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An Unexpected New Snack Trend

Step aside, gas-station beef chews—jerky is getting an artisanal upgrade

The snack known as “jerky”—fresh meat dried to help with perishability—dates back to the 1500s, but modern jerky has evolved into a high-end sport. Artisanal crafters have chosen the snack as their latest conquest, one-upping one another with sustainably farmed meats and fashionable ingredient blends, from cranberry-and-sriracha beef and basil-citrus turkey to double-hitter bacon-chia bison. Krave Jerky’s offerings, which include black-cherry barbecue and Chardonnay thyme, even come with recipes—like deviled eggs and jerky and meaty mac ‘n’ cheese—and suggested drink pairings. Epic, meanwhile, a favorite among the Paleo set, peddles grass-fed beef bites and trail mixes for the “coconut carnivores” among us.

Mouth CEO Craig Kanarick, who sells varieties like Three Jerks Jerky’s filet mignon, in flavors including chipotle adobo and Memphis BBQ, attributes the indie moment to “new and innovative recipes, a focus on better ingredients and a high level of craft.” We’re also eating more—but better—meat in general. This fall, at Fleishers Craft Butchery in Brooklyn, Kings County Jerky vet Chris Woehrle introduced a 100 percent grass-fed beef-jerky line, rolling out a DIY kit with drying racks, seasoning tin and recipes. “Once people know it’s simply slicing meat into strips, spicing it and drying it slowly at a low temp, they get excited to try it themselves,” he says. Stocking-stuffer brainstorm, done.