Note: Whole9 has no financial affiliation with Primal Pacs. We just really dig their stuff.
You first heard about Primal Pacs back in December 2010, when they became the first ever Whole30 Approved jerky snack kit. Since then, we and the Pacs have been spreading the Good Food word at our Foundations of Nutrition workshops, at the recent Ancestral Health Symposium and here on the site, with free shipping promotions. Today, we thought we’d let Matt Pierce, owner and founder of Primal Pacs, tell you about his product in more detail. (Trust us, you’ll like what you hear.)
Congrats on your USDA approval! Can you tell us a little about that process?
The USDA approval is a big landmark for Primal Pacs. The road to obtain a grant of inspection is a long one – ours was 20 months in the making! We are just now finally in the door. This means we can sell wholesale and can ship internationally without any worries. It also shows people we’re making a wholesome product in a responsible manner. It also means if we say “grass-fed and grass-finished” on our label, folks can be sure that’s exactly what their getting.
Tell us about your recipe – where it came from, how you perfected it, and what’s your secret? (Okay, we don’t expect you to give THAT up, but we had to ask.)
-Our jerky recipe was initially borrowed from my Dad and uncle, who make a lot of venison and elk jerky. But the challenging part was taking their version and making it Whole30-approved. Let me tell you, that wasn’t easy! Jerky is hard to make without sugar – that was the real challenge. The recipe has really evolved over the last two years. We take a lot of pride in the recipe – it’s not what’s in our product, it’s what isn’t in them (sugar, soy, gluten, preservatives or artificial flavorings) that makes it so special.
Where does your beef come from?
Our beef is absolutely the highest quality – and ALL of our jerky meat comes from ONE local ranch in the Yakima Valley, the Heirloom Cattle Company. Heirloom feeds and finishes their cattle on grass. This means no feed lot, ever. (This is an important distinction, as my butcher pointed out in a recent email. “Contemplating grass-fed beef might conjure up pastoral images, but in fact much of the cattle marketed today as ‘grass-fed’ spend their time in feed lots being fed large amounts of hay, rice bran, almond hulls, and other assorted feeds that the USDA allows to be called ‘grass’.”)
Because the cows are 100% grass-fed, my jerky is higher in Omega-3’s than even your typical “grass-fed” product. The cows are never given antibiotics, because they are never in a stressed or crowded environment, and they aren’t given growth hormones either. You just can’t find a better beef supplier.
From the owners of Heirloom, the Peplow Family: “Our family has lived in the Yakima and Kittitas valleys for five generations. Our love for this land, and our commitment to pass it on to the next generation, preserved of its natural beauty, native plants and a healthy ecosystem is a family commitment. Our ranch is a small, family operation that cares for each animal as an individual. Our animals are never penned, and enjoy a variety of native grasses and plants as their cuisine, living in harmony with the natural habitat of many wildlife species.”
You know how you always encourage people to shake the hand of the man who grows your food? Well, we know these ranchers personally. If I ever have a problem or a question, I can call and talk directly with the folks that are raising our cows. Not a lot of jerky companies out there can say that.
Tell us about your jerky-making process, from start to oven.
The jerky process is pretty cool. We basically mix the beef up with our ingredients in a big bowl. Then it goes to the press, where it is laid out on large drying racks. From there it goes to the oven where it is cooked for a brief period to kill any pathogens. Then it gets dried until we have jerky.
Is jerky even “Paleo”? (That’s a trick question, because we don’t care if it’s technically “Paleo”, now, do we?)
We don’t care if it’s Paleo, but we DO care if it’s healthy. So let’s see… we are cutting an animal up into pieces, adding some spices, and eating it. Last time I checked, that was healthy – and Paleo.
My butcher and I have talked about whether jerky is “processed” or not at length. Technically, my jerky is processed… but no more processed than, say, hamburger. The product I make into jerky is whole-muscle meat diced up, spiced and pressed into strips. Some may try to make the case that the product we are making is of less quality because it is chopped up into smaller pieces to make it more tender. The reality is a piece of beef is still a piece of beef, regardless of size or shape.
What’s the difference between your jerky, and other brands out there?
First, it’s the quality, and the degree to which we know where our meat comes from. Another unique thing we really love about our product is the fat content. We’ve got more fat per serving than most other jerky brands, because we know this gives the meat the flavor our customers like. You’ll notice when you open a Pac the bag is slightly greasy. That’s all the awesome (healthy) beef fat that adds a great flavor and superior nutrition. Nobody out there sells jerky like this.
Tell us about the nuts, seeds and dried fruit in the Pacs?
The nuts in the Pacs are Spanish marcona almonds and macadamia nuts. The almonds are roasted in olive oil and the macadamias are dry roasted. We chose the Spanish almond because of its flavor. It’s definitely the sexiest almond variety out there. The macadamias are generally sourced through Hawaii, because we believe the best macs we’ve ever tastsed are grown there. The cranberries are organic and sweetened with apple juice. The mangoes are just plain dried mangoes and really need no description ‘cause they’re awesome.
What about your packaging? Is the plastic heated during the process?
We have had some folks ask about our products being pasteurized post-packaging. We do not do this! Something about heating up food to 180 degrees in a plastic bag seems like a bad idea. We simply place the ingredients in the bag, use a vacuum to seal it up and send it on its way – no heating whatsoever.
What’s a bigger seller – jerky only, or the full snack kits?
The biggest seller for us are the complete snack kits – the come in both small and large sizes. But many folks don’t know we sell the jerky on its own, too! The jerky is a great high protein snack, and easy to add your own fruit and fat source to create your own snack. It comes on its own in 3 ounce bags, and truthfully, it’s probably more cost-effective to make your own jerky-based snack than to buy a complete snack kit. (So if you haven’t tried it yet, you probably should!)
So what’s next, now that Primal Pacs are USDA approved?
Now that Primal Pacs is USDA approved, we’ll be looking at bringing it to some local Seattle grocery stores… and who knows where it’ll go from there! We really just want to help make clean eating mainstream. Primal Pacs are a representation of what we’d like to see more convenience foods look like.
Primal Pacs loves Whole9 readers! Get FREE SHIPPING on all orders from now through Monday, October 17, 2011.
Visit www.primalpacs.com and use the code “whole9” at check-out. (Free shipping applies to U.S. orders only.)
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