The trend-watchers have called it: 2014 is the year jerky comes of age. Not the wizened convenience store variety, rather the new generation of dried-meat snacks crafted by artisans, mixing grass-fed meats with chocolate, fruits, nuts and nut butters.
Drying meat has been a matter of survival for cultures the world over. South Africa has biltong, China has bakkwa, Italy has coppiette, and the native peoples of North America depended on what's commonly known as pemmican – wasna, in the Sioux language – made from dried bison, elk or deer, pounded and mixed with local berries and animal fat. This staple kept well without refrigeration and offered portable, high-protein nutrition. Now, for the Oglala Lakota of the Pine Ridge Reservation, in Kyle, S.D., wasna is also an ethical, tasty and successful international business.
Based on ancestral recipes, Tanka snacks are made from grassland-raised buffalo, cranberries and dried apples. Company founders, Karlene Hunter and Mark Tilsen joined forces with Indian Land Tenure Foundation in 2013 to create the Tanka Fund. The goal is to ensure the buffalo returns to its central place in the culture, diet and economy; they aim to purchase one million acres of grassland by 2022. The numbers of buffalo are slowly rising and with the Tanka Fund's help, the numbers keeps growing. As Hunter says, "One bar at a time!"
Available in three flavours: apple orange peel, smoked and spicy pepper, $2.50 sticks, $3.00 bars, $7.50 bites from tankabar.com.