks in peanut butter whenever the economy tanks? There’s a reason for that. And a simple solution!

Apparently, the oil and low water environment of peanut butter can make salmonella stubborn to kill in the processing factory environment. Heat sealing won’t quite kill them all. Usually only a few stubborn beasties are left though, and only on special occasions.

So why is it that these little buggers show up every time the economy gets bad?

When things are hard, people buy more peanut butter.  Peanut butter sales are sort of the mercury reading of economic health. Good times, people buy meat and cheese. Hard times, they eat more peanut butter. Especially families with lots of children. No criticism there, my kids ate a lot of peanut butter, it is good food.

But when things are hard, and peanut butter sales increase, peanut butter spends less time in storage, between the factory and the table. Turns out, that creates a problem.

Salmonella can’t survive well in peanut butter. It can’t multiply there, and has a hard time even living. Somewhere between two and six weeks after bottling, any salmonella in peanut butter is gone from natural peanut butter and unsweetened peanut butter by the time it hits the store in almost every situation.

Some ingredients help the salmonella survive longer. Sugar is one of them. Some other sweeteners act the same as sugar, giving the salmonella a carbohydrate fix that helps it last a bit longer. More sugar, longer living salmonella.

Even so, within about 12 to 20 weeks, the salmonella is completely gone (even in cooler temperatures which prolong the life of the bacteria). And here we have the reasoning for salmonella outbreaks when the economy is in the toilet…

It means that our peanut butter reserves in warehouses have run short. The peanut butter is spending less time in storage between packaging and the store. It isn’t having enough time for the salmonella to completely die off.

This is a bit alarming when you think about it. If the economy is so bad that we are down to a few weeks supply of peanut butter in our nation, then things are worse than they may appear on the surface. Peanut butter doesn’t lie.

So, what does this mean to you, and how can you be sure you are eating safe food? It has nothing to do with the government – there are a few simple things you can do to make sure your peanut butter isn’t going to make you sick.

  1. Buy natural peanut butter. Peanut butter without sugar is best.
  2. Keep natural peanut butter sealed, at room temperature, for 2-3 weeks before using.
  3. Keep sugared peanut butter sealed, at room temperature, for 6-10 weeks if you can, before using. This means having a supply on hand to use from.
  4. If you make fresh peanut butter, do not add sugar, and store it at room temperature for three weeks before using – the salmonella comes from the fresh peanuts, not from the packaging systems. Give it time to die.
  5. DO NOT REFRIGERATE UNOPENED PEANUT BUTTER! Store at room temp, NOT in a root cellar or cold storage. Salmonella survives LONGER when refrigerated.

No need to recall “contaminated” peanut butter, just set aside unopened jars for use later. Truth is, probably a lot of what comes to your table was contaminated at one time – but the salmonella has had time to die in storage, and is no longer a risk.

The problem here is not that peanuts can be contaminated. We will never be able to stop them from being contaminated, and we won’t really be able to stop some of those little beasties from surviving the hot bath of processing and preserving.

The real problem is that our economy is so badly damaged that people are using far more than is being produced, resulting in a depletion of stored supplies. Under normal conditions, the commercial storage and distribution system has a built-in mechanism to ensure that the peanut butter is safe by the time it reaches your home. It is only in this kind of hard times when that falls apart because of abnormally high demand.

The long term national solution is to elect a man who actually cares about fixing the economy instead of re-electing someone bent on destroying it further. A reduction in government regulations, which allows businesses to flourish and hire again, will solve the problem of the peanut butter – no new regulation is needed (quite the opposite).

The personal solution is much simpler. Just make sure your peanut butter is old enough to be safe.

The Myth of the Capitalist Pie

Those who criticize Capitalism perpetuate the myth that economics are like a pie. That if someone else has a big piece, that it only leaves a crumb (or nothing) for you!

The truth is, everyone has their own pie. Their pie can be large, or small. It can get that way by their own work, by someone giving it to them (through an inheritance), or from the kindness of others when things are hard. (It doesn’t EVER get to be big because the government gave it to you.)

Another way of saying it, is that Economics are NOT a Zero Sum Game.

