Taste Test: Jack Link’s New Turkey-Based Snacks

The jerky company tries a new protein on for size

Jack Link's

Turkey might best be associated with Thanksgiving, and Jack Link’s might best be associated with beef jerky, but the country’s number one meat snack brand has decided to branch out and embrace the bird. They’ve released five new turkey-based products, and our taste-testers have taken them all for a test drive.

As opposed to the traditional red and black design, these packages incorporate green and black coloring to make sure nobody gets them confused with their beefier cousin.

Here are their new products, and our thoughts on them:

Original Turkey Jerky: Whereas most beef jerky is dry but tender, this was just dry, and reminded our taste-testers of Thanksgiving Day turkey that had been left in the oven for way too long. It also lacked much discernible smoky flavor, but it certainly wasn’t bad, wasn’t too salty, and could definitely gain some fans who like their jerky super-dry and chewy. This jerky is 98 percent fat-free, and is made with real strips of turkey breast. It’s flavored with brown sugar, soy sauce, and paprika, and contains 80 calories, .5 grams of fat, and 490 milligrams of sodium per 1-ounce serving.

Oven-Roasted Turkey Tender Bites: Where the jerky was tough and chewy, these are certainly more tender, even though they look like "chicken nuggets that had been left out overnight," according to a taster. White-meat turkey is coarsely ground and mixed with molasses, soy sauce, and a fair amount of black pepper, and the end result was a bit off-putting to a couple of our tasters, while most agreed that the taste wasn’t bad, if a little uninspiring. These "turkey nuggets" contain 60 calories, 1 gram of fat, and 380 milligrams of sodium per 1-ounce serving.

Turkey Sticks: Similar in shape to a Slim Jim, these have a much firmer consistency than their mystery-meat rival, and a more pronounced flavor than the other turkey-based offerings, most likely due to the fact that they contain both dark meat and MSG. This actually tasted the least like turkey out of the bunch, however, and tasted more like what jerky should taste like than the jerky product itself (again, most likely due to the additives).

Turkey Strips: Ground thigh and breast meat is formed into long strips in this product, which is the sweetest of the bunch due to the addition of molasses and brown sugar. A kick of soy sauce also gives it the same sodium count as the jerky, and it’s also the most fattening of the bunch, with 2 grams of fat per ounce (it’s also covered with a sheen of unappealing grease). Like the stick, it tasted far more processed than the jerky and bites, and the turkey flavor wasn’t incredibly apparent, although it definitely tasted of meat, salt, and sugar.

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Our overall conclusion was that Jack Link’s did the best they could with an innately bland protein. They pumped it full of soy sauce and brown sugar and formed it into easy-to-eat shapes, but at the end of the day, turkey-based snacks just can’t really compete with beef. That’s not certainly Jack Link’s fault, though.