I was probably 3 years old when I got my first taste of this gloriously tasty, dried meat we call jerky. When you’re that young, all you cared about is that food tasted good, never stopping to think about what the stuff you were eating was made of. I put jerky down like there was no tomorrow with a silly grin and overworked jaw.

It wasn’t until a few years later that I put two and two together and figured, Hey, jerky is pretty much “raw” meat?! It was between playing a round of The Oregon Trail (buying supplies at the general store, including dried meat) and watching a Ronco Food Dehydrator infomercial (in which they made beef jerky) when I realized the meat I enjoyed so much is not cooked. Well, not cooked in the traditional sense that steak is. I was eating old, tough, raw meat … why didn’t I get sick? What is this stuff?

Dried Meat 101

Jerky production has a long history and can be traced back to almost all ancient civilizations, from the Incans who made llama jerky to South Africans who made biltong (a type of dried, cured meat). Hundreds of years ago, Native Americans taught Europeans the art of drying meat, which in turn, helped spread jerky clear across the globe.

In general, meat jerkies are not cooked, but dried instead. Drying food is a technique of food preservation that far outdates canning. So what’s the science involved? In layman’s terms, when meat has no more moisture, enzymes can no longer react with it. (These enzymes can come from bacteria or fungi, or even naturally occurring autolytic enzymes from within the meat itself.) In other words, dried meat can last a long time before it goes bad.

Because jerky is essentially meat minus the moisture, it is dense in nutrients and light in weight. In fact, a pound of meat weighs about 4 ounces after being turned into jerky. Aside from significant weight savings, this shelf-stable, high-protein food can be stored without refrigeration. Undoubtedly, this allowed our real-life Oregon-bound wagon train friends the luxury and nutrition of meat, even on a long arduous trip. The benefits of this wonder food are not lost on people today.

Modern Meat

Enter the modern-day survivalist. When choosing what types of food to pack away for when all hell breaks loose, we certainly do have plenty of choices at our disposal. Canned, bottled, freeze-dried, airtight bagged — you name it, someone’s probably created it. We might have our 3,600-calorie food bars in our go-bags and years’ worth of MREs stowed away in our underground bunkers, but those kinds of food can taste downright nasty and may not be as portable to boot.

Let everyone’s (read “my”) favorite childhood junk food come to the rescue! As mentioned before, jerky is lightweight and easily stowed. It is mostly impervious to the elements, provides plenty of energy to burn, and can last a long time (mileage may vary, but usually up to a year or more). Best of all, it’s tasty stuff. Jerky can be used to supplement a well-rounded survival meal plan, enjoyed as a treat to uplift your spirits, or consumed as an easy-to-reach energy source in a lightweight bug-out bag. One might argue that jerkies are heavy on sodium and can induce thirst, so that’s a factor to keep in mind.

In this issue of OG, we take a look, smell, and taste of jerkies of a variety of types and flavors. We go from gourmet to gas station, and rate them as we taste them. Riding along the flavor train with yours truly are Network Manager John Schwartze and Editor Patrick Vuong to provide second and third unabashed opinions of this great jerky taste test.

Jerky Taste Test: Which Dried Meat is Prepper Approved?

  • Epic Bites Chicken Meat With Currant & Sesame BBQ Seasoning

    Make & Model - Epic Epic Bites Chicken Meat With Currant & Sesame BBQ Seasoning
    Calories Per Serving - 90
    Protein Per Serving - 9 grams
    Package Size - 2.5 ounces
    MSRP - $7
    URL - http://www.epicbar.com

    If you're concerned with how your food is raised, the EPIC brand of meat products would most likely interest you. These EPIC Chicken Bites are sourced from only 100-percent non-GMO-raised chickens.

  • Fusion Jerky Chipotle Lime Artisian Beef Jerky

    Make & Model - Fusion Jerky Chipotle Lime Artisian Beef Jerky
    Calories Per Serving - 90
    Protein Per Serving - 10 grams
    Package Size - 3 ounces
    MSRP - $7
    URL - http://www.fusionjerky.com

    Fusion Jerky was founded by a globe-trotting outdoor adventurer who brought her family's Asian recipes to the American mainstream, and this flavor promises to be the company's spiciest.

  • Fusion Jerky Island Teriyaki Artisian Pork Jerky

    Make & Model - Fusion Jerky Island Teriyaki Artisian Pork Jerky
    Calories Per Serving - 70
    Protein Per Serving - 9 grams
    Package Size - 3 ounces
    MSRP - $7
    URL - http://www.fusionjerky.com

    If an escape from a crumbling city isn't what you signed up for and a tropical escape is what you seek, this Island Teriyaki Artisan Pork Jerky can help you do that — in your mouth at least.