Imagine that you are playing basketball. When the teams come onto the court, the Referee announces that there are only 50 points that can be earned between the two teams. Not 50 points each, not playing until one team hits 50 points, but 50 points total between the two. If the other team scores, then that is one less point you can score.

THAT is a zero sum game. Not much fun for basketball.

Economics are like points really are in basketball. Any team can accumulate any amount of points. If the other team gets more points, they may WIN, but they don’t take away your points, nor does their earning of a point lessen the number of points you can earn.

The whole lie about a single economic pie is perpetuated by people who want to keep you poor. That’s right… by people who want you to blame the wealthy for the lack of jobs, rather than blaming the people who made it so difficult for people WITH money to provide jobs for people WITHOUT money.

When some people are wealthy, and others are not, those WITH money are NOT taking anything from those without. In fact, people who are considered to be wealthy pay 70% of the taxes in our nation, and they donate immense sums of money, goods, and resources to charities. WITH wealthy people, we have FEWER poor people.

Wealthy people also spend money. The money they spend creates jobs.

Wealthy people usually invest money, or own businesses, both of which create jobs. If there were no businesses making good money, there would be no jobs, because businesses that don’t make money don’t hire workers!

If you think it is unfair that a person has a maid, just ask the maid who has steady employment if SHE feels like it is unfair.

Wealthy people do not control the destiny of poor people. Poor people control their own destiny. While circumstances in life CAN cause a person to not be able to control their financial circumstances part of the time, we generally have the ability to shape our finances and earn our own pie, be it a large one, or a small one.

When a nation is rich, ALL her people are better off. When a nation is poor, ALL her people suffer. This does not EVER mean that there are not some who have more than others. That is just a fact of life.

Another fact of life is that when government TAKES from the rich, to GIVE to the poor, there are FEWER RICH, and MORE POOR people. It does NOT lessen the number of poor people. It INCREASES them. Want proof? Look at EVERY nation that has adopted socialism. The majority of their people live(d) in poverty, while free capitalist nations thrived with comparatively few poor people. The ones who did not live in poverty in socialistic societies were those with privileged places in the government – who skimmed off the top and allotted themselves a greater portion than they allowed for anyone else. Is that more fair than having those who EARN the money KEEP the money? Absolutely not! It makes everybody suffer more.

When a nation encourages people to BE wealthy, more people ARE wealthy, and they share that wealth with the needy more freely. Heavy taxes on the wealthiest people does NOT encourage wealth, it discourages it. It also discourages hiring, spending, and donating by those with money – all of which are activities which help OTHER people to be more financially secure.

So if you think it is unfair that someone else has something you don’t, then get out there and start baking. Their pie isn’t stopping you one bit! Go make your own!

The Forgotten Livestock

I suppose there are actually many kinds of forgotten livestock, and I’m only pointing out one. The Pigeon. Relegated to the impractical role of show and contests by most, the Pigeon was a bird that was found on every farm, and generally used and encouraged, though no one would have thought they needed to go out of their way to see that the Pigeon stayed there!

The farmers before the day of big ag accepted Pigeons as part of life, and used them because they were always there. They did not think about the uses of the Pigeon on the farm – they did not need to. They were always there, they did what they did, and the farmer did not have to worry about the tasks that the Pigeons carried out. It was done, so there was no thought regarding any need to manage the job.

Pigeons are always on the lookout for an easy meal. They like to hang out in barns. Not only are there eves for roosting and pockets for nesting, there is feed to cleanup. If the Pigeons clean up the feed, then it does not attract rodents, or other pests.

Plenty of other uses for Pigeons on the farm – for meat, for feathers, manure, animal food, etc. Pigeons were there, so they might as well be used. After decades of dwelling in cities and suburbs, we’ve gotten out of that habit. We often overlook resources, simply because we are not used to using them, or even owning them.

We haven’t just forgotten Pigeons. It isn’t just Pigeons that used to be useful and are now classed as a nuisance. We are that way about many things. Having turned our world upsidedown by compartmentalizing things and removing ourselves from nature.

Pigeons are one small part of it. One that may be easier to recapture than others. If you take a look around, you’ll probably find others. I’d love to hear about them.

UPDATE: Our book Raising Pigeons for Meat: Reviving the Forgotten Livestock is now available for Kindle, on Amazon, or in PDF format on our Firelight Heritage Farms Books website.

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