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For decades, beef jerky has been a go-to staple of any road trip. It’s a snack that you can get at any gas station or grocery store in America, and it arrives in a plethora of flavors, shapes, and sizes. Who knew that dried-out meat slices could become so universally beloved? From the early days of Oberto before the Roaring ’20s to the modern flood of cutely packaged organic meat substitutes, there will always be an option for whatever your jerky-loving heart desires.
The prices and sizes of beef jerky vary, with some bags costing as much as $17 per unit. Thankfully, the popularity hasn’t taken a hit. According to the Simmons National Consumer Survey (via Beef Jerky Hub), approximately 160 million Americans eat beef jerky on a regular basis. In short, it’s not a food phenomenon so much as it’s a bedrock staple in nearly half of the country’s palates.
Beef jerky isn’t going anywhere, and there always seems to be a new brand on the scene promising an exciting new flavor. The possibilities of what beef jerky can become are endless and worth celebrating. From the companies still forging legacies behind their names, to healthy alternatives replacing longtime heavyweight meat snacks, here are the 15 best beef jerky brands, ranked from worst to best.
On paper, Thrive has a great mission statement: They’ve set out to make the best zero-sugar jerky money can buy. Thrive uses stevia extract instead of sugar, and the company claims on its website to be the first jerky brand to do so. They even have a section of their homepage dedicated to the "100% all-natural" sweetener, and note that the Thrive food scientists spent three years finding the right Stevia strain for its jerky.
Thrive only has four flavors so far: Original Turkey Jerky, Original Beef Jerky, Sea Salt Beef Jerky, and Sweet & Spicy Pork Jerky. The taste is solid across the board, though the stevia sweetener leaves a lot to be desired. There are other brands, like Jack Link’s and Tillamook, that are making much more delicious zero sugar options. You can buy a bag of Thrive for $6.99 on Walmart’s website, but finding one in-store is a tall task. Given the limited accessibility and flavors, Thrive just isn’t as enticing beyond its well-intentioned story.
2. Slim Jim
Invented in 1929 by Adolph Levis but not mass-produced until the 1940s (per The New York Times), Slim Jim is much more well-known for their beef stick than their jerky. Levis made the sticks as an alternative to the popularity of pepperoni that was surging in bars across America (per Thrillist). Their competition in the beef stick department is, well, slim, as they only have to worry about Old Wisconsin and Chomps. The reason Slim Jim ranks near the bottom of this list is simply that they’re not known for their jerky, and it shows.
The company’s jerky is good, but it’s never been the star of the show. And unlike many of their contemporaries, they’re limited in flavors. According to their website, Slim Jim is only selling bacon jerky at the moment. You can get either Hickory-Smoked or Maple-Flavored, but that’s it. They also have Steakhouse, their beef steak strips line, available in Teriyaki and Smokin’ Mesquite flavors. In an industry dominated by brands who are expanding their flavor portfolios, Slim Jim is a major letdown. If you’re in the mood for something made by Slim Jim, don’t waste your time with the bacon jerky. Their beef stick comes in seven flavors, ranging from the beloved original to Nacho-Flavored and Teriyaki-Seasoned.
3. Perky Jerky
Out of every brand on this list, Perky Jerky easily has the biggest potential. They have an incredible line-up of jerky, ranging from turkey to beef to pork to vegan. As if that wasn’t enough, Perky Jerky also has a Wagyu Beef recipe with chimichurri seasoning. Originally, Perky Jerky was made with caffeine, but that recipe has since been abandoned. The meat, however, is still as savory as ever.
Perky Jerky brings everything they’ve got to the table, but their biggest detractor is an inconsistent taste across the board. The turkey jerky is delicious and worth a high spot alone, but the company’s traditional beef jerky is subpar, teetering on bottom-tier. A lot of brands on this list make fewer products and do it much better than Perky Jerky. However, if you’re looking for a type of jerky that offers a lot of options to try, this is the one that sticks out above the rest of the pack. The brand is perfect for a taste test experiment or a party.
The accessibility of Perky Jerky isn’t great, as you can only reliably buy it online from Walmart or Amazon, but their website outlines, the company has a good mission behind its product, as they donate a percentage of their sales to Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy and Down Syndrome research.
