Monday, June 16, 2008

Rio Jakes Beef Jerky - Original

Rio Jakes Beef Jerky - OriginalI was shopping in a local Cost Plus World Market hoping to find some beef jerky, and wondering if they might be carrying stuff imported from outside the USA. Instead, I found this brand of Rio Jakes, made right here in the States.

Rio Jakes is a brand owned by Mirab USA, the world's largest private labeler of beef jerky. While most of Mirab's beef jerky is made for other companies, Rio Jakes is one of their actual brands.

At the top of the package is the claim, "Soft & Tender", which is Mirab's flagship beef product, a result of studies showing that women would buy more beef jerky if it were only softer and more tender. This soft & tender variety is what helped bring about a shift in the overall beef jerky market away from a man's snack found in camping & sporting goods aisles, to a dieting fad powered by the Aitkins weight-loss craze.

Note that Mirab's "Soft & Tender" product is the same product packaged into several other store brands that private label through them. I don't particularly know what these store brands are. Mirab makes about four different grades of beef jerky, with "Soft & Tender" being one of them. The review I'm writing here can apply to every other store brand made from this same grade.

Ingredients

Beef, water, sugar, salt, garlic powder, maltodextrin, monosodium glutamate, black pepper powder, apple cider vinegar, sodium tripolyphosphate, sodium erythorbate, citric acid, sodium nitrite.

Taste

Probably the first thing that hits me when I taste a piece is a slight sugary sweetness, followed soon after by the black pepper. Finally the salt starts to take over and dominates. The smokiness is also noticeable.

The natural meat flavors are not every evident at all. In trying to find something that resembles meat, I do taste it back there, but it's something I have to think about to notice it.

Overall, it's good. It's just not anything to write home about. It's a jerky designed to be priced competitively and sold to the masses, with little attempt to compete against the gourmet brands.

Meat Consistency

These appear to be real cuts of meat, sliced in medium thickness, and in small to medium sizes. Most of these pieces are in crumbles. Perhaps the jerky was made so tender, that they broke apart the shipping and settled to the bottom of the bag.

This jerky is definitely soft and tender, being more semi-dry than semi-moist. The pieces tear apart very easily, in fact I'd probably describe this as "breaking apart" than tearing. Mirab's tenderization process doesn't produce the "gummy jerky" that Jack Link's is known for; this still retains the fiber-like consistency of real meat, but leaves the it in such a state that you know it was chemically altered in a laboratory.

Overall, it provides a good beef jerky experience. Being that Mirab designed this jerky to appeal to both men and women, in a competitively-priced product, I think they've done a good job.

Rio Jakes Beef Jerky - Original

Rio Jakes Beef Jerky - Original

Product Value

I paid $3.99 for this 3.5 ounce bag at a Cost Plus World Market in Temecula, CA. That works out to a price of $1.14 per ounce, putting this in the average price range, but on the lower end.

Overall, it provides good value. The lower price point is what prevents the value from getting any worse. The jerky itself is actually mediocre, tasting good, offering a good experience, but is largely drab and unexciting. If it were priced at $1.50 per ounce, I'd say this stuff has an average to fair value.

Rating

Rio Jakes Beef Jerky - OriginalI'm giving this an average rating.

While the taste itself would rate an average rating, I entertained the thought of giving this a fair rating instead due to the strange meat consistency. But I decided to refrain because it's not really that strange.

For beef jerky lovers, this isn't something you'd savor and enjoy for its own merits. It's just something you'd dig into while watching a movie or driving down a long lonely stretch of highway.

Rating: Average

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