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For Laurens Goff, eating healthy is a priority lately, so he is stocking up on jerky. No, not Beef Jerky filled with sugar and nitrates. It's Turkey Jerky. And that passes muster with Mr. Goff. "It has a Western throwback feel to it," the New York investor says. "You feel like an urban cowboy when you chew it."
Portraying jerky -- typically beef that is marinated, dried, smoked and then cooked -- as a good-for-you snack seems like more work than it's worth, but some food makers and retailers are giving it a whirl. Across the country, health-food stores are stocking up on so-called healthy jerky, low in fat and nitrates. The Beef Jerky Emporium in Oklahoma City has introduced "nutritional" jerky such as kangaroo or Alligator Jerky (sales of the healthy jerky there have risen nearly 20% in the past year alone). The Beef Jerky Store in Las Vegas is selling a raft of new "health-oriented" jerky such as octopus or Ostrich Jerky, while the Whole Foods Market in Beverly Hills, CA, now carries a soy-based vegy jerky.
It's another side effect of the Atkins and South Beach diets, which have turned Americans into obsessive carbohydrate counters. In Phoenix, retired military officer Debbie Horgan sends Meat Jerky as presents to her carb-phobic friends. "At times it's a challenge to eat another hard-boiled egg," she says.
While dried meat might seem like a source of protein, nutritionists such as Lauren Slayton of Foodtrainers in New York advises customers to read labels carefully, since some jerky may contain corn syrup and sugar. While most have less than three grams of fat and 70 calories per serving, an all-natural, sugar-free jerky has no fat and roughly 35 calories. A jerky made with corn syrup and other additives might have six grams of sugar. Not only that, but healthy jerky is more expensive (as much as $9.50 for a four-ounce bag) than the regular kind ($5.75 for the same size). Beef Jerky, of course, has been around since the cave men, and Native Americans later made Buffalo Jerky by smoking it in their tepees. It wasn't until about 10 years ago that jerky went gourmet, with manufacturers and chefs drying it and marinating it with fancy spices. Prime Grill, a kosher and Atkins-friendly steakhouse in Miami and New York, serves marinated Beef Jerky as an appetizer. Retailers such as House of Jerky in Marietta, CA, are marketing jerky to schools so that kids get protein at lunch. "I'd rather see a child eat a piece of jerky than a candy bar," says Ron Hargett, owner of House of Jerky. Is it edible? "It kind of has the consistency of leather, but that aside it's a good meaty taste," says David Dadekian, a writer and photographer from Providence, RI "The seasonings are key."
Gazette food writer
Mark Garvey of the Beef Jerky Emporium at North park Mall was recently interviewed by the Wall Street Journal regarding the nation's shift to low-carb preferences. The jerky that Garvey sells has traveled with our troops as far as Iraq. Often the soldiers will stop by just before leaving Oklahoma and load up on Deer Beef Jerky, Fish Jerky and other miscellaneous products. And family members are sending many packages of the easy-to-maintain product too.
The soldiers will often take items out of their luggage to make room for jerky, and Garvey often throws in a bag or two of the Hot And Spicy Beef Jerky and Venison Beef Jerky "on the house" in appreciation for what the men and women are doing for our country.
Garvey said he heard a story just recently about two soldiers stationed in Iraq.
"They were talking about some awesome jerky one had," Garvey said. "When asked where he got it, the soldier replied 'Oklahoma City'. The other soldier said, 'That's where I'm from, too.'"
Just the other day, Garvey was very surprised to receive an order for some Teriyaki Beef Jerky from men serving on the USS Enterprise.
When Mark Garvey opened his
Jerky Emporium in Northpark Mall in October
2001, people told him that the general public was just not interested enough in
buying specialty types of
Jerky to warrant opening such a store. However,
with Garvey about to celebrate the Emporium's second anniversary on October 15,
he has not only proved the nay sayers wrong, but he has also created a unique
retail concept that he is planning to franchise in other states.
The Beef Jerky Emporium began as a side project for Garvey, who was looking for a small business that would offset income from his patio construction company during the off-season winter months. Garvey, an 18-year construction industry veteran, had opened a space in Northpark Mall in 1997 to use as a showroom for his company Patio Creations by Mark.
While he chose to locate his showroom in the mall simply due to its recognizable location, Garvey says that being in a mall environment resulted in his increasing interest in retail.
"I had never been in a retail environment like this before, and it just presented an opportunity to me that some would not have seen," says Garvey. "With my slow season being November and December, I would still come into the office six days a week, and the mall was full of shoppers at Christmas while I was in here twiddling my thumbs."
