5 months ago

Once a pioneer staple, Alabama jerky now a popular nutritional snack

While some national brands use humorous commercials to promote their products, jerky is no joke; it’s big business.

Jerky is essentially dried meat; the removal of water and, usually, addition of salt preserves, extending its shelf life. Even though no one knows when the first jerky appeared, most sources believe it has been made and consumed on a large scale for more than 500 years, originating with the Incas in South America as early as the 1500s and traveling up to the culture and customs of North America’s indigenous peoples.

When Europeans came to the New World, they discovered what Native Americans (of both continents) had long known: jerky’s value as a highly nutritious food that is lightweight, doesn’t take up much space, won’t spoil and is therefore perfect for long journeys. It traveled west with pioneers; it gave cowboys energy for wrangling; and it has sustained U.S. soldiers as a part of military rations.

The jerky from centuries ago was made from whatever meat was around and, most often, seasoned with salt only. Through the decades, it has changed to meet increasing consumer demand for a wider range of seasonings to create diverse flavors, and it’s no longer limited to just a few forms of meat.

Today, what was once an important form of sustenance has evolved into a favorite snack as readily available as the nearest convenience store. It’s become so sought after, there are stores selling nothing but jerky. A few of them are in Alabama, including Gulf Coast House of Jerky in Orange Beach, owned by Johnny Wiggins and his wife, Phyllis. When he was introduced to the jerky store idea, he wasn’t a fan of the treat. “It was the business model and how well these stores were doing that sold me,” he said. “We’ve been very successful with lots of repeat clientele.”

Wiggins opened in 2015, has moved to a bigger space and is considering a second store in Chattanooga. He’s surfing the swelling wave of jerky popularity, which itself is being fed by our snack-obsessed society. But even diehard snackers are becoming increasingly health conscious now, and according to Wiggins, his jerky is still a great fit.

“Many jerkies have loads of chemicals in them to preserve them, but not ours,” Wiggins said. His  are not made at the store, but at the parent company’s facility in California. “Everyone is so concerned about health out there, and we are finding more and more health-conscious customers here, too,” he said.

The products Wiggins sells have no nitrates, MSG or artificial colors and are low in sodium, using only natural pineapple juice sugar to help maintain freshness. “We are putting out some of the healthiest jerky around,” Wiggins said.

After one bite, they wanted more

You don’t have to rely on the West Coast to create a good-for-you jerky. Russ Robbins is doing it in Eufaula at his Hickory Hollow Jerky company, founded in 2008. “All jerky is high in protein, low in fat, so that’s good,” he said. “And our jerkies don’t contain any artificial flavors or chemicals, no MSG, no sodium nitrate. We are all-natural.”

Hickory Hollow has also enjoyed success, and it came quickly. It was Robbins’ family and friends begging for his homemade jerky that spurred the full-time minister at Eufaula’s First Baptist Church to go commercial. “I’ve always loved jerky and started making it in Boy Scouts and experimented with different spices,” he said. “Those first few batches were not very good.”

He finally found the right recipe, and made it to take on youth mission trips and to give out as gifts. Once people had a bite, they wanted more. “I realized there was a market for it, and with three kids in college, I liked the idea of extra income,” he said. His first month in business he sold 250 bags of jerky; by 2017, that number climbed to 53,381 bags. Sales in 2018 were up by about 10 percent.

Being healthy is not enough to propel a food item to the heights jerky has hit. It must taste good. For jerky, that means strong, concentrated flavor with a chewy, yet not stringy, texture. Judging by sales at House of Jerky and Hickory Hollow, theirs has this aspect in the bag, too.

At Gulf Coast House of Jerky, there’s something for everyone (pet jerky treats, vegan jerky) but the real appeal is the exotic, with jerky offerings running the gamut from python, snapping turtle, camel, wild boar, mako shark, trout, elk, buffalo, salmon and tuna. “It’s so different, and people really like the diversity and, of course, the flavors,” Wiggins said. His store has classic beef jerky, but not just any beef will do. It’s made from three different cuts of grass-fed beef: brisket, top round and tri-tip.

Hickory Hollow stays more traditional with its original version, a hickory-smoked, black-pepper beef jerky that is by far its best-seller. It offers five other beef jerky varieties: Teriyaki, Hot Shot (spicy), Sweet Heat BBQ, Jamaican Jerk and Macho Nacho, which incorporates notes of jalapeno and cheese.

And it’s all about the right ingredients for Robbins, too, plus a time-tested method. “We don’t cut corners and we use American beef, and all of our jerky is hand-sliced with knives, not on equipment,” Robbins said.

Hickory Hollow employees cut about 1,000 pounds of meat a week. After it’s sliced, it gets marinated for 10 to 12 hours and then goes into dehydrators for nine to 12 hours before being bagged to distribute.

