This question is very common, and pretty easy to answer. It has a lot to do with how the pecans are grown, but also how they're handled after they're harvested. Pecans have an immense amount of high quality, heart healthy oil inside. At room temperature, that oil begins to oxidize, and it starts to darken the kernel. That’s oftentimes what you see with these store bought pecans.
Store bought pecans are not held in the freezer like ours are. As soon as our pecans are shelled, they go straight to the freezer at zero degrees until they're ready to be sold. When customers order them online or come to our store, they come out of the freezer, and are kept in a refrigerated cold case in the store until ready to ship or pick up. Holding fresh pecans at refrigeration temperatures allows the customer to take the pecans home and enjoy it just as if it came off the tree.
Here’s an example to demonstrate the difference between Royalty Pecans and some store bought pecans. I think you can tell quite quickly which pecans are farm fresh, and which ones are store bought. These particular pecans were grown in 2019, but they look like they came right off the tree, don't they? The store bought pecans in the picture were not handled properly after harvest. They've turned dark, and those heart healthy oils previously mentioned have oxidized, ruining any benefit they may have offered. The quality of the pecan (taste and appearance) suffers, and rancidity begins to build inside the kernel.
You’ll also note some of these pecans are not as plump, or as well filled as some of the others. Unfortunately, this has everything to do with the way that they're grown, including the management of the trees and making sure the trees don't go into stress. Well managed orchards are going to produce those nice plump pecans, which is indicative of healthy, well-fed trees during the growing season. In the picture above, you probably noticed one of the darker pecans is also a very nice, plump pecan, but it wasn't handled well after harvest, so it's probably going to have a bit of a bitter taste. A lot of hard work goes into keeping a pecan orchard healthy and well-fed, and it’s disappointing to see the work ruined by poor handling of the pecans after harvest. This could have easily been avoided had the pecans remained in the freezer or a refrigeration unit until ready to be sold. You’ll find a lot of grocery stores don’t keep their pecans in a cold unit, instead storing them on a shelf.
One other thing I see in our example here, this is called embryo rot (above). Do you see how the back part of the spine of the kernel is starting to turn dark? It indicates the tree was in stress in the final stages of its growth, and that's what caused the embryo to die.
You can read more about how we care for our trees, as well as get tips on how to keep your pecans as fresh as possible here: