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Dublin: 13 °C Wednesday 16 October, 2019
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This man thinks there's a big future in Irish beef jerky*

*Except it’s a bit different to jerky – and he’s not calling it that.

ROSS MCDOWELL IS under no illusion that converting Irish stomachs to jerky-style cured beef will be a hard sell.

“There is a bit of an education required for this type of product, especially in Ireland,” he admits.

But the former engineer is hoping to ride the wave of the protein-is-good movement and make a mark on the multibillion-dollar global industry with a little help from the reputation of premium Irish beef.

McDowell launched his own brand of “protein on the go”, called Stript Snacks, in October after a stint working in South Africa.

It was there that he was first bitten by the cured-beef bug in the form of biltong, a local staple.

McDowell said he found the salty snack a good protein boost for his lifestyle of surfing and mountain biking, and started experimenting with making his own – which he taste-tested on his Cape Town colleagues.

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How it’s done

The process is simple and, by virtue of this, chemical-free: the meat is cut into strips, seasoned and then left to air-dry for several days. Finally, it is cut up ready for eating.

The end result is a product naturally high in protein and, with the right meat, low in fat, although the sodium content could give nutritionists a few heart palpations.

However the South African variant differs from most American-style jerky because it is sliced after drying, leaving it more moist than the US meat snack.

McDowell said he decided to make a business of the after returning to Dublin with his wife and realising he could combine biltong with high-quality Irish beef.

The main feedback I was getting was this was a new product so people were a bit standoffish, but once I got people to taste it 99 times out of 100 they liked it,” he said.

McDowell Ross McDowell from Stript Snacks

Big bucks in jerky

But McDowell said it soon became clear the business had to work on a large scale and expand outside Ireland to make money.

While meat snacks may not be popular yet on this side of the Atlantic, in the US jerky is a near-$1.5 billion industry – and one which continues to grow apace on a general appetite for protein-rich products.

Hbo Animated GIFSource: Giphy

Other local companies have also joined the biltong fray with Haynestown Meats producing theirs in Co Kildare, alongside Longford-based Uncle Bok’s and Dublin’s Jaqals & Wolf.

McDowell paired with Dublin-based Kepak to develop his product after graduating from the Food Works programme, a joint Bord Bia, Enterprise Ireland and Teagasc initiative for food startups, in 2013.

Since the product’s full launch in October, it has been picked up in a string of convenience stores, gyms and sport-supplement specialists, and McDowell’s next goal is to take it to the UK.

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“I have deliberately not called it beef jerky – I think people see that as being unhealthy and processed,” he said.

The market is really shifting a lot. I’m really watching the states and it’s really shifting towards the healthy end – that’s what everyone’s working towards.”

READ: Why craft cider could be the new craft beer >

READ: British people are now going to be able to enjoy Ballymaloe Country Relish >

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About the author:

Peter Bodkin  / Editor, Fora

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