For both Wiggins and Robbins, relishing the smiles the jerky puts on others’ faces is as satisfying as anything they sell. “We want to please our customers and try to make the whole experience in the store fun for them,” Wiggins said.

“I love the taste, but I believe whatever you do, do it heartily unto the Lord, so I strive to do this well and love that others get benefit from it,” Robbins said.

This story originally appeared in Alabama Living.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

23 mins ago

Mooney praises Trump for use of tariff threat on Mexico; Says immigration remains ‘a major issue’ for Alabamians

If the early stages of the race for the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate seat up in 2020 is any indicator, immigration remains a front-burner issue for Alabamians.

That is how State Rep. Arnold Mooney (R-Indian Springs), a GOP candidate for U.S. Senate, views the subject as well.

In an interview that aired Wednesday on Huntsville’s WVNN, the Shelby County Republican weighed in on the topic and offered President Donald Trump praise for his use of tariffs to force Mexico to pledge to be more proactive in stymying the flow of migrants through the U.S.-Mexico border.

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“I think quite frankly, it got the results that were needed,” Mooney said on “The Jeff Poor Show.” “We got people to the table. We got people there to cooperate, begin to solve the problem. You have got to use every tool that is in the toolbox. I’m a free trade person. I believe in that, but I also understand clearly that when you have a president who delivers on his threats in the manner Donald Trump has when he has challenged people to get them to the point of doing something and working on something, he’s been successful with that. They know he may do what he’s talking about. So, they tend to come and begin to negotiate. And then we get a resolution as such that is beneficial to us and beneficial to them.”

Mooney said among voters he has talked with on the campaign trail, the U.S. immigration system is one of their primary concerns.

“I hear consistently and constantly from voters in Alabama about immigration and how important it is and how much concern they have about it,” he added. “It is a major issue in this election, and it is a major issue for our nation, and it has got to be worked on and solved.”

@Jeff_Poor is a graduate of Auburn University, the editor of Breitbart TV and host of “The Jeff Poor Show” from 2-5 p.m. on WVNN in Huntsville.

56 mins ago

DeKalb Co. deputies bust another illegal alien human smuggling operation

The DeKalb County criminal interdiction team on Wednesday busted yet another alleged human smuggling operation involving illegal aliens.

A press release from the sheriff’s office explained that the team was working the major highways and interstates within the county when interdiction deputies at approximately 10:30 a.m. conducted a traffic stop on a vehicle near the 218 mile marker of I-59.

After searching the vehicle, 10 illegal aliens were discovered.

An initial investigation determined a human smuggling operation was ongoing. The individuals were from El Salvador, Ecuador and Guatemala, according to the sheriff’s office.

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The Department of Homeland Security was then called to the scene and the suspects were taken into Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) custody.

“This is another great job by our Interdiction Team. Even though we are far from the Southern Border, we can still play a role in enforcing our nation’s laws right here in DeKalb County,” Sheriff Nick Welden said.

“While it may seem that they were trying to start a new life in our country, these people are exploited and taken advantage of. Some have to pay thousands of dollars to be smuggled in and are made to work for inhumane wages,” he added.

The investigation is still ongoing and federal charges are pending.

Welden concluded, “Again, I’d like to thank our interdiction team for another job well done. God Bless!”

Nine illegal aliens were arrested after a similar traffic stop in DeKalb County just weeks ago.

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

1 hour ago

Former Miss America Heather Whitestone McCallum rules out Alabama 2020 U.S. Senate bid

Miss America 1995 Heather Whitestone McCallum will not be a candidate in Alabama’s 2020 U.S. Senate race.

She told Yellowhammer News on Wednesday evening that she has finalized her decision and will not run, saying the timing was not right for her.

A Republican, she had been considering running for several months, even conducting polling in the spring to help make an informed decision.

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“Alabama has given so much to me. It would definitely be an honor to give back to the people of my state,” Whitestone said in a statement to Yellowhammer News earlier this year. “That being said, it is something my husband John and I are praying about.”

Whitestone, a Dothan native, is also a former Miss Alabama. She made history as the first deaf Miss America, having fully lost her hearing when she was 18-months old. Whitestone underwent a cochlear implant surgery to partially restore her hearing in 2002.

She has authored multiple faith-centric books, including “Listening With My Heart,” “Believing The Promise,” “Let God Surprise You” and “Heavenly Crowns.” She is a graduate of Berry High School (now Hoover High School) and Jacksonville State University.

Whitestone, 46, has lived in Georgia for over two decades, having moved there after marrying her husband, John McCallum. She and John met when they were both serving as aides to then-U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-GA). John ran unsuccessfully for Congress himself in 2014. She and her husband have three children.

