Gary West Meats is a small family owned meat business in Jacksonville, Oregon, dating back to 1966. It was created by Gary West who made use of old family recipes handed down to him by his grandfather. In addition to making beef jerky, they produce smoked hams and turkeys.
The company refers to their jerky products as "strips" rather than "jerky" claiming that it's more moist than typical jerky. All of their jerky is hand made from beginning to end.
In 2004, Gary West sold the business to his daughter and son-in-law, who continue to operate it today. Since then, it's jerky business has skyrocketed and has been featured on all the major media outlets, CNN, ABC News, The Food Network, Good Morning America, New York Times, and Outdoor Life.
Gary West Meats also offers a separate line Certified Angus Beef jerky, and is the only brand authorized to make jerky from CAB.
Beef, brown sugar, salt, crushed chili pepper, minced onion, garlic, black pepper, cayenne pepper, sodium nitrite.
The first thing I taste is the natural meat flavors, followed by a saltiness. The garlic and perhaps the minced onion can be tasted afterwards. I take a swallow of the juices, and I can feel the burn of the chili on the back of my throat.
The natural meat flavors have a smooth, mellow, and "buttery" taste. It's a very wonderful meat flavor that I want to enjoy on its own. The cajun seasonings in this tend to compete against it for my attention.
Those cajun seasonings are largely represented by the salt. As I said above, I can detect the garlic and chili pepper with certainty. After that, it seems like I'm tasting some onion. I don't know that I can taste the cayenne or black pepper.
The spiciness is perhaps best described as "mild-medium" by my standards. It might be just "medium" to lesser adapted tongues. It's nothing that makes me reach for a drink, and probably only enhances the overall taste.
Overall, this has an excellent taste mostly for its natural meat flavors. The cajun seasonings are nice, but is mostly a salty seasoning.
These appear to be real cuts of meat, sliced into strips, in about three inch lengths (based on my guesstimate).
The strips are cut against the grain so that they tear off quite easily. I found no visible pieces of fat, but in eating these pieces, I can definitely taste the oiliness from the fat, which is actually something I prefer. Otherwise, I found no pieces of tendon or gristle.
For the most part, my review sample was dry. Even though the pieces in the photos below may appear to be moist, it's more like a thin layer of oil on the surface. The oil remains on my fingers, but in such a tiny amount that I don't really wipe them off.
I found these pieces to be easy to tear off and chew. Overall, a great beef jerky experience.
I paid $3.49 for this 2oz package at a Cost Plus World Market in Temecula, CA, which works out to $1.75 per oz, within the average price range.
I'd say this offers a great value for general jerky eating purposes. You're getting lots of good natural meat flavors in this, with some cajun spices as an enhancer. It offers a great beef jerky experience being easy to tear off and chew.
As a cajun variety, it has good value. There is definitely a chili-pepper burn, albeit a moderate one, and some garlic. Otherwise, it's mostly a salt-seasoning.
But it's also very snackable, keeping me reaching for more.
I'm giving this a "good" rating.
I'm impressed with the excellent natural meat taste in this. That taste alone is largely what keeps me reaching for more. The cajun seasonings are good, but with a great meat taste like this, I'd rather taste more of the meat.
But I found this to be too much on the salty side. I actually enjoy the cajun seasoning, if the company only tone down the salt.
Furthermore, I think that people would pay money for some Gary West jerky just for the great meat taste that it offers. Too much seasoning, and it starts to taste more like the Oh Boy! Oberto stuff. I think this Cajun variety suffers from some of that.
As for my recommended beer pairing, I think a smoky porter, such as a Deschutes Black Butte Porter, would help bring out the cajun seasonings in this.
Note: Originally reviewed June 12, 2008.
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