Mr. Z is a brand of beef jerky owned by International Food Company, based in Sao Paulo, Brazil. The jerky is manufactured completely in Brazil, and distributed through IFC's USA-based affiliate, International Food Company, USA, LLC.
This brand of jerky has been around since 1998, but it didn't show up on US store shelves until around January 2008.
IFC is putting a lot of effort into branding Mr. Z as an energy snack, and touting it as being made from grass-fed beef instead of grain-fed. They also note it being free of hormones. It is not, however, an organic product.
Interestngly today, I had posted a note on our Facebook page that I had planned to write a second review of Mr. Z. Then about 10 minutes later, my doorbell rang and I found a box full of jerky from Mr. Z! There was no letter, no explanation. It's like Mr. Z is this mysterious person who watches us, listens to us, picking up our thought signals, and dropping packages of jerky at our doorstep.
One word of note: the following review is from this mysterious box placed at my doorstep, which has a "Best Before" date of Apr 15 2010. My previous review of Mr. Z. Original, was due to expire in just over a month. That may very well produce sharply different reviews.
Beef, water, sugar, salt, smoke flavoring, garlic powder, onion powder, soybean oil, monosodium glutamate, polysorbate 80, silicon dioxide, glycol propylene, flavoring and sodium nitrite.
The tastes I get from the surface of these pieces is some smokiness, and a slight sweetness. The tastes I get from chewing a piece is more sweetness, some natural meat flavors, some saltiness, and a slight burn building up in the back of my mouth.
Right off the bat, this review sample, which doesn't expire for over another year, is far better than the review sample I had in my earlier review, which was due to expire in just over a month. The coloration is redder in this sample, it's softer, more moist, and it actually has some natural meat flavors.
The overall dominant flavor I taste in this sweet & hot variety is the sweet & hot flavor. The sweet is at a moderate level, not strong, not weak, just in between. I don't necessarily consider "hot" to be a flavor, but it's something that does make itself known in this jerky. But it's quite tolerable in terms of burn, I'd rate it as mild-medium on my hot scale.
The second strongest flavor I get from this is the combination of salty and smoky flavors. Both seem to be of equal strength. The smokiness is stronger in the surface flavors, and drops to a lower level in the chew. The saltiness is weak on the surface, but increases in strength in the chewing. The salt intensity seems moderate.
There's a slight garlic aftertaste noticeable.
The natural meat flavors are very light. Actually, I don't really notice this flavor if I were to chew a piece immediately. I only notice it if I suck on a piece first for about 10-15 seconds, and then start chewing. And it's still light enough that I can't consider it a dominant flavor of any degree.
These appear to be slices of whole meat, sliced to an average thickness, and in small to medium sized pieces. There's also a full ounce of crumbled jerky bits in the bottom of the bag, possibly closer to 1.5 ounces.
It's mostly a dry jerky, but with a bit of moisture. The pieces are pretty flexible when bent against the grain. When bent with the grain, they'll crack open, but won't break apart. It's easy to tear apart with fingers, and somewhat easy to chew.
The surface of these pieces seem to have a thin waxy feel. I wonder if this might be the glycol propylene in the ingredients list?
The chewing texture overall has a fibrous, meat-like quality. It does seem to feel like a piece of steak, cooked well-done. In the first several chews it has a rubbery quality, but breaks down easily.
My fingers don't pick up any residue off of this jerky, but I do see a few fragments of meat that fell on my lap and desk.
I found some small bits of fat on a few pieces, but overall it was sparingly. I found only one piece that offered some kind of chewy tendon, but otherwise no gristle to be found.
Mr. Z. sells this 4 oz package of sweet & hot variety through it's Amazon.com store at a price of $27.12 for a quantity of 6 packages. That price includes the shipping. So it works out to a price of $1.13 per ounce, putting this into the average price range, but towards the cheaper end.
For general jerky snacking purposes, at that $1.13 per ounce price, it presents a good value. I get a decent amount of snackability from this, through it's decent taste, a good deal of flavor intensity, good chewing texture and ease in eating. But it's mostly that low price Mr. Z. offers through its Amazon.com store site that gives you some good value for your dollar.
As a sweet & hot jerky, at the same $1.13 price per ounce, it's also a good value. I do in fact get a decent amount of sweet & hot flavor, but not lots. If this gave me thicker helpings of sweet & hot I'd have considered it an excellent value. And again, it's the low price that keeps this reasonable.
I'm giving this an average rating.
This sweet & hot variety from Mr. Z. is mostly a snackable jerky, providing some decent flavor, a good chewing texture, and some ease in eating. In trying to decide if it's above average, I couldn't find anything. It's overall flavor is enjoyable, but still largely average.
While it does live up to being a sweet & hot variety, it doesn't really punch that flavor out of the ballpark. It's just moderately sweet, and maybe mild-medium in terms of being hot. You're getting a low level of hot that 80% of the people in the world can tolerate. When I evaluate a sweet & hot variety, I want something so sweet that it brightens up my day, and then socks me in the gut with some burning hot flames. It just doesn't do this.
And the overall flavor is not really that exciting. It's just the moderate level sweet & hot, some saltiness, and traces of garlic and natural meat flavors. It's rather plain, but still snackable.
Compared to Oberto, Jack Link's, Bridgford, and other mass-market brands, it's right on par. If Mr. Z. can keep its prices low, and stick with the 4oz package size, compared to the 3.5oz sizes the other brands are using, I think it's poised to grab some market share.
My recommended beer pairing, a wheat beer or hefeweizen, I think will compliment this well.
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