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Who Likes Beef Jerky? / Make it Your Business!
Beef jerky is a type of snack food that is made by marinating beef in a curing solution and drying it. Meat treated in this way has a long shelf life and a unique flavor. Invention of this meat processing technology is attributed to Native Americans who smoke-dried meat to preserve it. Beef jerky is part of the rapidly growing meat snack market which experienced yearly sales of over $240 million in 1996. This growth has been attributed to the healthy aspects of beef jerky such as its high protein content and low fat level.
Beef jerky is a specific type of a more general kind of meat snack called jerky. Jerky is any type of meat, which has been cured with a salt solution and has had the moisture reduced to less than 50% of the total. It is typically brown colored and has a rough texture. Compared to unprocessed meat, it is tougher and has a more powerful flavor. This is primarily due to the flavor concentrating effect of the moisture removal process. Beef jerky is promoted as a nutritious, low calorie product, which is low in cholesterol and fat and high in protein and energy.
Interesting Historical Tidbits about Jerky:
Beef jerky is thought to have originated in South America during the 1800s. The Quechua tribe, ancestors of the ancient Inca Empire, produced a meat similar to beef jerky called ch'arki, or charqui - pronounced jerky. The word "jerky" comes from the term charqui, which means to burn meat. When the Spanish encountered this method of meat preservation, they adopted it and made it available to the rest of the world.
Native Americans smoke dried meat to make their own form of jerky. Jerky was made by adding salt to strips of meat from game animals such as deer, buffalo, and elk, and allowing them to dry over fires for extended periods of time. This method of preparation enabled Native Americans to preserve meats during times when it was readily available and eat it when food was scarce.
Beef Jerky's popularity was rekindled during the expansion into North America where it was prized as a valuable source of nutrition by traders and explorers as they traveled areas without ready access to fresh supplies. Its light weight and longevity made it a superior food source as the world was tamed and settled.
It became a staple foodstuff for American cowboys and pioneers. Early explorers built smoke huts and hung cuts of meat over a fire to smoke cure the meat. True Beef jerky was made when the meat was first flavored and then cured. Over the years, people discovered that the meat could be made more palatable by the addition of various spices.
Long before Beef jerky made its way into the mainstream diet, jerky was a source of nutrition for ancient societies, cowboys, pioneers and Native Americans. So, the next time you reach for a snack of beef jerky, know that you're snacking on a piece of history.
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