  • Lawless Jerky Phó Beef Jerky

    Make & Model - Lawless Jerky Phó Beef Jerky
    Calories Per Serving - 80
    Protein Per Serving - 11 grams
    Package Size - 2 ounces
    MSRP - $6
    URL - http://www.lawlessjerky.com

    Pho is a Vietnamese noodle soup that is commonly made with beef stock…and is now a flavor of beef jerky.

  • Lawless Jerky Sweet Sriracha Beef Jerky

    Make & Model - Lawless Jerky Sweet Sriracha Beef Jerky
    Calories Per Serving - 80
    Protein Per Serving - 11 grams
    Package Size - 2 ounces
    MSRP - $6
    URL - http://www.lawlessjerky.com

    Inspired by the recent hot sauce fad, the Sweet Sriracha Beef Jerky promises to bring some heat to your snack time.

  • Slim Jim Original Giant Slim

    Make & Model - Slim Jim Original Giant Slim
    Calories Per Serving - 140
    Protein Per Serving - 6 grams
    Package Size - 0.97 ounces
    MSRP - $4
    URL - http://www.slimjim.com

    Technically not a jerky, the Slim Jim "smoked snack stick" had to make it in this guide purely due to its ubiquity.

  • Sweetwood Cattle Co. Beef Jerky Hot

    Make & Model - Sweetwood Cattle Co. Beef Jerky Hot
    Calories Per Serving - 90
    Protein Per Serving - 11 grams
    Package Size - 2 ounces
    MSRP - $8
    URL - http://www.sweetwood.com

    Featuring whole muscle cuts of beef and natural herbs and spices, this spicy hot version of Sweetwood Cattle Company's handcrafted beef jerky is made in small batches. It has no added MSG and is nitrate free.

  • Sweetwood Cattle Co. Beef Jerky Teriyaki

    Make & Model - Sweetwood Cattle Co. Beef Jerky Teriyaki
    Calories Per Serving - 90
    Protein Per Serving - 11 grams
    Package Size - 2 ounces
    MSRP - $8
    URL - http://www.sweetwood.com

    This handcrafted, sweet teriyaki-flavored Sweetwood Cattle Company beef jerky is made in small batches of all natural ingredients. It is free of nitrates and has no added MSG.

  • The New Primal Spicy Grass-Fed Beef Jerky

    Make & Model - The New Primal Spicy Grass-Fed Beef Jerky
    Calories Per Serving - 90
    Protein Per Serving - 12 grams
    Package Size - 2 ounces
    MSRP - $7.59
    URL - http://www.thenewprimal.com

    Let's start with free roaming grass-fed beef, treat it with pineapple juice and honey, then infuse it with cayenne pepper and jalapeños along with hints of onion, pepper, and ginger. That's what you're getting with this soy-free, paleo-friendly jerky.

  • The New Primal Turkey Jerky

    Make & Model - The New Primal Turkey Jerky
    Calories Per Serving - 70
    Protein Per Serving - 12 grams
    Package Size - 2 ounces
    MSRP - $7.59
    URL - http://www.thenewprimal.com

    If you like the taste of social responsibility along with your salted-up meats, look no further than The New Primal.

  • Wild Zora Lamb & Veggie Bars (Rosmary Spinach)

    Make & Model - Wild Zora Lamb & Veggie Bars (Rosmary Spinach)
    Calories Per Serving - 120
    Protein Per Serving - 6 grams
    Package Size - 1 ounce
    MSRP - $3
    URL - http://www.wildzora.com

    If you're fond of vegetables and want some mixed in your jerky, you'll want to take a look at Wild Zora's lineup. While not technically jerky, these bars will still help you get the energy you need in an emergency situation.

  • Wild Zora Turkey & Veggie Bars (Masala Spinach)

    Make & Model - Wild Zora Turkey & Veggie Bars (Masala Spinach)
    Calories Per Serving - 100
    Protein Per Serving - 7 grams
    Package Size - 1 ounce
    MSRP - $3
    URL - http://www.wildzora.com

    These bars are made of both meat and vegetables and are gluten-free, grain-free, soy-free, milk-free, nightshade-free, no nuts/peanuts/tree-nuts, and have no MSG or chemical additives. This bar qualifies for the Whole30 Program and is paleo-friendly.


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