Beef jerky is a nutrient-dense, easily-preserved, and portable snack that provides high-quality protein when you are on the go and need something that’s not junk food.
It should be no surprise that it’s a very popular snack among everyone from bodybuilders and high-level athletes to people looking to exploit its high-protein and low-carb properties for weight loss.
You’ve got a lot of options when it comes to beef jerky, so what’s the best? Our research team has ranked the ten highest-quality beef jerky products for keeping your protein intake high all day long.
1. CHOMPS Grass Fed Beef Jerky Sticks
CHOMPS is definitely the best choice if you are using beef jerky as a high-protein snack for weight loss or weight loss maintenance.
This beef jerky comes from grass-fed beef, which means a healthier fat profile, and unlike many other beef jerky products, it uses no sugar in its ingredients, so you get high-quality protein with zero grams of carbohydrates.
Each beef stick is also a convenient 100 calories, making it easy to portion out servings.
2. Perky Jerky Wagyu Beef Jerky
Perky Jerky strives for a bold, spicy flavor profile, and uses all-natural ingredients, including wagyu beef, to this end. We like the 11g of protein per serving, too.
Unlike many other flavor-rich beef jerkys, it only has 2g of sugar per serving.
This is arguably the best-tasting beef jerky, too, with sea salt and pepper being our favorite flavor.
3. Epic 100% Grass Fed Wagyu Beef Strips
Epic is known for its high quality preserved meat snacks, and among those, their Wagyu Beef Strips are the best. Using a fat-rich cut of beef, Epic makes a beef jerky that’s got a better balance between fat and protein than many other beef jerkys.
The only issue some people may take with this product is that it uses honey to add to the sweetness of the jerky, so it does include 3 grams of sugar per strip. Hardcore zero-sugar dieters will want to find another option, but it’s a good option for many others.
4. Sogo Snacks Original Grass Fed Smoked Beef Sticks
Sogo Snacks makes a no-nonsense beef jerky stick that uses grass-fed beef and no nitrates in the manufacturing process to make individually-wrapped beef sticks that have 90 calories each.
On top of that, there’s no sugar, making these a great naturally-flavored and produced beef jerky.
5. Nick’s Sticks 100% Grass-Fed Beef Sticks
Nick’s Sticks caters to people who want high-quality ingredients in a well-crafted beef jerky. This beef jerky uses hand-crafted spices and herbs along with grass-fed beef to make a product that’s nitrate-free, sugar-free, and gluten-free.
It’s a very solid choice for conscious consumers who care about purity, quality, and taste.
6. Golden Valley Natural Organic Beef Jerky
Golden Valley Natural Organic Beef Jerky is a good balance between sweet and tangy taste and high-quality protein.
Though it does use sugar for flavoring, the amount isn’t excessive: you get 11 grams of protein per serving, along with only five grams of sugar.
While that’s probably too much for people doing a keto diet or who are very sugar-conscious, it’s not going to be a big deal for most. This nitrate-free and certified organic jerky is a good snack to treat yourself to once in a while.
7. Jack Link’s Beef Jerky Original
Jack Links is a classic and mainstay of beef jerky. Its straightforward and sweet flavor profile is palatable to just about anybody, though it’s no going to win any awards for boldness or innovation.
Hardcore low carb dieters might want to look elsewhere, as the carb content is a little on the high side: for every 12 grams of protein, you’re getting 4 grams of sugar. If you aren’t too worried about the carb content, it’s a solid choice.
8. Brooklyn Biltong Original
Is biltong the same as jerky? That’s a great way to start a fight with preserved meat lovers, but regardless, Brooklyn Biltong makes a great dried beef product.
These beef strips are super lean and completely sugar-free, making them an excellent choice for a high-protein snack.
Each serving has an impressive 15 grams of protein packed in to only 80 calories, and because biltong is naturally air-dried, it doesn’t use any nitrates or smoking in its manufacturing process, which could make it better for your long-term health.
9. KRAVE Beef Jerky
KRAVE Beef Jerky scores well among people who like a lot of spice and variety in their beef jerky. This beef jerky comes in flavors ranging from sweet chipotle to chili lime to black cherry barbecue.
However, like many beef jerky products on the sweeter end of the taste spectrum, there’s quite a bit of sugar: anywhere from eight to 11 grams per serving (and each serving only gets you eight grams of protein).
So, while it’s certainly tasty, it doesn’t exploit the high-protein, low-carbohydrate advantages of beef jerky as a snack food.
10. Cattleman’s Cut Beef Jerky
Cattleman’s Cut Beef Jerky is popular among those who like a sweeter and smoother flavor to their beef jerky, but this sweet flavor profile comes at a cost.
The sugar content is very high, at seven grams of sugar per nine grams of protein. This makes it good for occasional snacking, but a poor choice for athletes and for people looking to lose weight: that sugar content will not help with tilting your body composition towards more muscle and less fat.