Not only is Stryve one of the newest brands on this list, it’s also got some of the prettiest packaging. With a colorful, eye-catching camo look, it’s much more appealing on the shelf than some of its contemporaries. Founded in 2017, Stryve is made using biltong, a meat preservation that began long ago in South Africa. It’s a sugar-free, MSG-free, and gluten-free cooking process founded on air-drying the meat.
The jerky doesn’t come in any peculiar shapes — the bags are filled with thin, flat strips of meat that look lean but pack a heavy, memorable flavor. The company is definitely the hot shot on campus right now, as they’ve even sparked up a brand partnership with Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert. They’ve got myriad flavors, including Hickory-Seasoned, Spicy Peri Peri, Zesty Garlic, and Teriyaki. While they’ve got a poppy aesthetic that makes for great action shots on social media influencers’ pages, Stryve’s products are just as good as the brand’s image. In 10 years or so, they might be the biggest beef jerky brand in America, but for now, they’ve got some catching up to do.
The Louisville Vegan Jerky Company is not the one-trick pony it might initially appear to be — they’re a real player in an industry dominated by bona fide meat companies. Founded in 2012 by Stanley Chase III, Louisville is a budding jerky star that shouldn’t slip past your radar. Their GMO-free meat is small-batch and made by hand using ethically sourced ingredients from local Kentucky businesses. With an admirable five flavors available, including General Tso’s, Smoky Carolina BBQ, Perfect Pepperoni, Maple Bacon, and Smoked Black Pepper, Louisville has a taste for every palate.
Their mission statement speaks for itself, as the company aims to "provide true artisan quality jerky while also contributing to our community, uplifting our allies, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions." Because it’s a vegan alternative to your classic beef, pork, or turkey jerky, Louisville might come across as a high-brow brand. Luckily, that’s not the case. Each bag costs $7.29, which is on par with (and even cheaper than) many of their non-vegan contemporaries. Not only is Louisville’s jerky vegan, it’s also gluten-free, which is a combination that’s hard to come by.
6. Chef’s Cut
Chef’s Cut is the best definition of a middle-of-the-road beef jerky on this list, a true hit-or-miss snack. It’s got a great taste, but the quality of the meat itself can sometimes leave a lot to be desired. Where other brands are consistently tender, bags of Chef’s Cut are ripe with pieces of jerky that are as tough as leather.
There are six core flavors of jerky: Original, Chipotle Cracked Pepper, Teriyaki, Turkey Teriyaki, Honey Barbecue, and Korean Barbecue. The Korean Barbecue flavor is particularly great, and just one example of jerky tasting exceptional if it comes from a purple-colored bag.
A 12-pack of 1.25oz bags costs $35.95 on the Chef’s Cut website, a solid deal for small, individually portioned bags. You can find a normal-sized bag of Chef’s Cut in almost any grocery store in America, making it a great, accessible beef snack. The company makes beef snack sticks that are lackluster, but they don’t take away from the quality of the jerky. For the price and the popularity, Chef’s Cut is worth a taste. It might not be everyone’s favorite, but it’ll never do you wrong.
7. Old Trapper
The epitome of gas station beef jerky, you’d be hard pressed to walk into any Speedway, Get-Go, or 7-11 in the country and not stumble across a bag of Old Trapper. That’s not a mark against the brand, either. Created in 1969 (per their website), Old Trapper has the unfortunate burden of being the second-best jerky made in Tillamook, Oregon, but they’ve remained one of the most consistent beef jerky products on the market with solid, well-made meat that holds intense flavor
You can buy Old Trapper in bulk in a resealable plastic container or in a large plastic bag. The brand isn’t all that interested in making an aesthetically pleasing product — they know what they’ve got to offer and they make a lot of it. Old Trapper doesn’t have a repertoire that’s as flashy as other brands, and they only have four flavors: Old Fashioned, Peppered, Hot & Spicy, and Teriyaki. The Hot & Spicy is particularly good, if you like trying jerky that packs a good source of heat.
