What do you think of when you hear the words “beef jerky?”

Dried meat, yes.

A protein-rich snack, most definitely.

High sodium content? For some, yes.

Beef jerky is said to have been around since as early as the 1500’s. A South American tribe, called the Quechua, named it “jerky,”(well, really it was called “ch’arki,” translating to “dried meat”) and was a form of preserving meat. Jerky was used as fuel for this tribe when they went out on long journeys!

Fast forward to today: it’s a snack devoured by many all over the world. And it’s not all about the beef either! There are MANY different kinds of jerky to choose from.

One company, based in Chicago, is looking to shake up the jerky game.

Photo Credit: Ricky Hirsch / Think Jerky

Its name? Think Jerky.

Think Jerky just launched four kinds of either beef or turkey jerky on the market. Its approach? Using sustainably-raised 100% grass fed beef, or free-range turkey that have no added hormones or antibiotics.

And guess what? All of its ingredients are gluten-free, paleo friendly and NON-GMO!

AND it’s served in single-serve 100 calorie bags with a 16g protein serving per bag, and only 6g carbs per bag as well.

Top: Gale Gand, Bottom (L-R): Laurent Gras, Matt Troost // Photo Credit: Ricky Hirsch

For CEO Ricky Hirsch, his love of jerky pushed him to create a product with recipes and flavors inspired and created by famous chefs pictured above: Gale Gand (Michelin-Star Chef, two-time James Beard Award winner, and Food Network host), Laurent Gras (Three-star Michelin Chef, Food & Wine Best New Chef) and Matt Troost (farm to table expert). The jerky is prepared in a way that is good for you and your body, hence its slogan, “Think Before You Eat.”

CEO of Think Jerky, Ricky Hirsch / Photo Credit: Ricky Hirsch

 Hirsch took the time to chat with me about his adventures in jerky making:

KH: First of all, congratulations on the launch of Think Jerky! You had a love of beef jerky growing up, and then at one point, decided to stop eating it for awhile. Tell me about that.

RH: I was a picky eater growing up but would always eat jerky. When I grew old enough to be able to read an ingredient list, I gave up on jerky because every brand out there was pumping the jerky full of crap and chemicals. I always thought that was how jerky had to be until I realized jerky can be much healthier and more delicious if it was crafted the right way, and that’s what we did.

KH: This eventually led you to create Think Jerky, saying we should “Think Before We Eat.” What should we know about your jerky, that makes it stand out from the competition?

RH: Our jerky is healthy and delicious. Unlike all other jerky, we only use sustainably-raised proteins that have no added hormones or antibiotics. We also have more culinary intensive flavors crafted by some of the best chefs in the world. No company ever has had a collection of chefs like this before. Our jerky is both healthier for you and better tasting.

The idea of “Think Before you Eat” is threefold:

  1. To think about what you’re putting in your body. All of our proteins are either grass-fed beef or free-range turkey, which have no added hormones or antibiotics.
  2. To think about who’s making your recipes. All of our recipes are crafted by chefs in kitchens, not scientists, in labs.
  3. To think about yourself. I meditate twice a day, every day, and have never missed a day in 7 years. We give 10% of all profits to the David Lynch Foundation to teach veterans with PTSD how to meditate to heal themselves naturally.

KH: There are currently four flavors : Sriracha Honey, Ginger Orange, Sweet Chipotle and Thanksgiving. What made you choose those particular four, and how did you develop the recipes? 

RH: I let the chefs decide on what they wanted to craft. All recipes are the creations of the chefs themselves. When you’re working with some of the best chefs in the world, it’s best to let them do their own thing, ha.

KH: You put together a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds to help launch Think Jerky on the market. What was the initial goal you set out? It exceeded expectations! 

RH: Yes, we ended up a top 5 most backed food ever on Kickstarter. Honestly I thought we would do a million dollars, as our story is so unique and revolutionary. Although we got all the national press in the world, it didn’t translate into as much Kickstarter success as I thought it would. I realized that food is different, and that people want to try the product when it’s out.  We have already pre-sold over $100,000 in product, so to me that’s more exciting.

KH: You mentioned earlier how you partnered up with the David Lynch Foundation, where 10% of your profits go to them. The foundation is geared towards helping veterans. Why did you choose to partner with them?

RH: I’m not passionate about much in life, but I’m very passionate about Think Jerky, mediation and veterans rights. I have been an avid meditator for 7 years and I love veterans. They are strong so I don’t have to be. They risk their lives daily, so that I can follow my dreams of launching a beef jerky company. We owe them so much, and any help I can provide makes me happy.

KH: You have four flavors now, but are you thinking about more flavors in the future and more chefs to collaborate with?

RH: One of our current chefs is currently working on a second flavor and I have one more Chicago chef that we are bringing on in the next 3-4 months. He’s probably the most popular chef in Chicago but I’m keeping that a secret for now 🙂

KH: What’s your dream beef jerky flavor combination?

RH: You will see within two years, I don’t want to give away any secrets.

KH: Where can people find it in the U.S.?

RH: You can find us online at www.ThinkJerky.com and locally in Chicago. If you’re a business that’s interested in carrying Think Jerky you can sign up for our wholesale system at wholesale.thinkjerky.com.


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Photo Credit: Ricky Hirsch / Think Jerky