Monday, October 20, 2008

Umpqua Indian Foods - Brown Sugar

Umpqua Indian Foods - Brown SugarI think this "Brown Sugar" variety of beef jerky might be the first beef jerky I've tried that bills itself purely as being a sweet jerky. Looking at the ingredients list, I don't see any other seasoning or flavor aside from salt. I do like sweet jerky, but only if done right. That is, if it's going to be sweet, then make it sweet, and emphasize it. I've had other jerky that adds sugar to something that's already loaded up with other flavors, and somehow the sweetness doesn't meld into the jerky and ends up tasting strange. So, we'll see what we get with something as simple as this.

Umpqua Indian Foods is a brand belonging to Umpqua Indian Development Corporation, a company run by the Cow Creek Band of Indians in Roseburg, OR. Aside from running a successful casino, the band runs several companies designed to bring economic viability to an indian tribe.

The brand has been making beef jerky since 1998, selling it locally in nearby towns. Since then, they've managed to take things a step further by redesigning their logo, rebranding themselves as a gourmet jerky, and getting their product into more stores, catalogs, and e-commerce sites. The company claims they use only pectoral meat (from the shoulder area), instead of the Round which most jerky brands use. They say it makes their jerky more moist and tender.


Beef, water, brown sugar, maple sugar cure (salt, cane & maple sugars, dextrose, sodium nitrite).


The first taste I get from the surface is a lightly sweet flavor and lightly smoky aroma. I can even pick up a slight meat aroma. Moving into the chew, just a bit of saltiness comes out, and some light-tasting natural meat flavors.

After a few pieces of this jerky, it's pretty much on par with the other varieties I've tried from Umpqua Indian Foods, very light on taste. There really isn't any one particular flavor in this that dominates, but if I had to pick one I'd say it's the natural meat flavors.

And those meat flavors, while good tasting, and fresh tasting, is light. That is, this jerky doesn't give you much of it. It has a nice mellow and smooth flavor, but you don't get to enjoy much of it. It's probably good that this jerky doesn't have much other flavor to compete against it, or else you might never find it.

But for being billed as a brown sugar variety, I just don't get much sweetness out of this either. It's probably the same light sweetness that all the other Umpqua jerkies have. It's like eating any one of their other varieties, except without the added seasonings. In fact, I'm not sure if advertising this as a brown sugar variety is even warranted.

In terms of saltiness, it too is very light.

Aside from the natural meat flavors, the sweet, and the salt, there isn't anything else to taste. All of those flavors are light, which makes this jerky rather bland and uninteresting.

Meat Consistency

These appear to be strips of whole meat, sliced average thickness, and in small to medium sized pieces.

This is a dry jerky, though the photos below might make it appear more moist. It does retain a good amount of flexibility however. When Umpqua Indian Foods says that their use of pectoral meat makes this very moist and tender, it's bunk. I've found Wal-Mart's store jerky to be more moist and tender. I think Umpqua could do just as well with round meat, which will lower the cost, and maybe even produce more natural meat flavors.

But being dry, it's still easy to bite off a piece, and still easy to chew. And better yet, it chews like a real piece of meat, just like you'd expect from a steak.

There's a bit of oilness that's left on my finger tips. The vacuum sealed package perhaps draws up the oils from the meat. Otherwise, it's a fairly clean jerky.

I didn't find anything chewy in the way of fat, tendon, or gristle.

Umpqua Indian Foods - Brown Sugar

Umpqua Indian Foods - Brown Sugar
Product Value sells this Brown Sugar variety from its website at a price of $35.99 for 16 ounces. That works out to a price of $2.24 per ounce, making it an expensive buy. Keep in mind that price also includes the shipping.

For general jerky snacking purposes, that price gives this a weak value. This jerky simply has little to offer in the way of taste. You might get a great meat consistency, but your taste buds are going to have to work pretty hard to give you any return on investment.

As a brown sugar variety, it's a poor value because I don't find this to be very sweet at all. It does have a sweetness on the surface, but only a light one, and at this price per ounce, you can find much sweeter jerkies out there for a lower price.


I'm giving this a fair rating.

It's not a bad jerky, it actually has a good taste, it's just very light on taste. And even with its great meat consistency, it's still a bland, boring jerky. That causes this to lose a lot of snackability.

I realize that Umpqua Indian Foods has worked hard to market this as a gourmet jerky, but gourmet it is not. It's actually right on par with the original variety of Oh Boy! Oberto, though I'd say even that stuff has more taste. This might work well as a snack food that gives your jaws a mild workout, while letting your mind focus on something else, like watching television or rearranging the songs on your iPod. But just for that purpose, it's an expensive buy.

I think a good beer companion for this is a hoppy tasting IPA.

Rating: Fair

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