Written by Matt Tolnick, Lawless Jerky CEO and Founder.
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 (around 100 calories), there’s a fair amount of chewing, which is satisfying. And the high protein content (usually 8-12 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 nitrates, preservatives, MSG, and high fructose corn syrup. Even among those that still use these additives, many also offer “all-natural” versions of their jerky.
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 defrauding 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 like nitrates and preservatives 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.
Products made from animals that are fed hormones, steroids, antibiotics, and unnatural diets should not be considered “all-natural.” We don’t consider it “all-natural” for our most exalted athletes to use growth hormones or steroids in their bodies; why tolerate it from the foods we put in our own bodies?
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. 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. With the glut of junk foods available on the market today, let’s prohibit food corporations from deceiving consumers who are actually trying to pursue healthy lifestyles.
GRASS-FED VERSUS GRAIN FED FACTS
- Depending on the breed of cow, grass-fed beef contains between 2 and 5 times more omega-3s than grain-fed beef.
- Conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) exhibits potent antioxidant activity, and research indicates that CLA might be protective against heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. Beef is one of the best dietary sources of CLA, and grass-fed beef contains an average of 2 to 3 times more CLA than grain-fed beef.
- Grass-fed beef also contains significantly more of the antioxidants than grain-fed beef.
- In grain-based CAFOs (concentrated animal feeding operations), antibiotics are typically added to the feed or water of healthy cattle to promote faster growth and prevent infections that occur when animals are housed in crowded, unsanitary conditions.
- Corn-based feeding results in the acidification of a cow’s gut, which has given rise to the presence of E. coli in the intestines of most U.S. feedlot cattle.
- Making fertilizer to grow the corn to feed just one feedlot steer takes about 284 gallons of oil.
- 100% grass-fed livestock are not forced to live in confinement and to endure the miseries of factory farming, including very restrictive confinement and living in their own excrement.
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, Pho, 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.
Order their jerky online: www.lawlessjerky.com