Garvey, who has long considered himself an aficionado of quality Beef Jerky, says the idea for the store came from his inability to find quality jerky in local stores and was forced to mail order to his house jerky from other parts of the country.
"I didn't like what was available in the stores, and anyone that I shared my mail-order jerky with had the same appreciation for how good it was," he recalls. "I thought it was crazy to live in the heart of cattle country and not have a place where I could walk in and buy a good Beef Jerky."
Thus, the Beef Jerky Emporium was born and has now grown over the past two years to carrying just over 213 types of beef jerky products such as Smoked Salmon Jerky, Tuna Jerky and Meat Jerky that are made not only in Oklahoma, but all over the country. The store occupies a small section of his patio showroom space in the mall.
"I look at this like a cigar store. You can buy a cigar at a thousand different places, but if a guy wants a quality cigar he is going to go to a cigar store," explains Garvey. "I look at the Beef Jerky Emporium as the same kind of concept. I can stop at any convenience store and buy Beef Jerky, but if I want the Best Beef Jerky then I come here."
The Emporium's selection of jerky is very diverse featuring selections such as Beef Jerky, Turkey Jerky, Alligator Jerky, Smoked Salmon Jerky, Venison Beef Jerky, Ostrich Jerky, Buffalo Jerky, Deer Beef Jerky, Tuna Jerky and Fish Jerky, as well as various flavors that range from mild to Hot And Spicy Beef Jerky. Garvey also has Oklahoma-made Beef Jerky that is sold under the Emporium's own house brand.
Furthermore, Garvey has expanded the store beyond Beef Jerky to carrying a wide range of gourmet snack products that include Bison Summer Sausage, salsas, peanuts, Elk Summer Sausage, mustards, dressings, jams, bloody mary mixes and cobblers.
"One thing we try to do is carry as many made-in-Oklahoma products as we can find. Right now we represent 26 different Oklahoma companies that have products in the store," he adds. "We have almost become as much a 'made-in-Oklahoma' store as much as we are the Beef Jerky Emporium."
As a result of the Emporium, Garvey says that he has been able to tap a strong niche market, adding that Beef Jerky is currently the fastest-growing segment in the snack food industry. By tapping this untouched market, Garvey admits sales have been very strong for the store.
"What we see now is a concept that has validated itself and we think we can duplicate this in other locations," he says.
Because he has received tremendous interest from retailers in other states looking to acquire such a concept, Garvey is currently in the process of working to franchise the Beef Jerky Emporium across the nation. While he is still in the early stages of the franchising the concept, he hopes to start seeing Beef Jerky Emporiums open in other locations over the next couple years.
In addition to franchising, Garvey says he plans to continue development and improvement of the Emporium's Web site, www.tbje.com, which features an online store of about 180 jerky products. He hails the site as the largest Beef Jerky shopping site on the Internet, which has resulted in a substantial increase in revenue over the past year.
"We hope that in December, it will take a full-time person to fill the Internet orders," adds Garvey. "We think there is real potential there with the Web site."
In looking ahead to the near future, Garvey says that he plans to continually evaluate his offering of Beef Jerky products and is constantly seeking new gourmet products that will help elevate the store's quality. On an almost daily basis, Garvey says he and his store manager, Phillip Robertson, are taste testing various samples of jerky sent to them from all over the country.
No matter what the future holds for the Beef Jerky Emporium in terms of expansion, Garvey says one thing will remain constant is the one thing that he has learned from his 18 years in the construction business: quality sells.
"I can build a cheap product or a really great product, but I can't build them for the same price," says Garvey. "I don't build cheap products because my customers do not want cheap. They want great and that's what we are known for. The quality I learned in the construction business has transferred to the Beef Jerky Emporium."
By K.S. McNutt
Oklahomans hungry enough to eat an alligator can do so legally now that the
state Wildlife Department has given restaurants the green light to serve the
“We feel like right now we can go ahead and let them do it,” Dennis Maxwell, the department’s assistant chief of law enforcement, said Thursday.
Last week, Wildlife Department officials said the sale of alligator was a felony in Oklahoma.
“We quit selling it. I didn’t want one of my employees getting arrested,” Paul Seikel, owner of Pearl’s Oyster Bar and Trapper’s Fishcamp & Grill, said Thursday. “We put it back on the menu today.”
Seikel said he has sold alligator meat at his Oklahoma City restaurants for 15 years. The restaurants sell about 20,000 pounds of gator each year, he said.
The Oklahoma Restaurant Association requested information from the Wildlife Department last week after the alligator sales issue was raised, said Rebecca Reynolds, spokeswoman for the association, which represents 4,000 locations statewide.
