Beef jerky is a classic American favorite because it is tasty, easy to eat, and nutritious. According to the report of an independent research firm, a total of 124.93 million Americans consumed beef jerky in 2019 alone. A 2020 report of another independent market research group predicted the continued global growth and demand for beef jerky until 2026.
A jerky is a strip of dry, lean, trimmed meat. It is dehydrated meat; it is made like that to make it last longer and to keep it from spoiling. The term jerky comes from the language of indigenous people living in present-day Peru. The Quechua word ch’arki means dried, salted meat – the perfect description of a jerky.
To make beef jerky, salt the meat and dry it gradually. The drying method requires low-temperature heat to avoid burning or toasting it.
Beef Jerky Trivia
- June 12 is National Jerky Day.
- Beef jerky is considered a salty snack, and overall, it is the fourth highest-grossing sector, ahead of other popular salty snacks like pretzels and popcorn.
- Dehydrating food to eat later is not exclusive to the human species. For example, red squirrels also dry mushrooms, which they eat later.
- The good thing about jerky is that it is low in fat. The bad news: it is high in sodium.
- Beef is not the only jerky, and in some places, the kind of animal from which the meat used to make jerky comes from can be a shock to some people, like kangaroo and alligator.
Beef Jerky Buying Guide
Point of sale for beef jerky includes supermarkets, specialty stores, and online retailers.
Before putting the item in your shopping cart, always make sure to check the expiration date. Commercial beef jerky is good one year from the date of production. The label should indicate the expiration date of the product.
If you have a more specific preference, there are beef jerky products in the market that promise to be keto-friendly and gluten-free.
Companies selling beef jerky are always coming up with new flavors to convince consumers to buy the product. Some are willing to sample new flavors, but others choose to stick to the usual beef jerky flavors including, but not limited to, the following:
- Classic or original
- Sweet and spicy
- Peppered / black pepper
Beef Jerky Production & Farming in Texas
Beef is a staple food in Texas. This explains why beef jerky is a common snack here and why companies producing beef jerky have experienced years of success manufacturing this ready-to-eat food. Big commercial companies that have been in the business for decades, as well as small and medium scale businesses venturing into beef jerky production, shape Texas’ beef jerky landscape.
According to the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA), all 50 states raise beef cattle. In 2019, Texas was number one in several categories – all Cattle (13 million), cows and heifers that have calved (5.2 million), beef cows that have calved (4.66 million), and calf crop (4.75 million). NCBA also added that in 2018, the amount of U.S. beef consumption is 26.767 billion pounds. The amount of beef consumed in the U.S. per capita in 2018 was 57.2 lbs.
NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth reported the struggle of manufacturers to produce beef jerky last August, and this is because of the conditions affecting businesses due to the COVID-19 pandemic. A KTAB report has informed the residents of Abilene, Texas, that some varieties of jerky may not be available temporarily, including pork, turkey, and wild game.
Pesticides, Additives, and Chemicals:
As a commercially-produced food item expected to have a long shelf life, it is not surprising that beef jerky has additives and preservatives in it.
- Nitrates – This is used to preserve cured meats. Nitrates put extra color on the meat and extend its shelf life. Artificial nitrates used in beef jerky create nitrosamines, a carcinogenic compound linked to various cancers.
If beef jerky is in your regular grocery list, then you are aware by now how the rack or shelf looks like – a wide assortment of beef jerky products that come in different packaging. All of these are resealable food grade bags. Some are transparent so that you can see the condition of the beef jerky inside, while other packaging uses bags with windows where you can see part of the item inside the bag. It is packed like ordinary chips. These resealable foil bags and foil-lined packaging feature tear notches and a self-seal mechanism so that the bag can be closed after opening. It is typical to find an oxygen absorber inside a beef jerky bag because this helps maintain the quality and condition of the beef jerky. A vacuum seal is not ideal because it can make the beef jerky taste or appear unappetizing.
Enjoying Beef Jerky
That eating beef jerky is as simple as opening a bag and putting strips of chewy meat in your mouth is what makes it appealing. It is yummy and easy to eat. No need for reheating or microwaving or cooking in the ovens. No need to have a dip or sauce because it is yummy as it is. It is simple and enjoyable and nutritious and available anywhere.
But because human beings are naturally curious and love to experiment and explore, it paved the way towards discovering more ways to eat beef jerky. For example, you can cut it into smaller pieces and use them as a substitute for bacon in salads. Instead of ground meat, you can use beef jerky bits for your tomato sauce when cooking pasta. Or add it to vegetables you cook in the oven like Brussel sprouts. You can also use beef jerky bits if you are making fried rice. If snacking on beef jerky feels too plain, you can eat it along with kimchi or noodles, and if you are cooking an omelet or making soup or stew, you can drizzle beef jerky bits on it before serving.
It is a common notion to think that beef jerky does not need refrigeration. It is best to check the label to know for sure because there are beef jerky products in the market that specifically instructs the consumer to refrigerate the bag of beef jerky once the bag has been opened but not finished. Refrigerating leftover beef jerky prevents molding because when molds appear on food, it is not safe to eat.
Make a home-made beef jerky:
Beef jerky is an excellent source of protein. Unfortunately, beef jerky products sold in the market usually have high sodium content to go with other additives and preservatives needed to improve the appearance and shelf life. The good thing about making home-made beef jerky is that you get to tweak the process and make it healthier compared to commercially-sold beef jerky.
This recipe yields six servings.
- ¾ cup Worcestershire sauce
- ¾ cup soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon smoked paprika, or to taste
- 1 tablespoon honey, or more to taste
- 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 2 pounds beef top round, thinly sliced
Step 1: Whisk everything in a bowl (except the beef).
Step 2: Put the beef in the bowl. Make sure the beef is completely coated with the mixture.
Step 3: Cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Refrigerate overnight.
Step 4: Preheat the oven to 175 degrees F (80 degrees C).
Step 5: Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Place a wire rack over the foil.
Step 6: Remove beef from the bowl. Dry using paper towels.
Step 7: Arrange beef slices in a single layer on the prepared wire rack on the baking sheet.
Step 8: Bake beef in the preheated oven until dry and leathery. This will take 3 to 4 hours.
Step 9: Cut with scissors into bite-size pieces before serving.