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Meat Is the New Snack Food

Katherine Flynn

Move aside, granola bars. Meat snacks are the new "it" food in the snack aisle. Jerky is now so much more than a road-trip treat, as butchers and artisans all over the country are testing their own spices, meats, and combinations to discover the best new jerky and dried-meat snacks. We taste tested several brands with endless varieties and have narrowed the category to the top six winners listed below.

Portable and packed full of protein, meat has replaced bars and bites as the new "it" snack. From beef to pork to elevated versions of Slim Jims, jerky is becoming an art form for many artisans, butchers, and craft food creators countrywide. The emphasis on packing your day with filling protein, as well as the rise in "Paleo"-style eating has driven a meat-centric snacking craze. Walk down the snack aisle, and you'll be greeted by a virtual panoply of packages promoting their protein power.

If you're looking to fill your snack time with these meaty bites, keep a few things in mind:

  • Watch sodium numbers. Dried meat snacks are salt traps. Most will have higher-than-average sodium snack numbers, but you should still aim for ones that keep their sodium-per-serving numbers below 350 milligrams. If your favorite sneaks above that limit, that's manageable. Just cut back on sodium elsewhere in your day.
  • Combine for best efforts. Protein is filling and satisfying, but fiber is important for emergy duration, too. Pair with something high-fiber and low-sodium, like fruit or unsalted popcorn.
  • Low-calorie doesn't equal license to splurge. One serving of most meat snacks is around 100 calories. That makes them an ideal low-calorie snack to keep you full between meals or for a bit of refuel after a long workout. Don't double up on the meat snacks for a higher-calorie snack though—the sodium will be much too high. Here again, it's great to combine jerky and dried meat snacks with a fruit or low-sodium fiber snack option.

With all the store brands and artisanal manufacturers, we tested endless varieties to bring you the overall best jerky and meat snacks you can buy in the grocery store. Stock up for a simple and filling snack anytime you hear your tummy rumble.

Three Jerks Filet Mignon Hamburger Beef Jerky 

Katherine Flynn

When you open the pouch, you will immediately smell the smoky-sweet ketchup scents as if you are about to bite into a juicy hamburger. With a good balance between sweet and salty, this jerky packs in the protein at 13 grams per serving while keeping the sodium under 290 milligrams. Calling this a portable hamburger would not be lying as Three Jerks describes adding mustard, ketchup, and even pickles to their filet mignon, making this jerky an American classic.

Epic Hunt & Harvest Mix: Honest Harvest Trail Mix 

Katherine Flynn

Epic's beef jerky is paired with roasted almonds, Brazil nuts, pecans, and pistachios for a wholesome trail mix snack. Going beyond jerky, the concept of this snack covers all the bases for a road trip or simple snack necessity: salty, nutty, packed with protein, and of course, portable. Chocolate trail mixes are a thing of the past as the smoky beef jerky is not only a more flavorful option, it's also healthier (and won't melt in your hand). 

Epic Bite's Chicken Meat with Currant and Sesame BBQ Seasoning

Katherine Flynn

We loved the heat in this one, along with the texture of the jerky. You won't be ripping this jerky with your teeth as it retains its moisture and still packs smokiness from the chicken meat. This Epic meat snack was a clear favorite during the taste test, and it manages to pack in 9 grams of protein with only 90 calories per serving. 

Duke's Hatch Green Chile Smoked Sausages

Katherine Flynn

Showcasing the portability of meat, these smoked sausages from Duke's put all the bad memories of Slim Jims to rest. Made with roasted and diced Hatch chiles, the sausages have a mild heat that builds, and you can clearly taste the fresh chiles. Made with marinated pork and sweetened with cane sugar, this smoked jerky is crafted with care you can taste.

Duke's Chorizo and Lime Smoked Sausages

Katherine Flynn

This Duke's jerky will transport you to a beach barbeque with its smoky chorizo and fresh lime. Paired with cilantro, this pork sausage is smoked with avocado and hickory wood to balance the tanginess of the lime. Every batch is made by hand and hung and slow-dried for days in small limited-size batches.

Duke's Tomato and Basil Smoked Chicken Sausages

Katherine Flynn

A third Duke's pick? Trust us—we were just as surprised that our picky testers picked another from the same brand. But one bite of these smoked sausages and you will be tasting fresh, real tomatoes. The flavors are very authentic and bring the jerky to life with diced ripe tomatoes, minced basil, and sea salt. Meat snacks like these smoked sausages are easy to throw in your gym bag as protein-packed post-workout snack. Be sure to chase with plenty of water.