Rives Quality Meats has been a fixture in the small town of Rives Junction, MI since 1973. It originally started in the basement of Rives Grocery Store, and then a few years later it opened its own store in downtown.
Owned and operated by Tom Hosler, Rives Quality Meats is a full service butcher shop serving local farmers and hunters. They'll turn your deer into a line of chops, steaks, roasts, burger, as well as jerky and salami sticks. And like with most other small town meat shops, they have a deli serving up sandwiches and soups.
Their jerky was one of the first products they offered. All of their jerky is made at their shop. And just last year, they launched a website where you can buy their jerky online.
When I pop a piece into my mouth what I taste first is a meaty flavor, with a light smokiness, followed quickly by a light saltiness, and then I can pick up traces of black pepper. In some other pieces, I could pick up a garlic flavor right away, perhaps where there's greater concentration.
When I start chewing, the natural meat flavors come right out in full force, followed by more salty flavor, and a bit more black pepper flavor.
That natural meat flavor seems to be the dominant taste of this jerky. It's a clearly unmistakable taste, providing a smooth, "melt in your mouth" kind of meat flavor. In a few other jerky brands I've reviewed, I used the word "buttery" to describe that flavor, and I'm getting that same quality here. And just in case you haven't figured it out, I'm trying to say that it's very, very good.
Inside that meat flavor is a medium-level saltiness, which seems to provide the second-strongest flavor overall.
There's plenty of black pepper clearly visible on these pieces, but it doesn't provide an overpowering taste. It provide just enough flavor to be identified, coloring the meat flavors.
I also mentioned the garlic, I'm getting a slight garlic aftertaste.
These appear to be thickly sliced strips of whole meat, in lengths ranging from 3 to 6 inches.
I'd classify this as a semi-moist jerky, some with great flexibility, and others none. It appears some strips are cut with the grain, allowing it to bend without cracking, while others are cut against the grain making them break off very easily. It's very easy to bite off a piece, and very easy to chew.
The chewing texture in this is very much like real meat. Once it hydrates in my mouth, and I've chewed it up a bit, it's got a texture similar to beef shiskabob grilled medium. I don't get any mushy or gummy texture at all. Some strips do, however, have a slight crumbly texture, and it seems to be with those strips cut against the grain. The strips cut with the grain have no crumbly texture at all.
Interestingly, I had talked to someone at Rives Quality Meats who said that they have one customer without teeth who buys up pounds of their jerky because it's so soft. Indeed, some of these strips are soft, but I don't think it's to the point that I could gum this stuff. I'd probably have to work up some callouses first. But fortunately, there's enough flavor in this that you can suck on it for awhile and soften it up good.
In terms of clean eating, my fingers pick up a layer of oiliness from this. It's just enough that I find myself licking my fingers and wiping them off on my jeans. I do find a few pieces of black pepper falling off as I take bites from these strips.
These strips appear to be very lean. I haven't found any visible chunks of fat, and no tendon or gristle, and not even any unchewable wads of sinew or tissue remaining in my mouth.
Rives Quality Meats is currently running a special on jerky throughout the month of February, selling all their jerky varieties at a price of $6.00 for an 8oz package. I bought 3 packages totals, one of this Regular, one Chicago-Style, and one Barbecue, for a total of $18.00. Add to that shipping costs of $9.80, and it came out to a total of $27.80 for 24 ounces of jerky, or a per ounce price of $1.16 per ounce.
That's within the average price range, but at the lower level.
For general jerky snacking purposes, at the $1.16 per ounce price, this jerky provides an excellent value. I'm getting lots of snackability through its great overall flavor, great chewing texture, and easy eating. I'm not sure I've ever seen so much good jerky snacking at this low of a price.
I'm giving this a best rating.
This Regular variety from Rives Quality Meats scores big points for its excellent natural meat flavors, and scores more points for its great chewing texture and easiness in tearing and chewing.
Just tasting this it's clear that Rives puts a lot of focus into cultivating a great tasting meat flavor, strong enough to dominate the overall flavor of the jerky. The salt, black pepper, and garlic do a good job of coloring that meat flavor, and providing plenty of taste to let you suck out the juices and savor the wonder.
What also makes this jerky so enjoyable are the thick cuts of meat that provide an extra level of meat snacking satisfaction.
And the fact that it's very easy to bite off a piece, and very easy to chew, allows you to dive head-first into the natural meat flavors. It's even great if you don't have any teeth.
I think a great beer variety to go with this is a red ale.
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