“We’re pleased with the outcome,” Reynolds said Thursday.
Restaurants may serve alligator as long as it is bought from a legitimate distributor, she said.
Gator’s Wharf Restaurant and Lounge at Lake Eufaula buys its alligator meat from Sysco Food Co., said owner Lenore Hemminger.
“We sell quite a bit of gator tail,” Hemminger said earlier this week. “Some of the people come just for the gator tail.”
Hemminger said Gator’s has sold alligator meat for six to seven years. It is a popular menu item, both as an appetizer and as an entree, she said.
The alligator controversy surfaced after Mark Garvey was issued a warning citation for selling alligator jerky at Beef Jerky Emporium in Northpark Mall, 12100 N May Ave.
The Wildlife Department’s Maxwell cited an Oklahoma law prohibiting the possession of “any endangered or threatened species or parts thereof.”
The American alligator, named to the federal endangered species list in 1967, has made a complete recovery, but is listed today as “threatened due to similarity of appearance” to protect the American crocodile, according to the Congressional Research Service Reports.
Maxwell said the department reversed its stance after checking with Attorney General Drew Edmondson’s office.
“We just pointed them to the right statutes,” said Charlie Price, a spokesman for the attorney general.
“Alligator is legal as of today,” Garvey said. “Everybody’s puttin’ it back on the menus. We’re puttin’ it back on the shelf.”
By K.S. McNutt
Alligator shoes and wallets may be plentiful in stores statewide, but people
hunting for gator tails in Oklahoma restaurants could be skunked.
Officials with the state Wildlife Department are spreading the word that it is illegal to sell alligator meat in Oklahoma after someone complained about alligator jerky being offered at a north Oklahoma City shop.
"We're in communication with the Oklahoma Restaurant Association to try to let them know what the law is," said Dennis Maxwell, the Wildlife Department's assistant chief of law enforcement.
"Our restaurateurs are concerned. They want to do the right thing," said Rebecca Reynolds, spokeswoman for the association that represents 4,000 locations statewide.
Reynolds said the association asked the Wildlife Department for information about alligator sales after inquiries from members.
"We're waiting for information in writing," she said. That information will be forwarded to all association members.
Maxwell said his department received a complaint about the sale of alligator jerky at Beef Jerky Emporium in Northpark Mall, 12100 N May, and sent game warden Joel McClung to investigate.
Shop owner Mark Garvey said the uniformed game warden came into his shop Jan. 24, told him the sale of alligator is illegal in Oklahoma and wrote a warning.
Garvey said he argued that the product he sells is not wildlife and is not illegal.
Garvey said he got angry when McClung returned to the shop the next day. He said McClung told him selling the alligator jerky was a felony offense. The game warden then took a package as evidence, he said.
"I have a problem with the way it was handled," Garvey said. "Two customers turned around and walked out. I have pulled all the alligator, and it is sitting in a box in my lawyer's office," he said Wednesday. When asked about it again Friday, Garvey declined to comment.
Maxwell of the Wildlife Department cited an Oklahoma law prohibiting the possession of "any endangered or threatened species or parts thereof at any time ..." as the reason merchants cannot sell alligator.
The American alligator, named to the federal endangered species list in 1967, has made a complete recovery, but is listed today as "threatened due to similarity of appearance" to protect the American crocodile, according to the Congressional Research Service Reports.
Asked whether the state law means the sale of alligator boots, bags and belts is illegal, Maxwell said those items are "completely away from the raw product."
"It's not even considered part of wildlife," he said.
Shop owner Garvey said the jerky he had on the shelf wasn't wildlife either. It was processed from farm-raised alligators and approved by the USDA, he said.
"I knew I was in the right or I wouldn't have the products in my store," Garvey said.
He questions why his shop, which opened in October, was targeted when alligator has been on the menus of a number of Oklahoma restaurants for years.
Denver Johnson, manager of Bourbon Street Cafe, 100 E California in Oklahoma City said Friday He hasn't heard about the controversy. Alligator is served at the restaurant, he said.
The Oklahoman tried unsuccessfully Friday to reach managers for Pearl's Oyster Bar, Trapper's Fishcamp & Grill, Pearl's Crabtown and Pearl's Cajun Kitchen, all in Oklahoma City, as well as Two Frogs Grill, Ardmore; and Gator's Wharf Restaurant and Lounge at Lake Eufaula
by Carol Smaglinski
IN AN ERA WHERE A MAN'S FEET AND A CANOE were the most practical means of
transportation, good teeth and a strong jaw were also necessities. Frontiersmen
and American Indians lived on jerky -- dried meat made from a hunk of old, tough
bull meat or buffalo.
