Fatman Findings: Beef Jerky

Three months into my hiking journey and I still haven’t found a better trail food than beef jerky. I love the taste, I love the protein boost and lets be honest its like having a dried steak in your pocket. What could go wrong with that?

The only problem I have found with my jerky habit so far is that there are so many options out there. I sit and stare at the grocery aisle for hours just trying to figure out which one to buy. So in an effort to help all of you avoid my fate, I decided to buy them all and give them a test for you. Also, now I have beef jerky to last a normal human for a year, or the Fatman a week.

What I ended up was with 5 beef jerky’s that I bought at King Soopers and one package from Dollar General that was sent from my brother as part of a care package. The brands I picked up were Old trapper, Jack Links, Kroger, Simple Truth Organic, and Clover Valley from Dollar General, and Chef’s Choice.

A couple of notes before I get started. The nutritonal information that I list is from the package itself and was provided, obviously, by the company. The cost was from the full price of each item not including any sales. Beef Jerky seems to always be on sale somewhere so those prices may vary.

A sampling of beef jerky from the Clover Valley line

Clover Valley

First out of the gate was Clover Valley original flavor.

  • Bag Size 2.75oz
  • Cost $3.25
  • Sugar/Oz 4g
  • Carb/Oz 7g
  • Protein/Oz 10g
  • Sodium/Oz 560mg
  • Fat/Oz 1g
  • Cost/Oz $1.18

Texture

There is a mix of thin cut and thicker cut (1/4 inch) in the bag and I tried a piece of both. The thinner cut was easy to chew and almost dissolved in mouth. The thicker cut piece was more stiff and took some chewing but as I was chewing it began to break up and became easy to chew. Nothing really stuck to my teeth or got stringy.

Taste

The salt was the first thing that hit me and stayed with me for the first few chews. A bit of a smokey flavor came through after and it was very pleasant. There is a small aftertaste of salted beef but nothing over powerful. There also wasn’t an overly sweet flavor and I didn’t get that sugary film on my hands or coating my mouth. (Editor Note: This is the only brand that I did not have the “peppered” flavor.)

A sampling of Simple Truth Organic Beef Jerky

Simple Truth Organic

Second try was with the Simple Truth Organic Cracked Pepper flavor.

  • Bag Size 2.5oz
  • Cost $3.79
  • Sugar/Oz 6g
  • Carb/Oz 6g
  • Protein/Oz 9g
  • Sodium/Oz 470mg
  • Fat/Oz 1g
  • Cost/Oz $1.51

Texture

The pieces are a bit of a smaller cut with most being about one by one inch. The individual pieces have some flexibility to them and they are soft as soon as they are put in the mouth but a regular sized piece doesn’t break down quickly and needs a lot of chewing to break it up.

Taste

The pepper hits fast and has a really nice spice to it. After the first bite my whole mouth was engulfed in the peppery flavor and that is all I could really taste. I don’t really detect much salt at all or even any beef flavor. One minute later and a drink of water later and all I can taste in mouth is pepper and my tongue still has a burning sensation. I’m not saying that is good or bad but just something to keep in mind if you have a sensitive mouth.

This also has the lowest cost, cost per ounce and lowest sugar. It also is tied for the smallest bag and the has the least amount of protein per ounce.

A sampling of beef jerky from Kroger store brand

Kroger brand

Third on my list, after a pause to clear the pepper taste away, was Kroger Beef Steakhouse Jerky, Peppered flavor

  • Bag Size 2.85oz
  • Cost $3.49
  • Sugar/Oz 5g
  • Carb/Oz 5g
  • Protein/Oz 13g
  • Sodium/Oz 490mg
  • Fat/Oz 1g
  • Cost/Oz $1.22

Texture

The pieces in the bag are pretty large, a bit tough to get a whole one in the mouth at one time. The jerky is relatively stiff in the hand only giving a little bit around the edges. It takes some force to bite a piece off and the jerky begins rather stiff in the mouth but breaks down after a few chews and becomes manageable.

Taste

There seems to be less pepper per piece of jerky so the flavor of the beef comes through unless you get a direct hit on a peppercorn. The beef has a sweet, slightly smokey flavor to it. The pepper, while not as prevalent and adds a nice contrast when you get that flavor against the sweetness of the beef.

This has the lowest carbs and most protein.

