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Jerky

I’ve always wondered how “jerky” (like beef jerky) got its name. Is it because when you bite this dried meat which could be tough sometimes, you have to tug the other half in a jerking motion? It was imaginative but incorrect. The term jerky is derived from the Quechua word ch’arki which means dried, salted meat (Quechua is an indigenous language family spoken by the Quechua peoples, primarily living in the Peruvian Andes).

Drying and smoking meat is one of the world’s oldest food preservation methods. Eliminating the moisture from meat prevents bacterial growth and smoking it tenderizes and flavors the meat for a better mouthfeel.

Here are some defining characteristics of a jerky – it is a lean trimmed meat. It is cut into strips like bacon. To prevent the meat from succumbing to spoilage, it is dried and dehydrated. Salt becomes a factor because it is used to help prevent bacterial growth in the meat and cause it to spoil. It is ready to eat.

The jerky you buy in stores today strives to be tasty so that buyers choose them over other brands. Because of market competition, companies producing jerky have to be creative. To make their jerky taste better, they include marinating the meat or using seasoning, spices, rubs, or sweeteners like brown sugar. They also smoke the meat for added flavor.

Jerky Trivia

  • The United States celebrates National Jerky Day every June 12.
  • Beef Jerky is very profitable – it is one of the fastest-growing meat snack businesses in 2018.
  • You’d think you can make jerky from a big or regular-sized animal with enough meat in them, but you’d be surprised to know that there is such a thing as earthworm jerky!
  • Jerky is considered the food of the pioneers.

Jerky Buying Guide

Where to buy – You can buy jerky from groceries, supermarkets, and your local general merchandise stores. If you are looking for artisan jerky not sold in the grocery or supermarket, try to visit your local farmers market or local jerky spots. In Texas, for example, they have ATX Homemade Jerky and Artisan Market in Elgin, Texas which offers in-store shopping, and Whittington’s Jerky and General Store which sells traditional Texas Hill Country jerky.

Another option is to look and buy online. Just make sure you know what kind of meat you want, and you know what kind of meat you are getting. Read the label for your information. There are jerkies from large land animals like cattle that produce beef jerky. If you live in Australia then you’ve probably come across kangaroo jerky. Other choices include alpaca jerky, buffalo jerky, elk jerky, venison jerky, wild boar Jerky, and yak jerky. There are bird/game meat jerkies too, like duck jerky, ostrich jerky, and turkey jerky. There are also different kinds of fish jerky – salmon jerky, tuna jerky, trout jerky. If you want exotic jerky, try an alligator jerky or snake jerky.

Different people want their jerky their way. Some want it tough and hard, while others prefer it to be soft and chewy. When buying, read the description on the label. It will give you an idea if this particular jerky is something you will enjoy or not.

Jerky Production & Farming in Texas

In Texas, there are two groups of jerky producers – those that use commercial, industrial food processing and manufacturing, and those who make artisanal jerky using basic, traditional, non-industrial methods. Either way, the production of bacon in Texas should be approved by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and should pass HACCP standards.

Jerky is a thriving business in Texas. There is a long list of jerky-related businesses located all over Texas besides groceries and supermarkets – there are meat processing hubs, novelty stores, food manufacturing businesses, butcher shops, food product suppliers, and gourmet grocery stores in different locations like Henrietta, Fort Worth, Azle, Mansfield, Abilene, Wichita Falls, Granbury, Houston, League City, Johnson City, El Campo, Schertz, Tyler, Galveston, Weatherford, Elgin, Sweetwater, Baird, and Salado, to name a few.

A major factor is the presence of available meat in the state. There are many farms and ranches in Texas. And there is a long history of Texan cuisine which has influenced the taste and flavor of jerky products produced here.

Pesticides, Additives, and Chemicals:

Preservatives such as sodium nitrite (E-250) and sodium nitrate (E-252) are used in making jerky. Nitrates and nitrites protect consumers from botulism and other risks consumers are potentially vulnerable to with poor or low-quality food processing methods and practices involved in making jerky. These compounds are also used to make the meat appear redder, as well as to improve the aroma of the jerky. However, the danger posed by these inorganic compounds found in jerky is the potential to cause cancer.

Geography

Jerky is very common in the US, Canada, and Mexico. Other countries are seeing the growth of jerky sales and production, like Australia, New Zealand, United Kingdom, and Germany. In other parts of the world, you can see a local version of the jerky or something that shares similarities with this type of food. In China, you can buy “pork chip” – chips made of pork. The coppiette in Rome, Italy is made from horse meat (or donkey) and more recently, pork, and is similar to jerky. In Ethiopia, the locals call jerky “qwant’a”, while South African cuisine has its version of jerky which they call “biltong”. The “kilishi” in the Hausa cuisine is similar to jerky too.

