If you ended up on our page here, we imagine you’ve tried beef jerky a time or two. Maybe you’ve tried to make your own. Or are a budding aficionado of high quality beef jerky recipes. You aren’t alone!
Jerky is one of the oldest and — dare we say — tastiest preserved meats available. While beef jerky got a bad name as a high sodium and highly processed food in the past, recent years have turned this around. A growing number of farms and food establishments have jumped into the beef jerky “game” in recent years, transforming jerky from a somewhat guilty pleasure into an energy and flavor-packed treat that borders on gourmet.
Here at Cove Creek Farm, we use our own grass-fed, heritage breed Red Devon Cattle to make lean, low carb, and downright delicious jerky. During our time perfecting our recipe we’ve also learned a thing or two about the history and nutrition of jerky. Check out some of our favorite facts about beef jerky below!
Beef Jerky Nutrition Facts
- To consume 2000 calories of only jerky in a day, you would need to eat around five and half cups of beef jerky. By comparison, you would need to eat about eight and a half cups of salmon, or 400 cups of arugula to meet this goal!
- If you were to eat only beef jerky for a day (with a 2000 calorie diet), here’s how your macronutrients would break down.
- 11 grams of fiber (around 44% of daily value)
- 126 grams of fat (around 200% of daily value)
- 55 grams of carbohydrates (about 50% DV of a normal carb diet and 100% DV of a low-carb diet)
- Though producer dependent, most beef jerky is relatively low in fat (compared to other beef products), low in carbs, and high in protein.
- Beef jerky is also particularly high in several micronutrients including magnesium, B12, choline, zinc, and iron.
- Quality jerky is often particularly lean meat. High water content and high fat jerky brands often require additional preservatives and food additives.
- It’s always a balancing act to preserve high quality beef. Depending on fat levels and how moist the jerky is, fat content can go down with added salt or sugar. The sweet spot for many brands (before they dramatically raise sugar or salt content) is often around 2% fat.
- Jerky can be made savory or sweet. If you’re looking for healthy jerky you can eat with regularity and feel good about, stay away from brands that pump a ton of sugar into their recipes.
- Beef is naturally about 60% water. Beef jerky eliminates this moisture to give you much more concentrated beef in a smaller package.
- Beef jerky typically only contains gluten or soy if they’re added to the beef marinade. Many brands forego gluten and say to make jerky one of the most widely spread nutrient-dense snack foods to often bypass these major food allergies.
Can you live on beef jerky alone?
- To subsist entirely on beef jerky for a day (2000 calories worth) assuming an average cost of $2.60 an ounce, it would cost $114 a day in jerky costs. (Though we’re guessing you can do better than this buying in bulk.)
- To subsist on 2000 calories worth of beef jerky a day for a year, jerky would cost roughly $42,000. (Again, we’re guessing this would definitely qualify you for a better bulk rate.)
- Assuming you like moist jerky (which takes about 2 pounds of beef to make 1 pound of jerky), and you’re eating our grass-fed Red Devon Cattle, one Red Devon cow can make around 550 lbs of beef jerky. For lean jerky, the total cow weight needed goes up even further.
- Put into weight, you would need to eat around 5 pounds of beef jerky every day to meet a 2000 calorie diet.
- This means that eating only average-sized Red Devon Cows, it would three cows worth of beef jerky to feed an individual 2000 calories a day for a year.
- Put into a global scale, it would take about 23 billion cows worth of beef jerky to feed the entire planet on beef jerky for a year.
- Feeding the entire planet on beef jerky for a year would require 15x the current number of cows alive on Earth. This is partially because jerky is such a dense preparation of beef.
- One could theoretically survive for an extended period on jerky alone. For many years similarly preserved smoked, dried, and salted foods have been used by travellers for long journeys (including Mongolian herders and seafaring norsemen).
Beef Jerky History and Future
- Throughout the 1990’s, beef jerky was one of the go to snacks for NASA astronauts staying in orbit.
- The Native American word “ch’arki” is the origin of the modern English word “jerky.” Charqui originally meant “to burn meat.”
- Something similar to a modern beef jerky recipe was first noted in 1550 by the Quechua (people native to the western part of South America). Jerky was invented as a way to preserve meat that would otherwise only be available twice a year.
- A similar food preparation known as pemmican was created by the Cree tribe of North America. This mixture would take fat mixed with protein of larger game animals as well as powdered berries. The mixture would be pounded into thin strips and then slowly dried over a fire.
- Jerky was also known in Ancient Rome, where the most common meats were from donkey and horse. Roman jerky (now primarily pork and beef) is still considered a great pairing with local wines.
- Jerky is just a preparation method, and it’s possible to make with any meat. Beef jerky has flourished in America due to the high quality and much beloved beef grown throughout the Americas.
- Elsewhere in the world, quality jerky is made from a variety of lean meat creatures including yak, kangaroo, and alligator. Wild game is often particular lean and another good choice for jerky from venison, elk, buffalo, and boar.
- “Cowboy jerky”– sometimes billed as beef jerky — is actually a separate product that is often a dried full flank steak infused with smoke flavoring.
The Big Beef Jerky Picture
- Beef jerky can be surprisingly easy to make, and surprisingly hard to perfect. Common methods for making it at home include using an oven, a smoker, or using a dehydrator. Making your own jerky is one way to avoid chemical additives some of the big brands use. Another route is to find a local farm that uses high quality beef cuts to make their own jerky (cough, cough, Cove Creek Farm).
- In the past, jerky gained somewhat of a reputation is a salt-filled, highly processed food. In recent years, more conscientious jerky makers have made better products that align well with Paleo and Keto diets.
- There are many ways to make beef jerky including cutting fat off of thin strips of beef, and grinding up the beef first to mold into a jerky shape. These allow different cuts and textures to come through in jerky products.
- There are many cuts of meat that can be used to make jerky, each with their own unique pros and cons. Bottom round and top round cuts tend to be lean and hold a ton of flavor. Sirloin tip and flank are even leaner but can be tough if not handled prepared correctly.