A bit of multitasking this morning. My Labrador Retriever uses a treadmill in the morning for exercise (or he eats the house), so, while he walks I write. By the look on his face I think he would rather switch roles. Not a chance!
There is currently a lot of controversy about Shea Butter. The value of Shea isn’t in question. It is an amazing commodity for our skin. What is in question . . . is it actually Shea Butter? Lots of fraud going on in the Shea Butter industry.
A quick recap on Shea. Shea butter is a natural oil made from compressing and boiling the fruit of the African karite tree, also called “The Tree of Life.” While it can be ingested, it is most commonly used in skin products because of its amazing moisturizing and healing properties. Natural shea butter contains high quantities of vitamins A and E and is known to improve a variety of skin conditions. Enough said on it’s value as that isn’t the cause for concern.
There are many people selling what they call Shea Butter, that isn’t Shea at all, but the nut butter known as African River Butter or African Butter. How can you tell the difference? I did my research. According to the American Shea Butter Institute, there is no yellow Shea Butter. The real deal is ivory in color, in varying shades. No mustard yellow!
Now, to prove you were sold the fake Shea you would need to send a sample off for testing. That’s a problem. The American Shea Butter Institute charges $600 to do the test. I won’t be standing in line. Actually the line is probably devoid of the smaller business people.
There are similarities between the two butters, but the biggest difference is the healing fraction. It is much higher in the Shea Butter as compared to the River Butter. Here is the link to the comparison chart published by the American Shea Butter Institute.
I can see how it happens – the fraud. The African karite tree grows in a specific area. They grow naturally in the grasslands of west and central Africa. They do not need irrigation, fertilizer or pesticides. The tree has adapted to the savannah environment and won’t grow in dense plantations. Plantations fail because the trees do not germinate easily and take 25 years to produce fruit, so they remain a wild product.
For the poor to benefit at all from the tree they would need to live in an area where the tree grows. No family buggy to hop into to travel to their locale. Some women have to walk 10 miles a day to benefit from the harvest of the nut. The women who do the harvesting can carry up to 100 pounds of Shea nuts on their head for the return trip. Desperation causes people to deal with difficult situations.
My guess would be that those who do not have access to the Shea producing trees sell what they have and in many cases that would be River butter Or African River Butter. There is a fine line between ethics and watching your children starve. While these knock off butters do have value, genuine Shea butter wins the contest.
From The American Shea Butter Institute:
“What is the Cost for Grade Analysis? “
The cost for Grade Analysis is $600 per sample. The same amount should accompany the sample when submitted to the American Shea Butter Institute for Grade Analysis. Samples received without this fee will not be tested until appropriate arrangements have been made.”
I doubt there are any African women who can afford this testing.
So, look for the ivory color in your Shea butter. The mustard yellow Shea is probably African River Butter. I have a hard time being angry with women trying to feed their kids.