Friday, September 5, 2008

Gary West Meats - Buffalo Strips

gary west meats buffalo jerkyGary West Meats is a manufacturer of smoked meats, based in Jacksonville, OR. The company started in 1966, based on old family recipes handed down to Gary West by his grandfather.

While the company is well known for their smoked hams and turkeys, they've made a name for themselves in recent years as a manufacturer of "artisan jerky", putting emphasis on the natural meat flavors.

These buffalo strips is one of two exotic meat jerkies that Gary West Meats makes, with elk being the other. The company says they use buffalo raised in natural environments, with no steroids, no hormones, and no antibiotics.

Interestingly, the package on these buffalo strips says "Beef Added", which is very common with exotic meat products. Many other manufacturers produce chopped & formed exotic meat jerky because they mix in about 10% beef, so as to escape the exotic meat certification requirements. However, according to Gary West Meats, they have a different explanation, though it sounds like it could be the same. A USDA inspector is in their factory every day, inspecting beef, but doesn't inspect any of the exotic meats. So in order to get their exotic meats inspected and approved, they add beef to it. To do this, they puree some beef and add it into the marinade. Then they soak the buffalo strips into the marinade. Technically, there's going to be some bits of beef stuck to the strips, but for all intents and purposes, it's whole buffalo meat.


Buffalo, brown sugar, pureed beef, salt, water, black pepper, sodium nitrite.


I get something of a sweet taste immediately upon putting a piece into my mouth, but that sweetness morphs into the natural meat flavors right away. Biting softly with my molars, I get some great meat flavor, as well some saltiness, and a smoky aroma.

The natural meat flavors are perhaps the dominant flavor of this jerky, and it presents itself in a very mellow and smooth, and almost buttery taste. Buffalo tastes pretty much like beef, but is just more lean than beef. If anything, I do pick up an aftertaste from this buffalo that I don't get from their beef strips. But you'd really have to discriminate this closely to know.

In terms of saltiness, it's probably the other dominant flavor. It's not overly salty, however. It doesn't overpower the natural meat flavors.

And as for that black pepper in the ingredients? It doesn't make much of an appearance on my palate. I think it does provide a bit of an "ambience" in the back of my mouth, however.

All of the jerkies from Gary West Meats provide excellent natural meat flavors and is the primary selling point. I really enjoy their "traditional" varieties, the ones that don't add any additional flavoring like teriyaki or cajun, because they provide the highest degree of meat flavors.

Meat Consistency

These are strips of whole meat, cut into lengths of about one foot, and in the same width as a beef stick. Note that I broke this strip apart into three pieces for photographic purposes.

This is mostly a dry jerky, though you could argue it's semi-moist. Gary West Meats claims their product is not dry enough to be called jerky, hence their use of the word "strips". But I'd respectfully disagree. The kippered nuggets you can buy from other brands are what I'd refer to as moist. The photos below make this appear quite moist, but that's mostly the way the light hits the surface. It's still soft and tender enough that it's rather easy to bite off a piece and chew.

The strips don't seem to contain anything chewy in the way of tendon, gristle or membrane. I didn't find any pieces of fat.

Overall, this jerky has an excellent meat consistency.

buffalo jerky

buffalo jerky
Product Value

Gary West Meats sell these Buffalo Strips at a price of $22.00 for an 8oz package. That works out to $2.75 per ounce, making this an expensive buy.

As a general buffalo jerky, it's a decent value but that's largely due to the high price. A lower price would give this an excellent value for its excellent meat taste and consistency.

Since buffalo jerky largely has the same taste as beef jerky, the only real reason to buy it is for the health benefits. This buffalo variety from Gary West Meats has zero fat (compared to 1g with beef variety), and 5mg of cholesterol (compared to 300mg with the beef variety). For that reason, you might find this to be a good value, though the jerky market still has plenty of other buffalo brands for a lower price.

But very few buffalo jerky on the market can match the wonderful meat taste that Gary West Meats provides. If you haven't tried it, it's worth trying.


buffalo jerky nutrition factsI'm giving this a best rating.

Once again, it's the excellent taste of natural buffalo meat that wins me over with this jerky. Gary West Meats does an outstanding job of highlighting the real reason why us jerky lovers eat jerky, the taste of real meat. The meat in this jerky has a smooth, mellow flavor, and something I've described as "buttery", all of which I find addicting.

As a snack food, I find this highly snackable, addicting actually. But it's not something I'd eat while watching television, driving a car, or doing something else. This is something you want to set aside some time for. Maybe there's a place within a forested wood, by a waterfall, where spots of sunshine leaks through the tree canopy. Open up a package of Gary West jerky and just enjoy the jerky for the great taste that it has.

My recommended beer pairing for this is a pale ale, amber ale or cream ale, something lighter in flavor that will quench the saltiness but not interfere with the natural meat flavors.

Rating: Best

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