How much do you pay for a typical jar of peanut butter? Three or four bucks, maybe five? For super-typical peanut butter, though, you can expect to pay a bit more: $761 for three six-ounce jars, which works out to be about $254 per jar.
That’s how much the National Institute of Standards and Technology, an agency of the U.S. Commerce Department, charges for its pasty PB known as “Standard Reference Material No. 2387.” And if you want to know what’s so unusual about the government agency’s peanut butter, aside from its catchy name, the answer is: nothing. Nothing at all. Which is precisely the point.
The peanut butter is made from the same elements as your standard store-bought PB – roasted peanuts, sugar, hydrogenated fat and salt – and was even “prepared by a commercial manufacturer of peanut butter whose name you would recognize,” NIST chemist Katherine E. Sharpless told The New York Times in 2003, but its elements have been meticulously analyzed by scientists to determine the precise amount of everything it contains, from dietary fiber and fatty acids to acrylamide, aflatoxins and amino acids. This kind of data is apparently essential to food industry and testing labs, which use reference foods as a baseline in their analysis of other foods.
As for taste, “Standard Reference Material No. 2387” has been described as “dead average,” which is of course the very point. Still, here’s to the Redditor who quipped, “You need some reference jelly to go with it.” And perhaps some reference bread.
Photo courtesy of National Institute of Standards and Technology