The History of Beef Jerky

Buried Treasure to Gourmet Beef Jerky

If you wanted a straight forward, no-nonsense answer to where Jerky really came from, you've come to the wrong place..... however we can tell you beef jerky has been enjoyed for hundreds of years by civilizations around the world. 

The earliest records show the ancient Egyptians preserved meats under the sun to dry and buried the preserved f with the deceased in their tombs. While there has been no mention specifically of an item like jerky, it would make sense that if they invented jerky fit for a king and his after-life, they’d also bury the secret with them.

The History of Beef Jerky

Another origin story suggests the word jerky evolved from what the Incas called ‘Ch'arki’, translated to “dried meat” sun dried or smoked over a fire. Spanish conquistadors who discovered the Incans, naturally discovered their ‘Ch’arki’, where it transformed to ‘Charque’, simply by way of the Spanish language and accent.

The Spanish hold the title of discovering jerky twice, finding Native North Americans drying meat with a slight variation; the inclusion of fats and berries. This jerky was called Pemmican, however it was the Spanish word Charque that was soon adopted and popularly used. Native Americans eventually taught jerky preservation to early settlers, with the first recorded use of the word ‘jerky’ in John Smith’s ‘Map of Virginia’ in 1612.

The History of Beef Jerky

Africa also holds a place in jerky history, called ‘Quant’a’ in Ethiopia, and “Kilishi” in Nigeria, Niger, Cameroon, The Ivory Coast, Chad, Togo, Ghana, Sudan, Senegal and Gabon. ‘Kilishi’ is considered a delicacy, with great care taken to create thin sheet like slices that are sun-dried and marinated for flavour before being left to dry on wire mesh.

With so many origin stories, we’ll never know the exact origin of beef jerky, but ‘Kilishi’ is a favourite of ours as we strive to be known as a delicacy and gourmet snack too. By using prime cuts of 100% grass fed Australian beef and fresh, natural, locally sourced ingredients in our marinades, Empire Jerky is Australia’s first truly gourmet beef jerky… something for the history books too perhaps!

Jay Jay
Brisbane based jerky lover, marketer and fan of almost all sports.

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