8. Cattleman’s Cut
Another brand that’s a gas station staple, Cattleman’s Cut is no slouch. Slightly better than their contemporary, Old Trapper, Cattleman’s Cut strikes a good balance between delicious beef jerky and beef sticks. The brand is made by beef jerky conglomerate Oberto, but the Cattleman’s Cut name is just as recognizable as the company that makes it.
They have six flavors to offer, including Original, Peppered, Teriyaki, Pepper-Smoked Frontier Style, Classic-Smoked Frontier Style, and Texas Style Flank Steak. You can find a bag of Cattleman’s Cut anywhere you buy groceries or fill your car up with gas. The bags are huge, which explains the $17 price tag. You’re getting a lot more for your money with Cattleman’s Cut, which is an art form lost on many of the flashier brands on the shelves. Their bags hold 10 ounces of jerky, where other competitors sell anywhere from one-and-a-half to five ounces. Cattleman’s Cut doesn’t pretend to be an all-natural, zero sugar option. It’s a classic, well-made jerky that isn’t spectacular, but will get you, and your tastebuds, pretty far down the road.
Born in 1918 in Seattle, Washington, Oberto is one of the most recognizable jerky brands on shelves today. They don’t quite have the staying power of a player like Jack Link’s, but don’t sleep on Oberto. The jerky coming from their factories is mouth-watering, delicious, and worth the $4.79 price point per bag at Target. Oberto is in almost every store in America, so you won’t have to travel far to get a taste.
Oberto has also turned itself into a big meat snack machine, with subsidiaries Bavarian Meats, Cattleman’s Cut, and Pacific Gold Reserve now featured in tow. Oberto is not the most tender jerky on the market — they’re a bit dry, but the flavor is what makes Oberto stand out from the jerky brands. There’s a good variety to choose from, including Original, Teriyaki, Peppered, Applewood Bacon, Spicy Sweet, and Teriyaki Turkey flavors. Oberto is the epitome of a jerky that doesn’t do too much and has never had to.
10. Country Archer
The first product on this list to be specifically labeled as "grass-fed beef," Country Archer is the meat snack of a jerky junky’s dreams. It’s delectably tender and each flavor packs monumental taste. That they aren’t ranked higher is a testament to how good the next five brands taste, not a slight against Country Archer. They make a great jerky that stands on its own amongst a hefty slate of contemporaries.
Country Archer comes in 11 flavors, the most on our list yet by far. Key flavors include Mango Habanero, Hatch Chile, and Spicy Sesame Garlic. The brand offers a zero-sugar option and is certified gluten-free, too, helping it rise to the top as one of the most inclusive jerky brands on the market right now. A 2.5 ounce bag costs $7.99 on the Country Archer website, a price point that’s fair and makes the jerky even more desirable. It doesn’t have the brand recognition of a company like Jack Link’s or Krave, but Country Archer should not be overlooked.
11. People’s Choice
As their website proudly declares, People’s Choice has been making jerky in Los Angeles since the early days of the Great Depression. For nearly a century, they’ve consistently made some of the best beef jerky that money can buy. The bag design isn’t over-the-top or flashy, and it doesn’t need to be. People’s Choice lives up to its name with a reliable product.
You can get a bag for $6.99, which hits the lower end of the price point spectrum on this list. There are a lot of flavors to choose from, including Hot & Spicy, Original, Teriyaki, Cowboy-Peppered, Garlic Ginger, Sweet Chili Habanero, Nashville Hot, Orange Honey Teriyaki, and Maple Brown Sugar. The brand’s ample rollout of jerky made with every ingredient under the sun has proved to be successful — if you’re getting close to your 100th anniversary, clearly you’re doing something right. Other brands rank higher because they’ve found universal success in just as many (or more) unique flavors, but you can count on People’s Choice to broaden your palate with every bag.
Epic is easily the most unique entry on this list. They don’t just make beef jerky, they sell every jerky you can think of, along with pork rings, animal fats, chicken crisps, and variety packs. Meats like bacon, bison, beef, wild boar, chicken, venison, and turkey populate the company’s diverse list of options, and no ingredient is lesser than any other. Epic specializes in jerky bars, but you can still get bags of their jerky in bite-sized portions.