Of all the ways to preserve food, drying worked because moisture, the culprit in spoilage, was removed and prevented decay. Beef Jerky began with a piece of meat sliced into strips, flavored and dried in the sun, over a fire, in an oven, or in smoke.
Voyagers and hunters have make choice morsels of jerky from wildlife such as whale, blue gills, salmon, smelt and carp, wild duck, ostrich, mountain sheep, kangaroo and rattlesnake.
All-American jerky is now being made from moose, goose, fish, beef, or turkey, and it's a healthy, low-fat snack to boot.
The snack industry has exploded with people demanding convenience food. In the United States, the meat snack industry had sales increase a whopping 28.5 percent in 1999 to reach $1.32 billion.
Ho-hum. Down here in cattle country, that's nothing new to Oklahomans.
"Jerkers" have been chewing on buffalo, beef and venison jerky for years. In fact, some of the best-selling venison jerky is coming right out of Honey Hill Farms at 2501 Cedar Oak Drive in Edmond. Jo and Jerry Logan run the jerky company.
Jerky is a great protein lift for construction and lawn-care workers, skiers, hikers, truckers, joggers, or workaholics. They would rather munch a bunch of jerky than stop for lunch.
With jerky, there's no opening of cans, defrosting, or mixing.
When guys think jerky, you can almost see their eye glaze over. Perhaps it's the connection with our past - with ancestors who discovered the best way to preserve meat and save it from getting rancid.
The Beef Jerky Emporium at 12032 N. May in North Park Mall, owned by Mark and Melissa Garvey, attracts hundreds of devoted jerky fans.
The Garveys carry more than 14 varieties of jerky made in Oklahoma (one is No Mans Land from Boise City, OK.) and dozens from around the country such as Wild Bill's Hickory Smoked Beef Jerky out of Lancaster, PA.
Mark also handles Festerman's from Twin Hills, OK, and others such as Shortgrass Slim from Clark and Winona Duty of Hobart, OK.
"Here in the heart of cattle country, we should have the best in the world," said Mark Garvey, who for more than 24 years has also owned and operated Patio Creations by Mark Inc., also at 12032 N. May.
"We've got yellowfin tuna and a salmon," he said. "We also sell alligator and caribou jerky."
There's a little jerk in all of us, but not Garvey. After five years of research, he discovered his niche.
While golfing and out on construction jobs, Garvey would fortify himself with jerky, but he had high standards. His product choice had to be top quality cut from full slabs of meat; no compressed stuff for this picky guy.
He purchased jerky from all over the country, kept files on his best discoveries, and
began to notice an untapped opportunity for merchandising jerky.
With his passion for business combined with his people skills, he now carries an inventory of more than 200 specialties of jerky.
His clientele, some good ol' boys, and some very sophisticated food lovers now make weekly pilgrimages to buy his products, ranging in price from 25 cents to $30. His average sale is between $2 and $6.
"We bring in jerky with the full muscle cut from a full section of meat, not the kind that is chopped and formed with parts of beef," he said.
No one is more surprised at his success than Garvey who even does his own local radio "Country Buck" commercials. At first, Garvey rehearsed his macho country twang in the shower, surprising his wife, who didn't have a clue as to what the heck he was doing.
At the shop, his 12-year-old daughter Jamie is one of his official jerky tasters who lets him know if a particular kind of jerky is too hot for consumption. Garvey was recently surprised with a 3-year-old "fearless" girl who came in with her dad. She chewed on some ultra-hot jerky and loved it.
The Beef Jerky Emporium even got a recent mention on the nationally broadcasted "on Your Health" program heard Thursdays at 11 a.m. on KGOU-KROU-FM. Dr. Zorba Paster hosts the show.
An Oklahoman called the radio doctor to inquire whether his son was eating too much jerky and mentioned Garvey's store.
Zorba's answer was that jerky is a healthy product and the woman should practice moderation.
In fact, over a six-week period while sampling jerky, Garvey said he dropped 10 pounds, and he credits jerky as a low-fat product.
Although Garvey has made his own jerky in the past, he does not make it now.
However, he and his crew, brother Jeff Garvey and employee Phillip Robertson, draw customers into the store who can detect the waft of jerky in the air, quite like the enticement of buttered popcorn in a theater.
Every package of jerky in his store is handsomely displayed with the exception of the premium jerky from Omaha Steaks, which is frozen until it is purchased and then, it has a three-week shelf life.
And, now just like pizza and Chinese food, Garvey is also offering delivery with a $30 minimum order with a minimum $3.95 delivery fee. With a $60 and over order to one address, the delivery or shipping charges will be waived.