The president of Beef Jerky Outlet, which today is opening the first of two planned Charleston area stores, says his company is committed to continuing to purchase and process domestic meat, despite the increased availability of low-cost beef from Brazil and Argentina.
“We like to say that the South American mass-market product you would buy in a store today was likely manufactured 6 to 12 months ago,” Paul Lyons says, adding that the 100 varieties sold in his company’s stores are generally no more than 2 months old.
“There is a discernible difference in freshness and taste in our product,” he continues. “We know our customers appreciate the quality of our product.”
According to Brian Nummer of Utah State University, who helped develop USDA jerky production guidelines, other U.S. small-batch producers have lately had to rework their business plans to contend with competition from imports. But Lyons maintains game meat from New Zealand represents the only exception to his sourcing principle, which holds that American beef and turkey are more carefully regulated prior to slaughter.
Lyons says all of the beef snacks sold at Beef Jerky Outlet are made from top, bottom or eye of round. Although he declined to specify the source, he said, “The meat comes from well-known reputable processors who work under USDA supervision.”
Beef Jerky Outlet makes its jerky at a pair of factories in Tennessee and Michigan, 30 to 50 pounds at a time.
Since the company started franchising in 2010, it’s opened more than 100 locations. The new store at 85A S. Market St. is operated by Keith Powell of Summit Industrial Flooring and Kim Powell of Woodhouse Day Spa, also a franchise.
“We are scouting our next location, most likely King Street or Tanger Outlets,” Kim Powell says.
Despite economic pressures on the beef jerky supply chain, Beef Jerky Outlet has likely been helped along by a surge in jerky demand.
Company spokeswoman Jenn Szlatcha wouldn’t speculate as to why the chain has flourished in the Southeast, but nearly 70 million Americans last year reported snacking on dried or cured meat. The Washington Post in 2017 noted that jerky was second only to potato chips in the salty snack category, as measured by customer spending nationwide.