Friday, October 3, 2008

Umpqua Indian Foods - Smoked Sweet & Spicy

Umpqua Indian Foods - Smoked Sweet & SpicyUmpqua Indian Foods is a brand of meat snacks operated by Umpqua Indian Development Corporation, which in turn is owned by the Cow Creek Band of Umpqua Tribe of Indians, based in Roseburg, OR. Umpqua Indian Foods has its processing facility about a half-hour south in Canyonville.

The jerky business got its start in 1998, selling its products locally in nearby stores. Sales increased, but eventually became stagnant mainly due to its dull and boring packaging, and its inadequate production equipment. In 2004, the company brought in new leadership, redesigned the packaging, and increased production capacity. They've focused on branding themselves as a gourmet jerky, and have gotten their products into stores across the Pacific Coast and in catalogs like Harry & David, and shopping sites like

Umpqua Indian Foods uses only pectoral meat (from the shoulder area), instead of the Round which most jerky brands use. The company claims it's the most expensive meat used in the meat snack industry, and results in a more moist and tender jerky. They go on to explain that their meat is soaked overnight in a brine solution, and then air dried.


Beef, water, teriyaki seasoning, maple sugar cure (salt, cane & maple sugars, dextrose, sodium nitrite), sugar, red chili pepper, modern cure (salt, sodium nitrite), cayenne pepper.


I get a slight sweet taste off the surface immediately, followed by a faint meat taste, with some saltiness, and then the spiciness of the red chili starts to kick in. Moving into the chew, I can pick up more of the natural meat flavors while the red chili spice strengthens its burn.

The package contains a sticker at the bottom that says, "Natural Maple Hardwood Smoked", which perhaps lends itself to be advertised as a smoked sweet & spicy variety. None of the other beef jerky varieties that Umpqua Indian Foods produces has this label. But for that matter, I find only a slight smokiness off the surface of these pieces, nothing in great amounts.

For being advertised as "sweet & spicy", I'd say it lives up to that billing. But it's not well pronounced. There's just a slight sweetness to this, and the spiciness is perhaps mild-medium by my palate.

The saltiness seems moderate, there's plenty there to be noticed, but I'm not getting a salt scorching.

The natural meat flavors are present themselves well enough to be enjoyed, but vary from piece to piece. One piece had a strong meat flavor, that I'd characterize as mild and smooth, something almost as close to the Gary West Meats brand, but not quite having that "buttery" flavor that I liked. Meanwhile, other pieces offered less meat taste. These pieces tended to be drier than the others, which perhaps explains it.

Overall, it's a good tasting jerky that lives up to its smoky sweet & spicy billing, but not really hit those qualities out of the ballpark. I'd say the natural meat flavors edges out the added flavorings as being the dominant taste in this. The sodium is a very close second, followed by the spicy, and then the sweet.

Meat Consistency

These appear to be strips of whole meat, cut into lengths of about about 5 inches, and about the width of a measuring tape.

While it's billed as a soft and tender jerky, it's perhaps moderately soft and tender. It's still easy to bite a piece off, and easy to chew. But considering Umpqua Indian Foods says they use pectoral meat because it makes this jerky very moist and tender, the fact is that it's not anymore moist or tender than a package of Wal-Mart jerky.

And for being sweet & spicy, these pieces didn't leave much of any residue on my fingers. It's fairly clean.

Overall, it's a great meat consistency, having no pieces of fat, tendon, or gristle. It tore apart and chewed just like a real piece of meat, nothing rubbery or mushy at all.

Umpqua Indian Foods - Smoked Sweet & Spicy

Umpqua Indian Foods - Smoked Sweet & Spicy
Product Value

Umpqua Indian Foods retails this jerky at a price of $5.25 for a 4oz package. That works out to a price of $1.31 per ounce, putting this into the average price range.

For general jerky snacking purposes, it's actually a great value. It offers a lot of snackability for its combination of tasty flavor and great meat consistency.

As a smoky sweet & spicy variety, it's a moderate value, because while you'll get the advertised flavor in this, you won't get a dominating one. It's really just enough to flavor to frame the great tasting meat. However, the meat flavors themselves are not strong either, even though have a great taste.


I'm giving this a good rating.

This Smoky Sweet & Spicy variety from Umpqua Indian Foods gives you just enough of those advertised flavors to be enjoyed without overpowering the natural meat flavors. However, the natural meat flavors don't really overpower the advertised flavors either, and hence that's why I didn't give this a higher rating. It's like either quality didn't want to overstep the other's bounds, and resulted in a jerky that tastes great, but doesn't really knock you off your feet.

Even the soft and tender meat consistency that Umpqua Indian Foods promotes this as, is not really that soft and tender.

Overall, it still presents the gourmet characteristics in both taste and texture that separates it from the garden variety grocery store jerky. It's still a better jerky than the average jerky.

I think a lightly hopped beer would be good with this.

Rating: Good

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