Each bites bag costs $6.87 online, while you can get the bars for $2.66 a piece. For a company that’s flipping the script on the jerky industry, such low price points are a breath of fresh air. The biggest detractor for Epic, however, is its accessibility. You’re likely to find them in the jerky aisle at a Whole Foods, but don’t hold your breath for a similar outcome at Walmart.
If you can track down a bar or bag of Epic jerky, it’ll be worth the purchase, given how the venison and bison recipes are some of the best on this entire list. The jerky is tender and full of electrifying flavor that’ll make Epic a household favorite quickly.
13. Jack Link’s
Jack Link’s is the hometown favorite jerky brand. The company has only been around since 1985, but as its sales (per Nutritionix) will show, it’s quickly and convincingly become the go-to product for jerky connoisseurs. The original Jack Link’s flavor has its place on the Mount Rushmore of beef jerky for good reason. It’s legendary in every sense of the word and remains a staple on grocery store shelves in America. You’d be hard-pressed to find a store that doesn’t sell Jack Link’s, which no other brand on this list, except Slim Jims, is able to say. The cherry on top? The taste of Jack Link’s is as impressive as its stock.
Of course, Jack Link’s doesn’t have the same wide variety of flavors as a brand like People’s Choice or Country Archer, but they do have the best marketing out of every entry on this list. Sticking to their tradition with Original, Teriyaki, Peppered, Sweet, Mild, and Spicy flavors, Jack Link’s is the antithesis of flashy. They stay in their lane, making funny commercials and tender jerky that has an instantly recognizable and soul-satisfying taste upon that first bite. Starting at $5.99 a bag, Jack Link’s has cornered the market on affordable, delicious jerky.
No, not the ice cream brand. Founded in 1975 in Tillamook, a city in Oregon near the Pacific Ocean, Tillamook Country Smoker is crowning excellence in a bag. The only brand on this list that has perfected both the beef jerky and the beef stick, Tillamook would have a great argument for why it should be in first place if it had more unique flavors to offer its audience. You can get your bags in Original, Black Pepper, Teriyaki, Hot & Spicy, Old Fashioned, Sea Salt & Pepper, Honey Glazed, and Spicy & Sweet, many of which have been done before by other jerky brands.
That being said, Tillamook is still an underdog. Not quite as notable or recognized as Jack Link’s, the company has been quietly stocking shelves at nearly every major grocery store chain in America. The jerky itself is on the drier side, but if you don’t have an issue with texture, Tillamook might become the best meat snack you’ve ever had. The flavor is powerful and makes each bag, which you can buy for $5.29 a piece, worth every penny. Tillamook is never going to have the starpower of Jack Link’s or the history of Oberto, but it doesn’t need a flashy resume. The jerky brand reigns supreme by making a classic, delicious product that has stood the test of time for nearly 50 years. After competing against the best of the best for half a century, Tillamook has emerged as one of the best in the business.
Krave has it all — the good-looking bags, the seemingly never-ending line of flavors, and a short, sweet name that packs a wallop. Another "grass-fed" option, Krave jerky is tender meat that’s not too lean. The product is so good that you’ll have the bag finished before even realizing what a dent you’ve made.
The flavors are off-the-chain. Unlike every other brand here, Krave doesn’t have an "original" flavor, except for its Sea Salt variety. Instead, they’ve packed their line of products with Sweet Chipotle, Chili Lime, Black Cherry BBQ, Garlic Chili Pepper, and Grilled Teriyaki, among others. The Black Cherry BBQ flavor, in particular, might just be the single best product on this list altogether. It’s sensational, with a dazzling combination of sweet and savory.
You can get a single bag of Krave for $5.99 from the company’s website, which is, given how good the flavor is across the board, the best deal on this list. If all of that wasn’t already enough, Krave makes plant-based jerky, too. And with zero-sugar options done up in Southwest Hatch Chile, Sonoma, and Buffalo style, plus a main line of jerky that’s gluten-free, Krave runs circles around everyone else on this list. If the company would just add a smidge more pieces of meat in their bags, this ranking would be wholly undebatable.