The 5 Best Jerkys of 2021, According to a Dietitian

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Our Top Picks
"Uses 100% grass-fed beef that's raised without added hormones and antibiotics."
"Rich in brain-boosting omega-3 fatty acids."
"Whole30 Approved means that there are no added sugars, and the snacks are free of gluten, soy, grains, dairy, and more."
"Free of dairy, egg, gluten, fish, soy, and nuts."
"Perfect for those looking for a sweet and savory jerky made in small batches with real ingredients."

Gone are the days of jerky being a gas station snack. Thanks to the increased popularity of jerky as a protein-packed snack staple with the Paleo and Whole30 diets, you can now find excellent jerky products, including organic, grass-fed options, at various stores and online retailers.

Historically used as a way to preserve meat by salting and drying, jerky is now a popular savory, high-protein snack that is still convenient because it doesn't require refrigeration. While it's portable, jerky can be packed with tons of sodium and sugar and made with low-quality meat. Thankfully, there are lots of great brands that offer top-quality meats with lower sodium levels and impressive ingredient lists.

Here, the best jerky:

Best Overall: The New Primal Sea Salt & Pepper 100% Grass-Fed Beef (8 Bags)

For an excellent overall jerky pick, try The New Primal's tasty snacks. The brand uses 100% grass-fed beef that's raised without added hormones and antibiotics. The “100 percent” is important here because many beef products will say “grass-fed”, but the cows may have been grain finished. Grain finished means that in the last month of life, cows are led back to feedlots and fed with grain and soy. Grass-fed beef is a healthier choice, as it tends to be lower in overall fat—but higher in healthy omega-3s—than grain-fed beef.

One package of The New Primal's Sea Salt & Pepper jerky has 220 milligrams of sodium and 22 grams of protein. If you crave a sweeter jerky, The New Primal makes a variety of flavors, including Honey & Cayenne.

Best Seafood: Epic Provisions Salmon Strip

Jerky doesn't automatically mean meat from a mammal. There are now a variety of other jerky options on the market, including vegetables and fish. These options are tasty snacks for pescatarians and vegetarians but tend to be high in sodium. EPIC’s smoked salmon snack strip is one of the only salmon options out there that contain less than 300 milligrams of sodium per serving. Plus, these salmon strips contain whole food ingredients that you can pronounce such as wild salmon, coconut oil, and maple sugar.

Epic Smoked Salmon Strips are a Paleo-friendly jerky option that is perfect for anyone looking to cut down their red meat consumption or for a nutritious, salty, and protein-packed snack. The Certified Gluten-Free strips contain 7 grams of protein per serving and are also rich in brain-boosting omega-3 fatty acids.

Best Turkey: Chomp's Free Range Turkey Jerky

If you're not a fan of red meat but want a protein-packed jerky snack, turkey is an excellent option. Chomps uses free-range, antibiotic-free turkey from a family-owned farm in Minnesota to make delicious protein snacks without any junk or filler. The turkey meat sticks are Whole30 Approved, meaning that there are no added sugars and the snacks are free of gluten, soy, grains, and dairy.

Each Original turkey stick contains 10 grams of protein, 290 milligrams of sodium, and zero grams of sugar. This Non-GMO Project Verified snack is a great option for anyone on the go, especially those who prefer a red meat alternative. Plus, if long ingredient lists and questionable fillers have you stressed, you won't have to worry, as Chomps contain top-quality, easy-to-read ingredients that you can identify.

Best Kosher: The Grub Company Kosher Biltong

High-quality kosher jerky can be hard to find. If you're looking for a protein-packed jerky snack, The Grub Company makes kosher biltong which is slightly different from jerky. Originating from South Africa, biltong is a dried, spiced steak that is sliced into pieces. Because it doesn't undergo the same process as typical jerky, it can be softer and contain slightly more moisture than jerky. The meat-based snack also doesn't store as long as regular jerky, and if you haven't finished the package within 10 minutes (it's so delicious, so this may be a challenge), The Grub Company recommends resealing and consuming the remainder within 2 to 3 days. It can also be stored in the refrigerator.