Beef jerky benefits and health effects
Beef jerky was originally conceived as a way to preserve meat for a long time without refrigeration. Today, it’s an incredibly convenient way to get high-quality protein as a snack, without the sugar, carbs, and fillers you’ll find in other portable snacks.
While there are some great protein bars for made for athletes and for people looking to lose weight, many are stuffed with a lot of sugar, and it’s hard to beat animal protein when it comes to absorption and amino acid quality.
Beef jerky is high in protein and sugar-free, making it great for weight loss. One of the most effective ways to break the cycle of metabolic and hormonal dysfunction that contributes to weight gain is by replacing sugar and refined carbohydrate intake with high quality protein.
Increasing your intake of protein for weight loss is a great strategy for two scientifically-validated reasons: first, it decreases feelings of hunger, and second, it actually increases your energy expenditure.
On the hunger front, protein has been demonstrated to increase feelings of satiety (the technical term for the feeling of fullness after a large meal) in scientific research published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition by researchers in the Netherlands (1).
Their study compared different meals with the same caloric content but differing ratios of fats, protein, and carbohydrates. They found that the high-protein meal created a greater feeling of fullness over the following 24 hours compared to the alternative meal compositions.
Animal protein from beef jerky is more effective at increasing energy expenditure. When it comes to increasing energy expenditure by up-regulating your body’s metabolism, protein—specifically protein derived from animal products—appears to be particularly effective, making beef jerky a great choice on this front as well.
According to research published by scientists from Denmark in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (2). They compared the boost in metabolism that resulted from a meal rich in soy protein, a meal rich in animal protein, and a meal rich in carbohydrates as a control.
Like with the previous study, all meals had equivalent caloric contents. As expected, both protein-rich meals produced an increase in energy expenditure over the next several hours, but the animal protein meal showed a definite edge over the vegetable derived protein.
The researchers attributed this effect to the higher quality and variety of amino acids present in animal protein compared to vegetable protein. Since all of the protein in beef jerky is high-quality and animal-derived, it’s an excellent way to exploit both of these effects for losing weight or adding lean body mass without gaining fat.
Beef jerky is a great way to get red meat without a lot of fat. While the health effects of high dietary intake of fat, and particularly saturated fat, are still controversial, there is enough scientific evidence indicating that getting lots of fat specifically from red meat might not be the best idea.
One study published in 2012 in the Journal of the American Medical Association Internal Medicine found that increased intake of red meat was associated with an increased risk of death from any cause, but this increase was attenuated after controlling for saturated fat intake (3).
This suggests that a low-fat source of red meat, like beef jerky, is better for you than a fatty cut of red meat. Both offer the benefits of high-quality protein and well-balanced amino acid profiles, but the beef jerky does so with a lower saturated fat content.
Health effects and recommended intake
Beef jerky is a processed meat, and there’s been quite a bit of research around the potential long-term consequences of high processed meat intake.
One review article published in 2015 in the journal Lancet Oncology reviewed the range of evidence supporting the connection of processed meat with in increased risk of cancer, specifically colorectal cancer (4).
This relationship has been observed in large epidemiological studies, and has been supported by more focused biochemical research on the potential mechanisms for the generation of carcinogenic compounds.
Some of the attention on what could be related to cancer risk from consuming a processed meat product like beef jerky has focused on the presence of nitrates, which are chemical compounds typically used to cure preserved meats like beef jerky.
According to research published in 2008 in the journal Meat Science, when nitrates are consumed, they can eventually generate carcinogenic compounds when exposed to stomach acid (5).
To this end, it might be better for your long term health to get a beef jerky product that does not use nitrates to preserve the meat, especially if you plan on using it as a regular snack.
While some of the harmful compounds in processed meats also appear to be related to processes like smoking, it’s a good bet that a beef jerky without nitrate is healthier for you than one with nitrate.
For weight loss, recommendations for supplemental protein are in the 0.8 to 1.2 grams per kilogram of body mass range (6). With the high protein content of beef jerky, one or two servings will help get you closer to this protein intake level.
The concerns about long-term health show a dose-response relationship, so you should strive to seek out several different sources of high-quality protein, versus relying on processed meat as your primary source of protein.
When it comes to high-quality animal-based protein that doesn’t need refrigeration, beef jerky is hard to beat. High levels of protein and (when you choose the right product) zero sugar and zero carbohydrates make it an excellent choice both for weight loss and for gaining lean body mass if you are an athlete.
High quality animal meat helps reduce your feelings of hunger compared to other snacks of equivalent caloric value, and will also increase your baseline metabolic rate higher than vegetable-based protein snacks.
Beef jerky shouldn’t be your only source of protein because of long-term health concerns about high levels of processed meat intake. Choosing a nitrate-free beef jerky might be one way to reduce this risk.
Still, beef jerky is a good choice when you need a healthy and portable snack that’s high in protein and low in carbs.