We all fall victim to alarming trends once or twice in our lifetimes. Unfortunately, trends are a part of life, whether it’s a shag haircut or platform sandals. Some trends can even be fun to sample (goat yoga, anyone?) But some trends are decidedly wasteful. These are trends that were designed to part you with your hard-earned cash, often for very little in return. A prime example? Overpriced beef jerky.
When it comes to beef jerky, you might think that you’re getting what you pay for. And for jerky lovers everywhere, what we’re paying for is a good cut of high-quality beef with minimal processing and minimal frills. We want the flavor of the meat to be the main attraction, and we don’t want to spike our sodium levels with an overly salted snack. So naturally, you might assume this means you have to cough up a bit more than you would for, say, a Slim Jim. But many beef jerky brands are heavily marked up in an attempt to trick consumers into thinking they’re getting a better quality product than they are. A peek at the label reveals that you’re essentially paying more for a dressed-up Slim Jim.
Let’s take a look at a prime offender: Chomps
Chomps has received some positive press coverage, but a look at the ingredient label makes it pretty clear that the product isn’t up to snuff. They cleverly hide the ingredient label on their website, preferring instead to share vague nutrition statements like this: “Chomps are packed with high-quality protein – grass-fed and finished beef and venison and free-range, antibiotic-free turkey. Our products contain no added sugar or harmful ingredients and are free of the top eight allergens.” Okay, that sounds good, but what is actually in it? You’d be hard-pressed to find out.
Luckily, some reviewers uploaded the ingredient list, and it revealed that one of the top three ingredients is salt. Diets high in sodium have firmly established links to heart disease and high blood pressure and are some of the top things many doctors warn against. So why is it one of the top ingredients in a brand like Chomps, which bills itself as a health-conscious brand?
To be clear, an occasional salty snack is nothing to be concerned about, but when a company claims that it is providing a “clean snack” that is “diet approved,” we expect better. And for over $2 per stick, Chomps is up charging for a product that is not much different than any generic beef jerky you might find in a convenience store. So is it worth the price? Reviewers don’t seem to think so.
There are a lot of better, more affordable options out there
It can seem like when it comes to beef jerky; you have two options: the cheap gas station beef jerky, which features combinations of the worst cuts of meat and is loaded with sodium and preservatives, or the high-end beef jerky, which can cost upward of $20 per bag. What’s a beef jerky lover to do?
Luckily, there are a lot of moderately priced jerky brands that are using innovative drying and preserving techniques to bring out the natural flavors of their beef while keeping harmful preservatives out. Many of these brands are lesser-known, but they’re worth putting in some extra effort to find. You might start by trying out a local brand: many farmers and artisans are crafting high-quality beef jerky on a smaller scale, and their products are excellent.
If you’re feeling creative, you can even make it yourself!
Beef jerky has been around nearly as long as human civilization has, and the earliest cultures made their jerky by laying meat out in the sun to dry. Luckily, modern life allows for some conveniences, like an oven or a cheap dehydrator, so you don’t have to frighten your neighbors by laying large slabs of meat out on your patio (although we won’t judge if you do).
For the price of a trendy bag of beef jerky, you can buy a dehydrator on Amazon and make your beef jerky. You can even make it in a conventional oven if you set it to a low temperature and leave the beef in there for a few hours. There are plenty of great recipes out there that can help you make your beef jerky at a fraction of the price you would pay at Whole Foods for a brand like Chomps. And the real kicker? You’ll know exactly what’s in it—no hidden ingredient labels.
Avoid trendy, overpriced beef jerky in 2022 and spend your dollars elsewhere
Next time you’re craving a salty snack, skip the overpriced and overhyped brands and shop local instead. Or make it yourself! Your wallet (and your taste buds) will thank you.