A venerable foodstuff that has been relegated to the checkout counter in gas stations and convenience stores, beef jerky actually has a proud heritage. Here are somethings you might want to know.
1. Jerky is a means to preserve meat without refrigeration.
2. Traditionally meat was dried and/or smoked and/or salted. Marinading is another technique used to add additional flavoring.
3. Although beef is the most common type of jerky, one can also find jerky from wild game such as venison, elk, caribou, and moose. Even kangaroo meat.
4. The origin of the word Jerky is from Native American “Charqui” which means “to burn meat”.
5. Jerky quality varies greatly and depends on the choice of meat, the preservatives, and the preservation technique.
6. There are many jerky-like products that consist of highly processed, chopped and formed meat, rather than traditional sliced, whole-muscle meat. Try to stay away from them.
7. A good jerky is very lean; fat usually causes spoilage. In cheap products with high fat and water content, many chemicals are added as preservatives to prevent spoilage.
8. Here’s the ingredient list of a leading brand of jerky (Jack’s Links)
Beef, Water, Sugar, Less than 2% Salt, Corn Syrup Solids, Dried Soy Sauce (Soybeans, Salt, Wheat), Hydrolyzed Corn and Soy Protein, Monosodium Glutamate, Maltodextrin, Flavorings, Sodium Erythorbate, Sodium Nitrite.
Unfortunately the consumer can’t tell what the beef quality is from the ingredient list. The package does state that it 97% fat free though.
9. Nutritionally, jerky is low in fat and high in protein. The major issue is the exorbitant amount of sodium. A 1 oz serving contains up to 15 grams of protein (25% of the daily value), but 600mg of sodium (25% of the daily maximum). The protein is nice to have, but as most Americans are getting enough protein in their diet, it’s the excess sodium that should be of concern.
10. Many jerky products are sold in 3 oz packages, so people who finish off an entire bag end up consuming 3 servings at once (usually gulping down a sugary soft drink to combat the major salt deposits from the jerky).
11. Beef Jerky is astronaut food! NASA has been providing Space shuttle crews this lightweight high protein treat since the mid nineties.
12. Many people are very passionate about Jerky. Here is one – with a blog dedicated to reviewing all jerky products out there.
13. A tragic explosion in a ConAgra manufacturing facility last month has created a shortage of the wildly popular Slim Jim brand jerky nationwide.
What to do at the supermarket:
Look for the higher quality brands made from low fat beef strips, not processed beef. Also, watch the sodium.
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