National Jerky Day takes place on the 12th of June to celebrate the history, popularity and health benefits of jerky. Jerky is relatively new to the UK, having only come over here in the last decade from the States. It’s increasingly becoming popular amongst athletes and fitness fanatics due to being high in protein and low in calories. But it’s also a tasty snack that isn’t just reserved for fitness junkies. It has a deep history that goes back to ancient times and it’s still being enjoyed today.
History of jerky
The word ‘jerky’ may seem like a strange term for a meat-based food, but we promise that this is as scary as it gets. Jerky in its most simple form, is meat that has been preserved with salt and has had all moisture drawn out of it. Doesn’t sound so scary now, does it?
There are a few folk lore theories as to why jerky has the name it does. Some jerky fanatics believe the name derives from the jerking action your head makes when biting off a particularly tough piece. Although this sounds plausible, historians agree that jerky is ancient. What we do know is that jerky originates from a South American Native tribe called Quechua, who had derived from the Inca Empire. The word “jerky” comes from this tribe and originates from the word “charqui”, meaning to burn meat (Wild West isn’t burnt, we promise). Native Americans would preserve meat such as game, bison, cattle, deer, elk and fish by marinating it in a brine made from acidic fruits and then hanging it up to dry beside the fire smoke or in the sun. They would do this before travelling or during the winter months when hunting was difficult and food was scarce. Jerky was especially popular in the month of February, as Native American’s described February as the “Month of Starvation” due to the impact of winter on harvesting. These meat preservation techniques were then picked up by colonists.
Even cowboys jumped on the bandwagon and began carrying salted beef and jerky in their pockets for when meals weren’t readily available. The protein would keep them fuelled on days spent on the range and when hunting cattle. Folklore claims that cowboys (or cow hunters as they were known as at the time) would keep raw beef under their saddle and the friction from the saddle and the heat of the sun would cook it. It’s even said that the sweat from the cowboys would help flavour the meat (delicious). We’re not sure how accurate this is, and we can’t imagine what sweaty, saddle cooked jerky would taste like. Probably not very nice.
Nowadays, the process of making jerky has changed slightly but Wild West jerky follows a very simple method. We use the silverside cut of beef that has been sliced then hand mixed in a marinade of herbs and spices. Our team then lays each slice out by hand onto baking trays before the beef is slowly cooked and smoked in an oven at a low temperature. It’s still high in protein and low in fat, just as it would have been back in the States.
Protein! If you follow us, you will know that our jerky contains high amounts of protein. But do you understand why it’s important to consume enough protein in your daily diet? If you’re not a bodybuilder or fitness fanatic, you might not actually know why protein is so beneficial for your health.
Protein works well to ensure that all the organs of your body, both internally as well as externally, are functioning at optimum level. They are the builders and repairers of the human body, helping us develop resistance to sickness by strengthening us. If for example, you were to consume a bag of beef jerky, the protein in jerky (once broken down) will help to create enzymes, hormones and other bodily chemicals. These in turn, assist with the functioning of the main organs. Our bodies are made up of bone, muscle, skin, blood and cartilage and protein is the main contributing factor that ensures the preservation and functioning of all of them. Without any of these performing the way they should be, your body will slowly start to shut down.
So that’s the science behind the benefits of protein, but how does this relate to jerky? A 25g bag of Wild West Original Beef Jerky contains 38% protein. That’s 9.5g of protein in a 25g bag. All our jerky is also gluten-free and low in fat and calories. We’re not just restricted to beef, we also make jerky in chicken and salmon. So, there is a flavour out there for everyone!
Don’t forget that we are celebrating National Jerky Day with a competition on the Wild West Twitter and Instagram pages. Find out more.
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