The fantastic thing about the internet is that it spreads knowledge like wildfire. And much like wildfire itself, this information is often unexpected and unpredictable.
Beef jerky may seem one of those things that cannot hold many surprises—it’s just a regular snack, right?
We all know that that jerky is lean meat that has been dried and salted, but it is more than that. I bet even the most know-it-all of you will get surprised to discover that behind jerky’s deliciousness there are a plethora of strange and funny tidbits of trivia to discover.
Don’t believe me? Take a look at this list of weird facts you (probably) didn’t know about jerky.
1. Jerky is as old as time.
No one is certain of the geographical origins of beef jerky—and this is because dried meat is, perhaps, the oldest forms of food preservation known.
As we all know, fresh meat rots fast. The need to store food for future consumption lead to humanity discovering that drying lean meat and salting it made it last far longer. Its consumption became, then, wildly popular—for example, Ancient Egypt consumed salted and dried meat massively.
Native Americans, particularly, enjoyed hanging buffalo meat strips over campfires. Such a method accelerated the drying process, and once the humidity evaporated, they packed the meat in skin bags, and took it with them for long journeys.
2. The word jerky comes from Quechua.
Despite sounding very English to our ears, jerky’s name is far from being Anglo-Saxon in origins—it has its roots in Native American language, much like the delicious snack itself.
Jerky is a corrupted form of ch’arki, a Quechua term that means “dried, salted meat”. Quechua was the language spoken by multiple tribes across the South American Andes, including the Inca.
Once the European colonizers arrived at the Americas, they found ch’arki to be both delicious and practical for their long oversee journeys, so they adopted it and introduced it to their societies—the rest is history.
3. Jerky is a favorite for astronauts.
Beef jerky is great, but knowing it’s a favorite of astronauts everywhere makes it a tad bit cooler in our eyes.
Meals in space need to be selected carefully—they have to provide nutrients that are essential for general wellbeing, but they must also occupy little space, can’t require refrigeration, and must be apt to consume in a zero-gravity environment.
Easy to eat, occupies little space, and full of nutrients—no wonder astronauts love beef jerky.
It’s well-known that astronauts can request extra food items, and beef jerky is a favorite. Other than its delicious flavor, it has the advantage of being light to carry, easy to eat, and full of protein and calories, needed to reach optimum energy levels.
4. Humans are not the only ones that make jerky.
Humans have been consuming jerky since ancient times, but we are not the only ones. The appeal of this tasty snack is, in fact, so universal that many animals have developed their version of it.
While we have a clear preference for beef jerky, some other animals have considered their favorite meals.
For example, red fire ants have been observed to save “tasty” cuts of their meals and set them to dry, while red squirrels slice mushrooms and set them to dry on trees to consume further ahead.
While these cannot compete with the richness of beef jerky, they’re not a bad idea at all. Well done, Mother Nature.
5. There is a “National Jerky Day”.
If you wanted to have an excuse to stuff your face full of beef jerky, here you have it—since 2012, June 12th is, officially, National Jerky Day within the United States.
The Wisconsin Beef Council established the holiday to create awareness about jerky, as well as to give us the perfect reason to eat all the beef jerky we want for a whole day.
During 2014, Jack Link’s beef jerky company set to celebrate the holiday in the most solemn way known to man—they built a beef jerky replica of Mount Rushmore and named it “Meat Rushmore”.
I am sure the presidents would be honored.
6. Beef jerky has strict regulations.
For a snack that is so easy to eat, beef jerky faces strict restrictions and regulation for both its production and import.
For starters, the Food Safety and Inspection Service of the United States’ Department of Agriculture has established the proper procedure for the elaboration of beef jerky, taking into consideration safety regulations and potential risk hazards.
Beef jerky imports are far more complicated than that—multiple countries forbid it altogether, and the few ones that allow them to impose elaborated documentation and inspections.
It is for this reason that beef jerky is almost always locally produced and elaborated—perhaps the original purpose of these measures.
7. Beef jerky is a lot more beefy than we think.
Have you ever wondered why beef jerky is so expensive? It isn’t a conspiracy against your munchies—it’s simple economics.
The elaboration of beef jerky involves a process of dehydration that eliminates most water out of the meat cut. Considering beef is approximately 60% water, this method shrinks it in size and weight—it takes 2.5 lbs. of beef to make a single one of jerky.
This ramps up the costs and investments—but the result is pure, concentrated beef flavor in a single bite.
8. Beef jerky is a fast-growing industry.
How fast, you wonder? So fast that in 2018 the meat snack business became the fastest growing snack food industry of the year. It’s not a surprise at all—innovation within production has transformed beef jerky, steering it away from the classical approach and turning it into a field of opportunities.
Current diet trends have highlighted the importance of protein, and the health-conscious production of modern jerky has turned it into a popular option for consumers, second only to chips when it comes to salty snacks.
Best part? It just keeps growing.