Art Carden  

I, Beef Jerky

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Yesterday morning, I opened a bag of beef jerky that reads "MADE IN THE U.S.A." at the bottom of the front of the bag. On the back of the bag--and I found this interesting--one reads that the jerky

Contains beef from one or more of the following sources: the United States, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and Uruguay.

So perhaps it was processed and bagged in the US, but would it have been as affortable if it had used only American beef? Where did the plastic bag come from? An American supplier? What of the other ingredients--"brown sugar, water, salt, spices and natural flavorings, beef stock, natural smoke flavor, apple juice concentrate"? Where are they from? What about the plastic bag in which the jerky is packaged?

And what of the packaging equipment? The workers? The coffee consumed by the people running the rigs that extract the oil that powers the machines that make the wood pulp that goes into the paper stocking the office supply cabinet at the beef jerky company? All of it, "Made in the U.S.A."?

Somehow, I doubt it.

For a set of interesting commentaries--if I say so myself--on spontaneous order and the market economy, see the I, Pencil Movie produced by the Competitive Enterprise Institute. I was compensated for appearing in and writing a lesson plan to go with the I, Pencil Movie, but not for mentioning it in this blog post.



COMMENTS (12 to date)
Ryan Young writes:

A la Don Boudreaux, it should simply say "Made on Earth." Much more accurate that way.

RPLong writes:

You're dodging the real question, Carden: Who makes the silica gel? And, for that matter, who makes the little pouch containing it, decorated with dire warnings not to eat it?

Rick Hull writes:

Isn't it all manna from heaven, or the Big Bang, ultimately?

G. White writes:

Art, there is more to making beef jerky than just collecting some beef and bagging it. The beef could very well be from any or all of those countries listed, shipped frozen to the USA, where it is cleaned and fat removed, then dried (made into jerky), bagged and sold, thus completely complying with the Made in the USA label.

Roger McKinney writes:

Nice! And the corn to feed the cattle in New Zealand may have come from the US!

I also recommend the movie "I, Smartphone". The little girls in it are adorable!

And the video of the guy making a toaster from scratch is great.

G. White writes:

Art, I'll add on to my previous comment. Jerky - made. Jerky - made. Because it is beef jerky and it is said to be "Made in the USA", I believe even the most comatose individual would understand it was addressing the beef jerky, not the wrapping, so let's discount that. As for the ingredients beyond the beef they are irrelevant to the concept of jerky-made, who cares where they come from, if they are combined to flavor the beef jerky as the jerky is processed and dried here in the USA, then the jerky still qualifies as being "Made in the USA". The other issues, coffee, sex lives of the workers, the day of the week, all are totally irrelevant to the "Made in the USA."

To quote William, "much a-do about What?

Matt Bramanti writes:

G. White, I think you're missing Art's point.

He's not trying to bust Big Jerky for not "complying with the Made in the USA label." I've observed he's not a huge fan of compliance.

Rather, he's pointing out the absurdity in such labels. The implied claim of "Made in the USA" is that the product is somehow better - maybe higher quality, maybe more patriotic - because it was made on X side of a line on a map.

If that claim is true, why does Jerkyco simultaneously trumpet it and betray it? Why would a quality-minded uberpatriot dump shoddy foreign plastic and cheap Third World flavoring agents on its own countrymen?

Maybe it's because the claim is silly.

G. White writes:

Matt,
What is absurd is to bring up a meaningless advertising gimmick and display it as a big deal.

People buy jerky because it is jerky, and what it is wrapped in is entirely of no consequence to them at all unless by wrapping it in expensive wrappings drives up the price so that it is no bargain.

That it is flavored with spices from various parts of the globe mean nothing to them, beyond the advertised flavor which may be Teriyaki, Cajun, or traditional, people won't look and won't care.

But is the "Made in the USA" really a meaningless advertising gimmick? Remember we are talking about jerky, which is a unique American food developed by American Indians. So perhaps "made in the USA" does have some significance. But really Matt, how many Americans remember the origins of jerky, so in my mind the "Made in the USA" is more of an advertisement gimmick today then any serious attempt to certify and honor the origins of the jerky.

I stand by my humble opinion that Art was guilty of an extreme case of hyperbole regarding his beef jerky and only barely resisted claiming that "no one man knows enough to make beef jerky on his own" and thus beef jerky would become enshrined alongside the pencil as something at which to marvel. LOL, "the coffee the people running the rigs which extracted the oil...." Yee Haw! Vot a marfel dis jerky ist!

drobviousso writes:

Ryan Long -> More accurate, but not accurate accurate. The cows ate some kind of plant stock, which gets energy via photosynthesis from solar radiation. So, "Made in the Solar System" is probably even more accurate.

I slept through the parts of physics that aren't applicable to Newtonian problem solving (Engineering grad, what do you want), but I think the concept of space breaks down when you try to figure out the relationship between the big bang and post-bang material. As such, we probably don't have to go as far as Rick Hull suggests.

drobviousso writes:

G. White - While it is kind of comical how much you miss the point, jerky is not "a unique American food developed by American Indians" Every meat eating society with access to salt or a dry wind has preserved meat by desiccation.

Pemmican, on the other hand, is probably a uniquely North American food that was developed by North American Indians, probably near the US and Canadian border.

BZ writes:

I love the "Made on Earth" comment -- I would add ", imported there through extraterrestrial forces"

G. White writes:

drobviousso writes that G. White misses the point.

I am G. White, and I say there is no point worth any more than a nano-second of attention, if any attention at all. But, being an open minded person, drobviousso, suppose you tell me the take away you gained from this tale. But, remember this, jerky was made for probably a millenium or more without any ingredient or packaging that was not locally prepared. It is also true that jerky is still made in my ktichen and dining room yearly and can be made with nothing from outside my home.

Yes sir, dried meat has been known and prepared by man far back in time; but, "jerky" is derived from a Spanish word which derived from an American Indian word. So yes, technically "jerky" has a unique origin in America, and yes so does pemmican which has jerky as its base ingredient.

I too am familiar with anthropology and paleontology, subjects dear to my heart. I am also familiar with the I Pencil wisdom, who could puruse economic blogs and miss that. I still say, "so what" to Art's jerky.

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