Peanut manufacturers need help from growers to maintain the highest quality possible for processed peanuts and peanut products.
“It is very difficult to add back quality once it’s lost,” said Ben Smith, Lance, Incorporated, Columbus, Ga.
“We need quality farmer stock peanuts,” Smith said at the annual Southern Peanut Growers Conference Friday in Panama City, Fla.
He said aflatoxin and pathogen contamination have become key issues within the industry, especially after two recent incidents with salmonella contamination. Reducing the number of loose shell kernels (LSKs) and the amount of foreign matter in peanuts will help reduce potential for aflatoxin, Smith said.
“Manufacturers have kill steps to stop pathogens, but we also need to make improvement in the harvest system to maintain as low a baseline of contamination as possible.”
Smith said farmers remain the first line of defense in preventing contamination and assuring quality peanut products.
He offered suggestions:
“Load wagons evenly across the top to provide even flow of air,” he said. “Dry green peanuts as soon as possible, but don’t over-dry or over-cure peanuts. We prefer to do the roasting. Adjust combines to the proper speed and conditions to reduce foreign matter.”
He recommended farmers clean wagons thoroughly before harvest and make certain they get rid of foreign matter, old crop residue and residue from other crops, such as corn. “Those other crop remains could pose allergen issues,” Smith Said. “That’s a critical aspect in today’s market.”
He said reducing LSKs benefits farmers. Sound mature kernels are worth 25 cents per pound, LSKs are 7 cents a pound; other kernels are 7.5 cents a pound. “It makes sense to move LSKs to SMKs,” Smith said. “That improves quality and value to the farmer.”
He said the entire industry must work in concert to assure consumers of a high quality peanut product. “We all have to use best practices to reduce pathogens. That has become increasingly important the last few years.”
He said manufacturers and warehouses have begun to initiate best practices. “Improvements are under way in harvest systems. Farmers are taking this issue seriously.”
He said recent salmonella outbreaks changed the industry. “At one time peanuts were low risk products. We’ve had to re-examine our thinking.”
Smith said a culture of promoting quality should pervade every aspect of the industry. The plant manager instills the culture into his employees and a farmer does the same to the people who harvest and haul his peanuts, he said.
“We implement the culture from top down. Culture is what we do naturally to produce a good product. It’s what a tractor or combine operator does when no one is looking.”