Friday, October 17, 2014

Just How Natural is Your “All-Natural” Beef Jerky?

by Matt Tolnick

For decades, beef jerky was a niche snack that had a small but dedicated cult following. Regardless of the brand, the flavors of mass-marketed jerky were unimaginative and limited. With an artisanal food movement sweeping America (in conjunction with the entrenched craft beer movement), beef jerky has been reimagined.

No longer is beef jerky dry, tough, and reserved for road tripping or camping. Jerky is increasingly appealing to active, health-conscious types looking for an all-natural, low-calorie, low-carb snack. For the modest calorie count in a serving of beef jerky (100 calories or fewer), there’s a fair amount of chewing, which is satisfying. And the high protein content (typically 10-12 grams per ounce) helps build muscle and keeps us full. Contrary to popular belief, jerky is not a male dominated snack; 45% of our company’s online consumers are women.

Recently, even some of the most mass-market jerky companies have begun to remove some of the more objectionable “ingredients” long found in their products, such as nitrites, preservatives, MSG, and high fructose corn syrup.

Having removed the aforementioned ingredients, many jerky companies now claim to offer “all-natural” jerky. By its own admission, the FDA’s definition of “natural” fails to consider the unnatural processes by which whole foods are created. And since most beef in America is unnaturally fattened “on feedlots eating a concentrated mix of corn, soy, grains, and other supplements, plus hormones and antibiotics”, many jerky companies are deceiving consumers. Since the predominant ingredient in their jerky is, of course, beef, these “all-natural” claims are particularly concerning.

Many well-meaning consumers who want to avoid unnatural food products are willing to seek out and pay a premium for “all-natural” beef jerky. But in most of these “all-natural” jerky products, the primary ingredient is beef raised in the most unnatural of ways. Like humans, cows are what they eat. And when we eat cows artificially plumped on an unnatural diet of genetically modified grains, antibiotics, and steroids, they lose many of the benefits typical of naturally raised cows. If your “all-natural” jerky doesn’t also say “100% grass-fed,” your jerky is anything but “all-natural.”

For a variety of reasons elucidated by the NRDC, 100% grass-fed beef is better than conventional beef. It’s better for the environment, more humane for the animal during its life, and it’s far healthier than grain-fed beef. At big food corporations, there is a desire to create highly marketable foods that are tasty and cheap. Taking the time and expense to offer truly healthy food products is considered risky because many consumers are deterred by the higher prices of higher quality, cleaner foods. With America’s increasing wealth gap, this is a valid concern and may be sound, shrewd business strategy. But by profiteering on the “all-natural” language, despite offering beef jerky with beef that’s raised unnaturally, the American public is being misled.

As Americans, we love negative externalities, pushing off the costs of our choices onto the system, onto our future selves, and onto future generations...all so we can save a few bucks in the present. Public policy should discourage this behavior. Instead, we should create a system where the standards for “all-natural” actually consider the processes by which our food (and particularly our meat) is grown.

Matt Tolnick is the Founder and CEO of Lawless Jerky®, a 100% grass-fed beef jerky company specializing in all-natural and gluten-free flavors. Creating jerky in internationally inspired flavors like Mango Habanero, Honey Chipotle, Japanese Curry, and more, Lawless Jerky is the only brand endorsed by the Humane Society for its efforts in sustainability and humane treatment of animals.


Post a Comment