There are lots of products on the market that people think are “jerky.” But they’re not!
It should be no surprise, with all the confusion about food labeling. Take eggs, and all the labels we’re left to decipher: free-range? Cage-free? Pastured? Omega 3-enriched?
Unless you’re a really informed consumer, it’s hard to know the difference. The same goes for any product claiming to be – or posing as – jerky.
Why do we care? Because real, traditionally-made jerky (like the kind we’re proud to make for our PaleoJerky and PaleoKits) is the real deal. It’s nutritious, it’s less processed, and it’s something our ancestors have made for many generations.
Here are 2 ways to tell if your jerky is the real deal.
1. Your jerky is the real deal if…the pieces come in DIFFERENT sizes and shapes.
Every strip of the whole muscle-cut we use will dehydrate into unique shapes and sizes with edges of varied appearance. Beef jerky should look like this:
If you see a product where each piece is uniform in size, you KNOW that it’s not the real deal!
What’s actually happened: the company has taken ground-up beef – the USDA calls this “chunked-and-formed” – and forced the mass through an extruder to form small, uniform patties. Then, they dehydrate those patties. They might look like this:
This chunked-and-formed product might also have grill marks added to give a little extra convincing that what you’re eating is actually a whole cut of meat. But it’s not.
Here’s the problem with chunking and forming: the extra processing can degrade protein content more than 20% and even up to 50%. That means the product has far less protein than true jerky made with a whole muscle cut! For those tracking their nutrition, this can make a big difference.
Chunking and forming is sure easy, and it can make use of inferior, cheaper cuts of meat – but it’s not jerky! (More on that next.)
2. Your jerky is the real deal if…the label SAYS “jerky.”
It’s actually not legal to call a product “jerky” on the label if it’s not from a whole muscle cut! If you think you have beef jerky, but you’re actually eating a chunked-and-formed product, the label won’t use the word “jerky” at all.
There ARE some unscrupulous companies out there who ignore this regulation. So if you know your product is extruder-made or chunked-and-formed, but the label says “jerky,” you’d be right to get suspicious about that company’s integrity!
So check those labels and be a jerky detective! We want you to get what you pay for. We take jerky personally!