You’ll find jerky (or a local version of it) in the kitchens, dining tables, and pantries all around the world. It is ubiquitous there as it is common on the battlefield, even in outer space! Both soldiers and astronauts prefer bringing jerky for the same reasons: lightweight, high level of nutrition, long shelf life, and edibility without further preparation. 

According to a Los Angeles-based company expert in industry market research, the demand for meat jerky, a one billion dollar industry in the US, has been high in the country during the five years from 2015-2020, and growth is expected from 2021 to 2025. 

Packaging:

Jerky packaging requires the use of resealable plastic bags. It is packed as nitrogen gas-flushed or vacuumed-packed. An important part of the packaging is making there are small pouches of oxygen absorbers.

It is not unusual to see unpackaged jerky sold, like those sold in specialty stores in Hong Kong as far back as the 1970s, and in Macau. In the US, people call this “slab” jerky, sold in plexiglass containers. The only disadvantage of this type of jerky is having a shorter shelf life compared to packaged jerky.

Eating Jerky

There is no need to cook beef jerky. It is a ready-to-eat product. However, jerky is used as an ingredient in some recipes. And like anything else, moderation is essential. Jerky is great fat-free food you can easily snack on. But too much jerky on your diet exposes your body to high amounts of sodium which can result in cardiovascular problems, high blood pressure, and stroke. 

Jerky is a great food to eat because it is full of nutrients and minerals. It has vitamin B12 which helps in preventing anemia and fatigue. It is also essential in the formation of DNA. A deficiency of this vitamin can result in unhealthy newborns and can also result in miscarriage among pregnant women. Jerky also has folate. Folic acid and folate help in the formation of cells and tissues. It also prevents anemia and supports the development of DNA. Jerky has zinc too. Zinc supports the immune system by fighting viruses and bacteria. It also supports the healing of the skin. People with persistent wounds and ulcers are advised to take Zinc to promote platelets and clotting. If you eat jerky, your body also absorbs phosphorous, which is essential in maintaining bone health. It also helps filter waste from the kidney and maintains the body’s energy levels. Jerky also has iron, which is essential in hemoglobin production which transports oxygen from the blood to the lungs.

Storage:

Unless the jerky you bought has days or weeks before the indicated expiration date on the packaging (which means it is an old product), jerky will keep for months even without refrigeration after production.

Make your own spicy kimchi beef jerky noodles

If you are in a hurry or if you need to bring lunch at work and you want a warm, tasty broth, consider this easy-to-make recipe. It is nutritious and filling and very tasty!

 Yield: 

This recipe makes 4 bowls of noodles.

Ingredients:

  • Beef jerky, 4 ounces, cut into 1/2-inch squares
  • Kimchi, 2 cups
  • Noodles, 4 small nests (ramen, rice noodles, or Italian pasta)
  • Beef base, 4 tablespoons (60ml)
  • Scallions (thinly sliced), 1 cup
  • Chili-garlic sauce, 4 tablespoons (60ml)

Optional

  • Shiitake mushroom caps (thinly sliced) – 1 cup

Method

Mix everything in a bowl and add hot water. Let the hot water cook the noodles for 2-3 minutes depending on how firm you want your noodles. The beef jerky, beef base, and chili-garlic sauce should provide this bowl of noodles the flavor and taste it needs.

If you want a fully-loaded bowl, you can also add boiled egg and fried tofu. 

Nutrition

DV%

  • Serving Size: 1 Serving
  • Calories: 410 20%
  • Carbs: 11g 4%
  • Sugar: 9g 0
  • Fiber: 1.8g 7%
  • Protein: 33.2g 66%
  • Fat: 25.6g 39%
  • Saturated Fat: 10.8g 54%
  • Trans Fat 0g 0%
  • Cholesterol 48mg 16%
  • Sodium 2213mg 92%
  • Vitamin C 0mg 0%
  • Vitamin A 0IU 0%
  • Calcium 20mg 2%
  • Iron 5.4mg 30%
  • Potassium 597mg 17%
  • Vitamin E 0.5mg 2%
  • Vitamin K 2.3mcg 3%
  • Vitamin B6 0.2mg 9%
  • Folate 134mcg 34%
  • Vitamin B12 1mcg 17%
  • Magnesium 51mg 13%
  • Phosphorus 407mg 41%
  • Manganese 0.1mg 6%
  • Copper 0.2mg 11%
  • Zinc 8.1mg 54%

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