Beyond Meat Jerky Is So Good It's Almost Annoying

The flavor of this plant-based jerky caught us off guard.

I was at Walgreens one day when a display in the store caught my eye. It was stacked with packages of jerky, which ordinarily wouldn't cause me to look twice, but when I saw the branding on bags, I paused. I knew that shade of green. The jerky was from Beyond Meat, of vegan plant-based meat fame. I couldn't picture what this product would taste like in a tough, dehydrated context, so I grabbed a package.

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Jerky is a pretty good snack, in my opinion. It's one of those things I can stash away in my desk drawer in case I want something salty and meaty to tear at with my teeth while I'm working. But the saltiness and meatiness are key to its satisfaction. Could a vegan alternative be nearly as appealing?

The wide world of jerky snacks

In fact, we already know that there's good jerky to be found beyond the beefy kind. Fruit and vegetables alike can comprise some decent jerky. We've seen vegan jerky made out of tomatoes, mushrooms, and other chewy, substantial candidates that also happen to have some natural umami flavor to them.

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But I have to say, as an omnivore, they don't quite pack the same punch for me, you know? Sometimes you want that shoe leather, human-chew-toy-level toughness to it. Perhaps Beyond Meat, which already works so hard to ape beef in every way, might deliver that consistency.

How does Beyond Meat Jerky taste?

When I first opened the bag, I wasn't particularly excited. The scent that emanated from it was strongly like cat food, which is a problem I have with Beyond Meat products specifically. (Impossible has this to a lesser degree.) I was not looking forward to digging in immediately after that first whiff, but once I started gnawing on a piece I was pleasantly surprised by what I'd discovered.

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Beyond Meat Jerky is astonishingly close to the real thing. The cat food scent didn't translate into its flavor (thankfully), and the jerky pieces have the right amount of tense chew to them. It's heavily seasoned with salt and lots of cracked black pepper, and after I had my first piece, I reached for another one immediately. I didn't miss the meat for one second.

I gave a piece to my fiancée, who chewed on it for a second. She gave me a slightly quizzical look and said, "Tastes like Beggin' Strips." (If you don't know, Beggin' Strips are a dog treat. Also, we don't have a dog.) Oh well, opinions differ.

This certainly made me think, though, about my general reliance on animal products. I'm a fairly heavy meat eater; the Beyond Meat jerky reminded me as much. I know not everyone's a fan, but meat substitutes like Impossible and Beyond really do help me chip away at my meat-eating habits, one product at a time—because sometimes it's not about the beef. It's just about getting that smack of salt and umami. I mean, hard shell tacos loaded up with lettuce, tomatoes, cheese, sour cream, and salsa could just as easily be filled with any sort of protein, you know?

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I am going to grudgingly concede one thing, though: Beyond Jerky has a fairly long lingering aftertaste that maybe does sort of taste like... Beggin' Strips. I don't mind, and it won't keep me from eating the rest of the package. It's the same aftertaste I get from the burgers, just a little more concentrated.

With every new Beyond release, I start consciously thinking about my meat consumption and all the spots in my diet where I can slowly make swaps that don't feel like concessions. If I'm enjoying what I'm eating, I don't think of it as a concession at all.

 

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