Meat makes a fantastic snack — high in protein, low in sugar — but it’s never been terribly convenient. You had to track and kill a buffalo, or llama, or elk, etc., then field dress it, then dry it or smoke it. Even modern advancement has left peckish carnivores hanging; after all, you can’t exactly grill a steak at your desk.
Fortunately, someone (the Incas get a lot of credit, as do some Native American tribes), somewhere (Peru, the North American continent, probably most places actually), sometime (a long-ass time ago), invented jerky.
Dried meat is lightweight, long-lasting, and has come a long way in terms of flavor. Below are some of the companies that have perfected protein snacks with real meat, providing a healthier, delicious, nutritious answer to your grazing needs.
These small-batch pork rinds come in four phenomenal and somewhat unexpected flavors: Korean Kimchi, Pineapple Ancho Chile, Sea Salt and Cracked Black Pepper, and Spicy Dill. They use sunflower oil to cook the rinds, which tastes great and is believed to help keep your heart healthy. Plus, pork rinds are a low-carb snack that’s packed with protein, so you can feel great about indulging in these crunchy, flavorful, artfully made crisps.
The guys who started Chops Snacks loved the benefits of jerky, but hated the texture and flavor of many commercial options. After doing some research, they realized most jerky was made with ungraded meat from dairy cows.
Knowing they could do better, Chops Snacks was born, making top-tier jerky made from all-natural, USDA Choice and Select beef courtesy of American steer. This means you will be biting into a flavor-packed, tender, and moist jerky. Chops comes in four flavors: Original (The Manual office favorite), Red Chili Pepper, Teriyaki, and Sweet & Spicy. Chops is so confident you’ll taste the difference, they put their money where your mouth is: If you don’t like it, you get a refund.
EPIC Provisions is the company that taught us not to fear cooking in animal fats and we’ve never been more grateful (their duck fat could make a tire taste good). And now we get to fangirl over them again thanks to their Bars. They have a wide array of naturally-raised meat options: grass-fed bison, beef, turkey, lamb, chicken, venison (another Manual fave), smoked bacon, salmon, and wild boar. Coupled with nuts and fruit, EPIC Bars are destined to be in your gym bag, briefcase, desk drawer, and kitchen cabinet as they’re high in protein, low in sugar, grain-free, and chock full of vitamins, with no dairy or soy.
Their Bites are the EPIC answer to jerky, offering many of the same meat choices as the bars, with the addition of beef liver. Their spice combinations are unreal, like the Sweet Sesame Ginger Chicken Bites and Maple Glazed Smoked Salmon. Unlike most jerky, the Bites also contain seeds and fruits, making for one delicious, healthy deal.
Krave Sticks include delightfully unexpected ingredients like sweet potatoes and black beans. These intensely cravable snacks come from Sonoma, California, in three awesome flavors: Spicy Red Pepper Pork with Black Beans, Rosemary Lemon Turkey with White Beans, and Sesame Garlic Beef with Sweet Potato.
All of their ingredients are all-natural and minimally processed, and the meat used is high-quality, so this snack more like a healthy, gourmet meal. Speaking of meals, Krave also offers up some creative recipes that incorporate their Sticks, like the Jerky-dilla, Meaty Sushi, and even cocktails like the Jerky Mary.
Beef Crisps are your answer to craving chips — a healthier alternative with tons of hunger-banishing protein and a satisfying crunch (and they’re good for the planet to boot). These are really thin slices of grass-fed beef that have no added hormones or antibiotics, and only one or two seasonings. The beef is dried naturally, without chemicals, and because Beef Crisps works with local ranchers and smaller processors, your healthier choice helps support jobs and the right way to do things. You’ll feel good in more ways than one when tucking into a pack of Beef Crisps.
Once you’ve made your way through all of these meat snack options, why not try your hand at making your own jerky?
Feature image courtesy of EPIC Provisions/Facebook.