A Sampling of beef Jerky from Jack Links

Jack Links

Jack Links was batting clean up in my order and I tried the Jack Links Peppered flavored

  • Bag Size 2.85 Oz
  • Cost $3.99
  • Sugar/Oz 7g
  • Carb/Oz 8g
  • Protein/Oz 10g
  • Sodium/Oz 510mg
  • Fat/Oz 1g
  • Cost/Oz $1.40

Texture

The Jack Links actually split in two while I was trying to bend it with my fingers and from first bite it is really soft. The beef separates at the first bite and becomes very soft in the mouth almost immediately. Before I knew it the piece was finished while other jerky’s usually take more chewing this was a quick snack. There is an assortment of piece sizes in the bag from large to small.

Taste

The Jack Links has a very sweet taste to it. The sweetness hits you from the first bite and is the overwhelming flavor. There is an occasional pepper flavor from a corn but the pepper struggles to overpower the sweet. The aftertaste has a hint of a smokey flavor but still tastes very sweet.

This has the highest sugar and the highest carbs.

A sampling of beef jerky from Old Trapper

Old Trapper

The fifth jerky I tried was from Old Trapper and was their Peppered flavor

  • Bag Size 10oz
  • Cost $12.99
  • Sugar/Oz 5g
  • Carb/Oz 6g
  • Protein/Oz 11g
  • Sodium/Oz 590mg
  • Fat/Oz 0g
  • Cost/Oz $1.29

Texture

The Old Trapper was flexible in the hand test but without breaking without using a tearing action. Even though it is a big bag there are a lot of smaller pieces mixed in with a few large pieces. While the pieces aren’t stiff they are very chewy. It takes more chewing to break down and it doesn’t really dissolve in the mouth at all.

Taste

Old Trapper has visible pepper corns on it and the pepper flavor is the first thing that you taste but you can also taste the beef come through. The beef is semi-sweet with more of a vinegary hint of flavor that comes through. I think it is a good balance of sweet and peppery flavors that balance each other well.

This has the biggest bag and the lowest fat. It also has highest cost per bag and highest sodium per ounce.

A sampling of beef Jerky from Real Jerky Companies Chef's Cut

Real Jerky Company Chef’s Cut

The Chef’s Cut is the last jerky for me to try. I had their Chipotle Cracked Pepper flavored.

  • Bag Size 2.5oz
  • Cost $3.99
  • Sugar/Oz 6g
  • Carb/Oz 6g
  • Protein/Oz 10g
  • Sodium/Oz 340mg
  • Fat/Oz 2.5g
  • Cost $1.59

Texture

The Chef’s cut is soft and pliable with the hand test and breaks apart easily. It also dissolves in the mouth with a few chews. It is the softest of group so far with no hard edges and easily broken down with soft chews.

Taste

It tastes more like a roast or fajita meat that has been bagged up and even has grill lines on it. There is slight spice at the beginning with a smoky-sweet aftertaste. It is almost too sweet to me but I’m more a savory person. It doesn’t give the feel of beef jerky when eating it. I feel like I would warm this up and put it in a tortilla but I am having a mental block about taking this on a hike as a classic beef jerky.

This also is tied for smallest bag and has the most fat and highest cost per ounce.

Conclusion

Picking a favorite beef jerky is like picking a favorite bacon. They all have good qualities and different flavor profiles and textures that may be better or worse for certain people. Plus, there are no wrong choices! For instance, sitting on my back porch the very strong pepper and spice of the Simple Truth Organic sounds great but will it be best on a hike when you need quick consumption for energy replacement? Are the Kroger or Clover Valley with a stiffer texture going to be better shoved into a backpack or do you want a softer cut because you are going to be tired and don’t want to burn the calories chewing.

It is all a very personal choice. Going in I thought that Jack Links would be my favorite. Out of the bag I thought Chef’s Cut would be my favorite based on how it looked and smelled. Afterword factoring in the flavors and costs I think I would say it would be between the Clover Valley and the Old Trapper as my favorite although I was surprised that even the big bag of old trapper that is offered isn’t the cheapest per ounce option.

I have added a breakdown with some numbers highlighted in the table below with black and red based on notes from the posts.

BrandClover ValleySimple Truth OrganicKrogerJack LinksOld TrapperChefs Cut
Bag Size2.75oz2.5oz2.85oz2.8510oz2.5oz
Cost$3.25$3.79$3.49$3.99$12.99$3.99
Sugar/Oz4g6g5g7g5g6g
Carb/OZ7g6g5g8g6g6g
Protein/OZ10g9g13g10g11g10g
Sodium/OZ560mg470mg490mg510mg590mg340mg
Fat/OZ1g1g1g1g0g2.5g
Cost/OZ$1.18$1.51$1.22$1.40$1.29$1.59

Feel free to leave comments or suggestions for other brands below or you can email me your comments or follow me and comment on any of the social media platforms listed below. Happy Hiking!

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