Sunday, October 12, 2008

Golden Valley Natural - Sweet & Spicy Beef

Golden Valley Natural - Sweet & Spicy BeefGolden Valley Natural is a brand of jerky that's not a well-known by most Americans, but the jerky itself is eaten by millions across this country. That's because it's actually made by Intermountain Natural, LLC of Idaho Falls, ID, a company that makes organic and all-natural jerky for a wide variety of brands including Trader Joe's and Whole Foods Market.

Golden Valley Natural is actually a sister company of Intermountain Natural, both founded by the same guy, Roger Ball. Ball got started in the jerky business in 1968, founding a brand called King B. In 2003, he sold that brand to Jack Link's. In 2004 he created "Jerky Direct", a brand of jerky sold exclusively through a multi-level marketing network.

You can largely find Golden Valley Natural in select natural food stores, and across several e-commerce websites.

While this particular Sweet & Spicy variety carries a sticker proclaiming it to be free of added hormones, antibiotics, preservatives, MSG, and artificial ingredients, it makes no claim of being organic. But, it does claim to be "old fashioned", so we'll see how that goes.


Beef, sugar, water, soy sauce, flavorings, apple cider vinegar, salt, paprika, smoke flavoring, citric acid.


The first taste I get from the surface is a slight sweetness, and a fair amount of smokiness. There might be a smidgeon of spicy tingle as well. Moving into the chew, I get some salty flavor, and a slight bit of soy sauce.

For being advertised as a sweet and spicy variety, it's very weak. The sweetness is only apparent off the surface, and only in a small amount. The spiciness is absent. On my "hot factor", it's about as mild as beef jerky can get. Even if you distinguish a difference between "spicy" and "hot", there is very little spice to this.

As for the natural meat flavors, I find very little. This could just as well be turkey, pork, venison, elk, or who knows what, yet there's nothing here to distinguish.

The soy sauce flavor I mentioned is there, but only a little. I can actually smell it on these pieces more than I can taste. The taste only really comes during the chewing.

If I had to pick a dominant taste, I'd give it to the saltiness. And that saltiness is not strong either, being mild to medium. The sweet and smoky flavors from the surface perhaps has the second strongest flavors.

Overall, it's not a tasty jerky. It's not necessarily bad tasting, though it ain't exactly pleasing either. But largely, it's bland.

Meat Consistency

These are supposed to be slices of whole meat pieces, sliced average thickness, and in small to medium sized pieces. I say "supposed to be" because I actually found three medium sized chopped & formed pieces. I called Golden Valley Natural to confirm if this was a mistake, or if they intended to mix this with whole and chopped. They said it should only be whole muscle. They don't do chopped & formed with this variety.

They said they'll send me a new bag of jerky, and asked me to send this one back to them.

But as for those chopped & formed pieces, it's definitely chopped & formed. When I bent it, it cracked apart, and it crumbled in my mouth. I found no meat fibers, and found pieces of fat and cartilage when I looked at them closely.

Anyways, the whole muscle pieces are soft and tender, with a fair degree of moisture. They tear apart easily, and chew easily. They do chew with a resemblance of real meat, though I can't say they chew like a real steak. It doesn't have enough of the fibrous quality to give it that steak-feel.

For the most part, they didn't leave much residue on my fingers, maybe a slight bit moisture. I also didn't find any fat, tendon, or gristle.

Product Value sells this variety from its website at a price of $17.49 for two 4oz packages. That works out to a price of $2.19 per ounce, making this an expensive buy. Keep in mind that price also includes the shipping.

For general jerky snacking purposes, it offers a weak buy, mainly because it doesn't offer much taste, and no natural meat flavors at all. Though, it does have an easy-to-eat consistency, it still loses a lot of snackability just because it doesn't do much for the palate.

As a "sweet and spicy" variety, it's another weak value. It's not spicy by any means, it's actually mild. And as far as sweet is concerned, it's only mildly sweet as well.


I'm giving this a fair rating.

This jerky loses a lot of snackability due to its light taste and its absense of natural meat flavors. All it really has going for itself is it's easy-to-eat consistency. And even at that, it doesn't exactly eat like real meat, having something of a doctored texture. And I'm referring to the whole muscle pieces, not the chopped & formed pieces.

Worse yet, it doesn't hold up to its advertised flavor of being sweet and spicy.

I do have to give props to Golden Valley Natural for being so responsive to me, and it wasn't until the tail end of our conversation that I identified myself as a beef jerky writer. They sounded very concerned, yet unassuming, and eager to send me a new bag. Too bad my reviews don't factor in customer service, because they'd definitely score in that regards.

A good beer with this might be a brown ale.

Rating: Fair

Buy this online:
Update (Oct 13, 2008): I received a few new packages of jerky from Golden Valley Natural yesterday in response to my conversation with them, along with a postage paid envelope to return this particular review sample. Thumbs up to them for being "stand-up" folks and serving their customers well.


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