Across many industries, consumers are switching from mass-produced big-name brands to smaller, lesser-known companies.
And that’s especially true for beef jerky. Small jerky companies are booming in popularity and generating a ton of buzz for their unique offerings.
You may not be able to find these brands in every convenience store, but many jerky lovers agree that it’s well worth the extra effort to seek them out.
So just what is it about small jerky companies that makes them so desirable?
Here are 5 of our top reasons why your next jerky purchase should be from a small business. And if these don’t convince you, well… you’ll just have to taste some small-batch jerky and see for yourself what all the hype is about!
5 Reasons Why We Love Small Jerky Companies
1. Small Jerky Companies Put Quality First
The biggest names in beef jerky make their product in huge quantities — their focus is more industrial than culinary.
And in order to produce such massive amounts of jerky, they have to sacrifice a lot of the details that jerky connoisseurs value.
Rather than using the best cuts of the best beef, large companies often make their jerky with lower-quality meat that can be obtained wholesale for cheap. Likewise, their marinades use mass-produced ingredients that lack the intricate flavors of fresh, high-grade ingredients.
What’s more, the jerky-making process itself is largely automated. Since everything from slicing the beef to seasoning the marinade is done by machines, the details of each batch can’t be fine-tuned to perfection — it’s all standardized to be “good enough.”
This big-batch jerky may taste just fine, but it lacks the character and uniqueness of small-batch jerky, ultimately leaving you with a lackluster experience.
Connect with Real Jerky Makers
Because the Best Jerky Doesn't Come from a Store
On the other hand, small jerky companies focus on quality over quantity. Since they don’t need to produce such large amounts of jerky, they can take the time to focus on the little things: getting the ideal balance of spices, picking the perfect cuts of beef, and making sure that every piece of jerky comes out just right.
The result is jerky that tastes amazing and exudes the love and care you can only find in handmade food.
2. Small Jerky Companies Make Fresher Jerky
Yes, jerky may be dried meat, but its freshness is still important!
Big-batch jerky can spend weeks, months, or even years sitting in warehouses, semi-trailers, and store shelves. Even in a sealed package, the jerky’s freshness is compromised by this lengthy storage time.
As jerky loses freshness, it becomes drier and tougher to chew. Simultaneously, the flavors of the marinade and the beef begin to degrade, often melding with each other in ways that range from bland to strange to downright unpleasant.
To prevent this degradation, big companies load their jerky with preservatives. But ironically, these preservatives often affect the jerky’s flavor themselves, giving it an artificial, processed taste.
Small-batch jerky is different. It’s not made to last forever on a shelf or travel across the country in the back of a truck — it’s made to taste great as naturally as possible.
When you order jerky from a small company, you order fresh products directly from its manufacturer. The jerky you get in the mail today may have been made just last week, so you’ll be enjoying it at close to peak freshness — and when you try it, you’ll see how big a difference that timeframe makes.
3. Small Jerky Companies Produce Unique, Innovative Jerky
There’s nothing wrong with the jerky flavors produced by big brands, but after a while, it’s natural to crave something new and exciting.
So when regular old teriyaki or sweet and spicy beef jerky isn’t doing it for you anymore, it’s time to branch out and try some unique new jerky from smaller companies.
Smaller batches allow for more experimentation — if a new flavor doesn’t work out, there won’t be a huge amount of product wasted. The chefs at smaller companies are often given more freedom to try new recipes, whereas those at big companies are limited by corporate bureaucracy and restrictive policies.
And smaller jerky batches also allow companies to work with special ingredients that aren’t available in bulk, as well as local ingredients that can’t be obtained anywhere else.
Want to try some tropical Hawaiian beef jerky infused with pineapple? How about some kangaroo jerky with flavors from down under or alligator jerky straight from the bayou?
Whatever new jerky adventure you’re looking to experience, you’re sure to find a small jerky company that can deliver it for you.
4. Small Jerky Companies Operate More Ethically
In the broader food industry, ethical issues run rampant in just about every element. And unfortunately, the beef jerky industry is no exception.
From inhumane treatment of animals to unethical labor practices to carbon emissions from ingredient transportation, many larger jerky companies just don’t pass moral muster.
The huge scale of these companies makes it prohibitive for them to ensure that they’re treating their animals, employees, and environment well at every link in the supply chain.
But smaller companies have the ability to operate more consciously.
Their beef is often sourced from nearby farms, where animals are typically treated better than at large factory farms. That’s good news for both the animals and the consumer: healthier, happier cows produce tastier, more nutritious beef.
Other ingredients, such as herbs and vegetables for marinades, are needed in smaller quantities, so they can also be obtained locally much of the time. This reduces food transportation emissions and supports the local economy — and, as with meat, local produce is often fresher and tastier than its mass-produced counterparts.
And employees at smaller companies often feel more connected to their work and to each other, allowing their skills to shine in their products while feeling like part of a family. Which ties into our final point…
5. Small Jerky Companies Represent True Craftsmanship and Ambition
Small businesses of all types are driven by passion and dedication, often originating from just one person’s dream — and you can show your support for these virtues by choosing a small jerky company.
Many such companies were founded decades ago and have been passed down through the same family for generations. Others began more recently with humble, relatable origins: a love of beef jerky and the desire to share that love with other people.
These days, more than ever, it’s difficult for small businesses to compete with huge corporations.
But small jerky companies continue to persevere, expressing their artisanal expertise and crafty passion through truly incredible jerky. When you buy from them, you’re directly supporting their skills, dreams, and livelihoods — and that knowledge is sure to make that amazing jerky taste even better.
"You might be a redneck if you think that beef jerky and moon pies are two of the major food groups."
-- Jeff Foxworthy