The original Kosher biltong is made using premium grass-fed beef and is free of dairy, egg, gluten, fish, soy, and nuts. It's free of MSG, preservatives, artificial ingredients, and nitrates. Each 1-ounce serving contains 80 calories, 12 grams of protein, 200 milligrams of sodium, and less than 1 gram of sugar.

Best Teriyaki: Country Archer Teriyaki Beef Jerky

Country Archer Teriyaki Beef Jerky

Salty and sweet teriyaki-flavored jerky is a fan favorite when it comes to jerky flavors. While teriyaki jerkies are delicious, they may not always be the most nutritious options, as they can be loaded with added sugars. The Country Archer uses organic cane sugar and pineapple juice to sweeten their 100% grass-fed jerky. Unlike many flavored jerky products out there, this product has only 8 grams of sugar. Each serving also boasts 10 grams of protein, 80 calories, and 6% of the recommended daily intake of iron.

The Country Archer does not use added preservatives and is nitrite and gluten free. It's perfect for those looking for a sweet and savory jerky made in small batches with real ingredients.

Final Verdict

For a top-quality jerky made from grass-fed meat and superior ingredients, choose The New Primal (view at Amazon).

What to Look for in Jerky

Ingredient Quality:

Choose jerky products that use organic, grass-fed, wild, antibiotic-free, and hormone-free meats. Many jerky products use low-quality meats and use salt or sugar to increase palatability and taste. Selecting a higher-quality jerky results in a more nutritious, better-tasting snack.

Serving Size:

Note that there are usually a few servings in one small bag of jerky. For this reason, it's easy to eat a full day's worth of salt in one sitting. Consider your sodium, calorie, and protein needs when choosing how many servings are appropriate for you.

Sodium:

Aim for jerky that has less than 300 milligrams of sodium per serving. Some jerky can have over 600 milligrams per serving, which is almost half of the recommended daily intake for sodium in a few pieces of meat.

Sugar:

In addition to sodium levels, it's essential to consider how much sugar is in your jerky. Sugar is used in tandem with salt to create savory, crave-able snacks that you'll go back to time and again. Always take a look at the ingredient list to see what kind of sweetener is used. Choose a product that uses natural sources of sugar, such as maple syrup or pineapple juice. Also, review the nutrition facts, and select a product with less than 5 grams of sugar per serving.

Protein:

Choose a jerky that is packed with high-quality protein. Vegan jerky is naturally low in protein; however, turkey, fish, or beef jerky is usually high in protein. Depending on the serving size, most meat-based jerky will have at least 10 grams of protein per serving.

FAQs

What is the best meat for jerky?

Jerky is available in a variety of types of meats, such as beef, pork, and lamb. The type of meat you choose depends on your preference, but in general, it is best to choose jerky products that use organic, grass-fed, wild, antibiotic-free, and hormone-free meats. Avoid products that use low-quality meats as they typically use salt or sugar to increase palatability and taste.

Why do some people say beef jerky is bad for you?

Although beef jerky is generally a high protein snack, it does contain a large amount of sodium. One serving of beef jerky can account for about 15 to 25 percent of the recommended daily value of sodium, which is 2,300 milligrams for adults.

What Experts Say

“Jerky makes for a great afternoon snack, and I often recommend it to clients as an option on days when they have a longer window in between meals and want something especially filling, savory, and satisfying. When choosing jerky—just like with any animal protein—quality is key. I recommend opting for organic, grass-fed beef or pasture-raised turkey or chicken raised without antibiotics and added hormones. Many jerky brands can contain harmful preservatives like nitrates as well as added sugar and excess sodium. Look for nitrate-free options with recognizable ingredients, ideally with low sugar and sodium."—Lauren Bloch, MS, RD

Why Trust Verywell Fit?

A personal note on my recommendations written above. I believe the jerky products in the round-up are made by trusted brands that I would feel comfortable recommending to my clients, friends, and family. I have tried all of the jerky products and frequently recommend them as a protein-packed snack.Eliza Savage, MS, RD, CDN

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Article Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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