More than protein: How meat snacks are redefining convenience and nutrition

As jerky consumers in the US​ reach more than 132 million, a 2.91% increase since 2020, meat snack brands are delivering more nuanced value propositions from diverse species and bite-sized formats to creative packaging designs.

Exotic varieties give consumers varied flavor experiences

Since its founding in 1959, Pearson Ranch offers exotic meat snacks, including elk, venison, buffalo and wild boar that are slow smoked over hickory and oak, reducing the fat and sugar content for a healthier snack, Jeff Whitmire, national account manager for Pearson Ranch told FoodNavigator-USA. The company picked up more exposure after its distribution in hunting and outdoor chains, like Bass Pro Shop and Cabella’s, driving demand for its diverse portfolio, he added.

“[For] the exotic meats, they actually slow smoke over hickory and oak, [where] 95% to 98% of the industry uses dehydration, which locks everything in, but when you slow smoke, the fats render out so you get less of [it]. The sugars render out so a lot of the product is even registered sugar-free when it is finished,” he said.

The family-owned ranch raises its grass-fed, free-range, steroid- and hormone-free elk, venison, buffalo and beef at its co-op in New Mexico, which “is really helping sustain a lot of other ranchers,” in addition to sourcing its wild boar from Texas.

Whitmire added that instead of commonly used preservatives, like nitrates, for its exotic meats, Pearson Ranch incorporates celery powder and organic sea salt, which “ends up for a lot of the exotic [snacks] [as] nitrate-free, gluten-free, MSG-free and soy free.”