Congressman Bradley Byrne (AL-01), former Auburn University head football coach Tommy Tuberville and State Rep. Arnold Mooney (R-Indian Springs) are the credible candidates who have formally announced Republican candidacies to unseat Senator Doug Jones (D-AL) thus far.

Unsuccessful 2017 Republican Senate nominee Roy Moore will announce Thursday at 2:00 p.m. in Montgomery whether he will join that field.

Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill is expected to make an announcement on his potential Senate bid next week after filing his paperwork with the Federal Election Commission on Tuesday.

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

2 hours ago

Mo Brooks: ‘Nice guy’ Doug Jones ‘not able to masquerade as a moderate any longer’ — ‘Clear he is a Chuck Schumer left-winger’

On Wednesday, Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Huntsville) gave a wide-ranging interview to C-SPAN’s “Washington Journal,” hitting on a variety of topics, including immigration, Iran and defense spending.

Host Pedro Echevarria also asked Brooks about the possibility of former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore running for the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate up in 2020 currently occupied by Sen. Doug Jones (D-Mountain Brook).

The Madison County Republican declined to speculate about Moore’s candidacy, but predicted the ultimate GOP nominee would defeat Jones given the different dynamic of the 2020 election cycle with President Donald Trump on the ballot.

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“I do want the people back home in Alabama to know this: No matter who our Republican nominee is, that nominee is going to win in 2020 against Doug Jones. There’s going to be a whole different dynamic with it being a presidential election with Trump on the ballot, with a Democrat nominee on the ballot. And there’ll be a lot more people voting.”

“And Doug Jones – nice guy, but he’s voted for abortion,” Brooks continued. “He’s voted against our Supreme Court justices. He’s voted for open borders. He’s not going to be able to masquerade as a moderate any longer. It’s pretty clear he is a Chuck Schumer left-winger.”

@Jeff_Poor is a graduate of Auburn University, the editor of Breitbart TV and host of “The Jeff Poor Show” from 2-5 p.m. on WVNN in Huntsville.

3 hours ago

Byrne: Percentage of illegal border crossers ‘might be part of a terrorist effort’ — ‘We have to be very vigilant’

In the very early stages of the 2020 U.S. Senate campaign, immigration has become one of the primary focuses, especially given the statements of one of the contest’s apparent front-runners, former Auburn head football coach Tommy Tuberville.

One of the concerns is that among the mass influxes of illegal border crossers could be individuals that look to inflict harm on the country, particularly those from Middle Eastern nations coming in through the porous U.S.-Mexico border.

In an appearance on Huntsville’s WVNN, U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-Fairhope) said it is not out of the realm of possibilities such bad actors could be coming into the United States through Mexico.

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“What we know is is that unlike ten years ago, 80% of the people coming across the border are from three countries: They’re from El Salvador, Guatemala or Honduras,” Byrne explained on Tuesday’s broadcast of “The Jeff Poor Show.” “They are families and unaccompanied minors, and they’re just overwhelming the system that we’re having so many of them, and they’re incredibly needy. But in addition to that 80% of the people that fall into that category, there are some onesies and twosies of people that might be – we can’t necessarily prove it, might be part of a terrorist effort. So, we have to be very vigilant about that.”

“Now the truth of the matter is in that other 20%, you’ve got people coming from all over the world,” he continued. “They found the body of a young Indian girl, a Hindu Indian girl, the other day out in the desert. So, we know they’re getting them from everywhere. And some of these people are coming across because they want to be part of America. And some of them are coming across for really bad reasons. Some of them are drug traffickers. Some of them are human traffickers. And we are concerned, though we can’t give you hard evidence of this – that some of them may be part of a terrorist effort in this country.”

The Baldwin County Republican U.S. congressman explained the difficulties in identifying those coming into the country seeking asylum as who they claim to be, which is problematic in determining potential threats.

“I mean, just because you’re from a Middle Eastern country doesn’t necessarily mean you’re part of a terrorist network,” Byrne said. “So there is a lot more that goes into it, and I’ve got to be careful what I say because of the classified briefings I’ve had, but there is a lot more that goes into this to try to make a determination who is this person. And part of the problem, Jeff, is the unknown. Because how can we know who these people are? They say, ‘My name is so-and-so, and I’m from this country, and I’m here because I’ve been persecuted in my country.’”

“Well, how do we know that?” he continued. “And how do we – in some of these countries like Syria, we have no way to go back and check that out because their communities are gone? The people we would go to, to try to verify who they are – are in some refugee camp somewhere. It’s just the impossibility to have full information on these people that is such a problem. And so you just can’t let whoever you want to come across the border. You have to have a very rigorous system to determine who are these people and whether they should be here or not.”

@Jeff_Poor is a graduate of Auburn University, the editor of Breitbart TV and host of “The Jeff Poor Show” from 2-5 p.m. on WVNN in Huntsville.