National Jerky Day is celebrated on June 12, which is a cause for celebration for meat lovers all over. For centuries and across cultures, people have been finding innovative ways to preserve their meat (before the days of the refrigerator), and National Jerky Day seeks to celebrate one of the most successful ways of doing so — by curing and drying meat. Essentially jerky can refer to any meat (alligator, kangaroo … you name it!) that has been cut into strips, dehydrated, and then cured. Some variants have flavors added to them, while some are also smoked. Either way, jerky is a food that is gaining popularity as people recognize the practical (and health) benefits of this meaty treat.
History of National Jerky Day
National Jerky Day was first founded in 2012, by two major meat companies — Jack Link’s Beef Jerky and the Wisconsin Beef Council. The idea behind it was not only to increase sales but to celebrate the growing rise in popularity of dried meat snacks all over. According to some consumer surveys, the demand for meat snacks now comes second only to that of potato chips, hence jerky deserves a day of its own!
Historically, we have only to think of any hunter-gatherer communities or nomadic tribes and dried meat comes to mind as the main element of their diets. Hence methods of curing and drying meat have also been around for centuries. It is the best way to preserve meat, reduce its bulk, and also carry it on the go. The word ‘jerky’ itself gets its origins from the ancient Incan language Quechua, where the term ‘ch’arki’ was used to refer to ‘dried, salted meat’. Once the Spanish came to South America, they changed the word to ‘charqui,’ which was then anglicized into the word ‘jerky.’ The invention of beef jerky is now commonly attributed to South America in the 1800s, however, there have been versions of jerky invented across history and people groups. For example, many Native American tribes also made their own jerky out of buffalo meat. They would combine this with dried fruits and suet (hard fat of beef) to make a food called ‘pemmican’. This would last long and be ideal for traveling because it was both nutritious and portable.
Today, there is a huge market for jerky in its different forms across the world. A peek into any meat-eating culture might show you different methods of preparing dried meat but, at the end of the day, it’s all forms of jerky. Across the U.S. itself, every gas station, supermarket, and convenience store is bound to have a selection of jerky, elevating snacking to another level.
National Jerky Day timeline
Evidence from tombs shows Ancient Egyptians storing jerky to feed their dead during the journey to the afterlife.
The South American Quechua tribe (part of the Incan civilization) invents the origin of the word jerky — ‘ch’arki.’
As cattle drives increase, cowboys travel with chuckwagons, eating jerky on the move.
Astronauts choose jerky as an essential food item on their trips to space.
National Jerky Day FAQs
What is National Craft Jerky Day?
National Craft Jerky Day, celebrated on November 27, pays homage to Craft Jerky in particular. It’s more of a popular jerky brand representation.
Why is jerky healthy?
Beef jerky is a good source of protein as well as containing many vitamins and minerals like zinc, iron, vitamin B12, phosphorus, and folate. It also has low-fat content, so it’s a Keto dieter’s dream snack.
What is the healthiest jerky to eat?
Since jerky is high in protein, it is slower to digest than carbohydrates are, hence it leaves you feeling full for longer. Another added benefit of beef jerky is that it doesn’t produce insulin, which is a hormone that signals the body to store fat.
How to Celebrate National Jerky Day
Explore the world of jerky
If there’s a particular brand or flavor of jerky that you stick to, we dare you to try something new. Go to your nearest convenience or variety store and surprise yourself by choosing a different flavor or type of jerky. If you feel particularly adventurous, try some kangaroo, alligator, Hawaiian, or caffeinated jerky — they may have you coming for more.
Read up and DIY
Expand your horizons (and culinary skills) by reading up on different ways to make jerky. Then pick one and experiment. Jerky does not always have to be eaten as a snack, it can be used as an ingredient in soups, stews, etc. as well; especially if you’re doing an outdoor cookout.
Buy one and feed a child
In 2010, in Amarillo, Texas, Dyron and Kelly Howell discovered 10 hungry kids and realized that more than 3,200 children in the city’s school district relied on school meals for their daily food. Together with the beef and dairy community, as well as charities that provided kids with food packs, SP4K was formed. The organization now provides protein-rich ‘snack packs’ for kids, which include jerky — specifically, SP4K Beef Stiks, offered by Clint and Sons, a meat company.
5 Versions Of Jerky From Around The World
Made by Native American tribes, this version combines dried meat, fats, and berries.
Italian meat sticks are seasoned with salt, fennel, and red pepper flakes, then dried by the fireplace in pairs.
The Ethiopian version where meat strips are seasoned with salt, black pepper, and a special spice mix called Berbere.
Beef strips dipped in a sauce of peanuts, onion, and spices, then dried — they are popular in Nigeria and Niger.
South African beef jerky that gets its name from the Dutch for ‘rump’ and ‘tongue’ — a vinegared jerky.
Why We Love National Jerky Day
Jerky is convenient
Not only is jerky easy to pack and carry around, but it can also be marketed anywhere. Apparently jerky wins over other salty snacks like popcorn and savory pretzels, so you know we’re not just trying to promote it.
Jerky is adaptable
The great thing about jerky is how versatile it can be. Not only are there a myriad of different recipes and methods for preparing it, but there are also flavors galore, which make it the perfect food to experiment in the kitchen with. If pre-packaged jerky is more your speed, there’s enough variety in that department to have your head spinning too!
All the flavor, none of the weight
Not only is jerky a 75% reduction of the weight of the meat due to it being dehydrated, but it’s also great for keeping the weight off you! Densely packed with all the protein goodness and other nutrients that meat has, it’s a light snack, both literally and figuratively, as it has health benefits (being low in fat and high in protein).
National Jerky Day dates