Steeped in grit, mystery, and a whole lot of history, there’s more to jerky than a healthy snack slipped into pockets on long-haul adventures. Sure, it tastes good. But much more than that, preserved meat played a central role in the very cornerstone of human development, with the earliest recordings dating right back to Mesopotamia around 3000 BC. But what role did it play, and what is it about the dried goods that continues to stand the test of time?
As one of the early forms of food preservation, cured meats allowed people to preserve their food for much longer times without spoil, which was invaluable in early civilizations without supermarkets littering every corner. As Melissa Snell put it, “a society that was largely agrarian would be keenly aware of the need to store up provisions against the ominous threats of famine, drought, and warfare.”
Drying the meat and using salt to draw out the moisture meant bacteria could not generate at the same rate, which was especially useful in seasons when food was predicted to be scarce, when transporting food, or when travelling long distances without a consistent food supply. In short, preserved meat meant people were fed even when there was no fresh food, and allowed them to explore new parts of the world without the fear of running out of supplies.
So, where did jerky originate from?
Who invented jerky? Well, while drying and salting meat has been an effective method of preservation for thousands of years, the jerky we know today is more accurately traced back to the ancient Inca Empire, circa 1550. With a grain of salt and a decent dose of folklore, legend has it that jerky was born amongst the Quecha Indians, a native South American tribe originally from the ancient Inca empire. Back then, jerky was known to these early-day settlers as char’qui, or “dried meat”, which later became the word jerky. Semantics.
Prepared in a similar way to meat preservation of earlier civilizations, it is said “the Inca used a freeze drying process that took advantage of both the cold dry mountain air and strong sun in their homeland.” Even then jerky was understood to be a top-notch, vital source of protein that went the distance on long journeys or when food was in short supply. And to tell you the truth, we’re still raving about it today.
Centuries on, jerky became the unofficial anthem of cowboys and early pioneers alike - a staple source of meat-fuelled protein allowing folk to rely on a solid food source that didn’t need to be cooked and kept fresh every night. Stashed in saddlebags and leather satchels, jerky went the distance right along next to them, a trusty companion from its early days in South America right through its journey to North America. And the rest, they say, is history.
What is plant-based jerky?
With a deep-founded respect for the preserved meats of old, here at Off-Piste Provisions, we’re a big fan of all things jerky. Its history, its fundamental role in keeping explorers and adventures going since way back when, and purely on a superficial level? Nothing beats that smokey taste.
The way we see it, the only downside to jerky is the livestock industry’s significant contribution to Greenhouse Gas Emissions in New Zealand. We’re talking a mighty 37 percent. And this is happening all over the world - according to recent studies, global GHG Emissions from animal-based foods are twice those of plant-based foods. Other reports have it far more. Considering the current state of climate change on a global scale, that’s just not something we could get behind. But pointing the finger only got us so far, and a venture inwards had us asking what personal changes we could make.
So, instead of hanging up our cowboy hats and saying a wistful goodbye to the sustenance of old, we chose to create an alternate route towards a more optimistic future through vegetarian jerky. Subbing out the jerky for a plant-based alternative meant we could still enjoy that authentic jerky taste and genuine practicality with a more eco-friendly option, while also reducing our carbon footprint.
The world has come a long way since those early days of dried meat and salted provisions, and while preserved goods played a central role in allowing further exploration and development of the world as we know it, it’s now our role to care for that world and our planet in a more sustainable way. According to John Robbins, author of The Food Revolution, “a reduction in meat consumption is the most powerful single act that you can take to halt the destruction of our environment and preserve our natural resources.”
We’re looking towards a more optimistic future, and our thinly sliced, plant-based jerky products are coming right along with us. And much like the cowboy version of old, our jerky has a shelf life that means you can take it along on all your adventures, outdoor pursuits, and roadtrips - no chilling required. Stash it in your saddlebag, throw it in your glovebox, you know the drill. We’re bringing a different kind of jerky to NZ, and we’re stoked to be doing it.
It’s all about nutrition
With a focus on sustainability and a thriving planet for all, we knew we wanted to create jerky that was healthy, jerky where nutrition is the focus, and jerky that’s as good for you as it is for the world around you. We’re big on nutrition and living a healthy, balanced life, and it’s always been our priority to care for our bodies as much as we care for the planet. We wanted plant-based provisions that provided enough protein and sustenance to keep adventures at an all-time high, without any of the ethical implications of red meat. So, we packed our jerky full of protein (11 grams of protein per serve) and made it a source of iron, but left the rest - no gluten, no soy, no trans fats, and most importantly? No meat.
How our plant-based/vegan jerky is made
If you’ve got a hankering for the nitty gritty of how we did it, here’s a quick breakdown of our plant-based jerky making process.
We start with the most nutritious vegan ingredients from around the world, with the key component being organic pea protein from Canada. We are striving towards a clean label product using minimal ingredients that can be found in health stores - and that you can actually pronounce. We also look to source locally where possible and for what we can’t, we ensure they have international accreditations in food safety and increasingly so in sustainability.
After combining the ingredients, we use our patent pending technology to effectively add water, shear force and heat to the mix to create fibres that mimic meat textures. It follows a similar logic as to when one kneads bread dough ingredients together, and the transformed, robust structure that results.
We then marinade the ‘meat’ in our secret sauces, before dehydrating to ensure we get the big chew and long shelf life associated with traditional beef jerky and other ‘meat’ snacks.
Your plant protein is packed at our food grade plant at Callaghan Innovation's The Foodbowl, then sent out to your favourite stockists.
You put the clean, green provisions to good use
That 3pm office low, that post-fitness recoup, that school lunch bulk up or glove box saviour. Off-Piste Provisions are the go-to on the go, whether you’re at work, working out or exploring the big wide world.
Where can you find the best plant based jerky, you ask?
If you’re keen to try some plant-based jerky, we’re stocking the goods online right here. Or if you’re looking for vegan jerky near you, you’re in luck. Our high protein snacks are also available in partner stores across the North Island, and soon the South Island too. We’ve also got three authentic flavours to choose from, so no matter how you like your jerky, there’s bound to be something for everyone. Cowboys and Incas included.