The Best Beef Jerky Brands to Satisfy Your Massive Meat Craving
Tender, healthy, and delicious.
Maybe you’re a Keto devotee, or perhaps you just like the chewy, satisfying texture of high-protein beef jerky as your quick snack between back-to-back meetings. Either way, beef jerky (the word comes from ch’arki, which an indigenous Andean people used around 1500 to mean dried, salted beef) is everywhere from highway rest stops to fancy artisanal gourmet shops.
To be sure, not all dried meat is jerky (biltong, for instance, is a South African dried beef that’s processed differently) and lots of proteins can be dried and cured—game meat, chicken or turkey, even salmon or soy or even jackfruit.
But there’s something to be said for the old-fashioned smoky-tasting imagine-you're-a-cowboy beef variety. Aside from sliding perfectly into paleo and all iterations of the low-carb diet, meat offers necessary nutrients, says Good Housekeeping’s registered dietician Stefani Sassos, MS, RDN, CSO, CDN. “Meat in general is rich not only in protein, but also in vitamins and minerals such as zinc and iron,” she says. Plus, unlike most protein snacks like hardboiled eggs, cheese or cold cuts, “jerky is a portable, on-the-go protein option that also typically has a long shelf life.” It’s usually made from leaner cuts of beef, which keeps saturated fat relatively low, she says.
Still, you don’t want to make jerky an every-single-day thing, says Sassos. Jerky can be extremely salty (most of us eat almost 50% more sodium than we should each day) and many brands and flavors of jerky have loads of added sugar. Plus, processed, cured meats of any kind (including salami and bacon) may increase your risk of certain cancers, including colorectal cancer, says Sassos.
That said, if you're a jerky person, you are powerless against the cravings. Luckily, Sassos says a jerky break a couple of times a week is fine, although, she favors chicken or turkey jerky because they have even less saturated fat. Whichever jerky you choose, “Aim for 400mg sodium or less per serving,” she says, and be on the lookout for too much added sugar. “I would max out at 8 grams of sugar per serving of jerky, which is the equivalent of two teaspoons.” Grass-fed and organic beef are always a plus, and you should skip synthetic nitrates and MSG. “Take a look at the ingredients list and make sure it includes only ingredients that you can say and pronounce—protein source, seasonings, some salt, but that’s about it! Ingredients that just don’t make sense on the label are high fructose corn syrup or additives,” she adds.
There are dozens of beef jerky brands, and if you want to compare and contrast, there are even subscription boxes (we like Craft Jerky Co, which works with small-batch makers) that’ll send you a curated collection every month. (Who even knew?) Below, some of the best beef jerky brands we’ve found, all of which meet GH's criteria.
2. Grass-Fed Beef Jerky
COUNTRY ARCHER PROVISIONS
This brand has a bunch of zero-sugar versions of their grass-fed, no MSG, no nitrites or nitrates beef jerkies. This pleased one hard core low-carber, who favored the Classic, but also loved the Mustard BBQ flavor. This brand has a dryer, stringier texture (if that's your jam) and the garlic and spices give it a natural, not chemical taste. And while the Teriyaki had a bit of sugar (5g per serving) the less carb-conscious tasters appreciated the sweet, ginger-pineapple taste.