Richland Valley is a brand that I've been seeing in gas station convenience stores lately, but one that I knew nothing about. So picked up this original variety as well as a peppered variety, and sought about doing some background review.
The long story short, it's owned by a company called "Core-Mark Holding Company, Inc.", which is a subsidiary of Core-Mark International, a massive food distribution company that services convenience stores and grocery stores all over the world. The "Richland Valley" brand of jerky is their unique brand. It's likely used as part of a "package" of foods they offer to convenience stores.
The back of the package shows that this brand is distributed by "Richland Valley Merchandisers", but a Google search comes up empty on this company. However, that company has the same mailing address as Core-Mark Holding Company.
Core-Mark doesn't make their own jerky, this particular package of jerky was manufactured by Jerky Snack Brands, of Minong, WI. I did put a call into them, and they used to make this jerky for Core-Mark, but not anymore.
Beef, water, sugar, salt, brown sugar, monosodium glutamate, flavoring, hydrolyzed corn protein, sodium erythorbate, sodium nitrite.
The tastes I pick up from the surface of these pieces is a moderate level smoky and sweet flavor, and some meat aroma. After sucking off all the smoky and sweet flavor I'm left with just a tinny taste. In the chewing, I pick up a moderate salty flavor, and a bit more smoky.
My first impression of this jerky is that it looks, tastes, smells, and feels exactly like Jack Link's jerky. It's perhaps explained by the fact that this particular batch was made by Jerky Snack Brands, a company founded by Jay Link, the elder son of Jack Link.
When I pop a piece into my mouth and chew it right away, what I mostly taste is the smokiness. I'd rate that as the dominant taste of this jerky. But it seems like that smokiness is mostly on the surface of these pieces. If I were to suck a piece first, and then chew, I don't notice it much in the chewing.
The same goes for the sweetness. I can taste it in the chewing only if I chew a piece right away. But if I suck on a piece first, I only find it on the surface. I'd rate the sweetness as the second-most dominant taste.
The level of saltiness seems moderate. It's a dominant taste component, which I'd rate as the third-most dominant taste of this jerky, but I don't see it as "too salty".
I don't really find any natural meat flavors in this. Note that several pieces have some visible streaks of fat. When I chew on some of this fat, it provides maybe a bit more flavor, but not much. The fat is about the only "beef flavor" that I get out of this.
Overall, it's an uninteresting flavor, though probably just barely enough to be snackworthy. It's got a low-to-medium level flavor intensity, and low-level flavor complexity.
These appear to be slices of whole meat, sliced to medium thickness, and in small to medium sized pieces.
This is largely a dry jerky, though I found a few pieces to be quite soft and tender. Overall, it requires some effort to tear apart, and the same can be said of the chewing effort, giving my jaw muscles a bit of a work out.
The chewing texture is "chewy". This jerky has a rubbery/gummy quality to it that requires you to chew and chew and chew. Eventually, it chews down into something that has a meat-like quality to it.
In terms of clean eating, there's a fine film of oil all over these pieces that tends to deposit on my fingertips. Otherwise, I'm not getting any fragments in my lap.
As I said in the Taste section, several pieces have some visible streaks of fat. And I'm finding most of these pieces with some significant chewy sinews or membranous tissues. These things tend to remain in my mouth as unchewable wads, but easily swallowed. I haven't found any tendon or gristle.
I paid $4.99 for this 3.65oz package at a Shell Station in Menifee, CA. That works out to a price of $1.37 per ounce, putting this into the average price range.
For general jerky snacking purposes, at this price, I'd say it has a good value. I'm finding a decent amount of snackability. It's not something that leaves me craving for more and more, but I do find myself casually reaching for another piece and feeling content. If this was priced at 50 cents higher per ounce, then I'd say it's only a fair value.
I'm giving this an average rating.
It's snackable jerky and that's about all it has to offer. The taste is rather uninteresting, but still seems to satisfy a snacking urge. The chewing texture is rather chewy, and sorta gummy, but it's still tolerable considering you're not getting much taste for that workout.
With no natural meat flavors, this jerky has to rely on its flavorings to get by, and with just smoky, sweet, and salt flavors, it just can't get any higher than an average rating.
But this is a jerky that Core-Mark International created to round out a package of convenience store offerings, not necessarily to compete against Jack Link's or Oberto. It only has to be good enough to keep consumers satisfied, and prices low.
My beer recommendation for this is an IPA.
Where to buy:
- At convenience stores across the USA