The true test of a quality jerky is the ingredient list. The snazzy label or buzzwords on the packaging are not necessarily an indicator of what’s inside. There are laws in the United States about what can actually appear on the ingredient deck. Checking the deck will clue you in to what’s REALLY in your jerky.
In order to use the word JERKY in an ingredient list, the product must be made from a whole cut of meat. Think of the difference between a steak and hamburger. A hamburger is absolutely NOT a steak. If jerky is made from ground beef, it’s illegal to call it “beef jerky” when listing the ingredients. Beef jerky must be made from a cut of whole meat.
If you don’t see the word JERKY on the ingredient deck, you’re getting something different. You’ve probably purchased a “chopped-and-formed” product. And if the word JERKY is used somewhere else on the label, you’re dealing with a company that wants you to think you’re eating something you’re not. Many of these companies have gotten creative by calling their product “bites” rather than labeling it chopped and formed as they should.
These chopped-and-formed products are created by grinding hamburger-like meat into paste, then using a machine to produce closely-packed strips. This process greatly reduces the protein content. We sent our Jerky for comparison to a sample of a chopped-and-formed product. The results show our whole muscle Jerky yields 22% more protein per 100g than the chopped-and-formed.
The chopping-and-forming process is like juicing fresh vegetables. There’s a swift loss of nutrients when cell walls are broken down. We drink juice immediately which helps. Processed protein loses even more nutrition when it’s heated and preserved.
The more you process meat by tumbling, grinding and blending various parts, the more the moisture level increases, protein loss intensifies and the full profile of aminos and omegas degrades. Start off with a piece of raw meat that has 30g of protein per 3oz, and after chopping and processing, you might be left with half the original protein content at best.
Chopped and formed products are often mistakenly considered the same as true muscle-cut jerky, but they are far from the real deal. Many companies chop and form meat for the ease of making an evenly shaped, easily packaged product and to increase profit margin. Unfortunately, most of them also use other fillers like soy, starch and sugar to make up for the lost protein. Some companies even lie on packaging, since the front label marketing is a place where a company can get away with fudging the truth. Sadly, this is not an uncommon practice in the food business.
At Steve’s, we believe in eating food as close to its natural state as possible. Chopped-and-formed products are simply a modern shortcut that compromises the integrity of your protein. When you’re paying for protein, that’s what you want. Chopped-and-formed products offer less in the nutrient department. Buyer beware!