We all gobble, squirt and squeeze energy products into our mouths in an attempt to stave off the ever-looming Bonk. But sometimes manufactured electrolytes in a gooey paste just don’t cut it. Enter, meat performance bars.
A host of meat-based energy products are available on the market. Everything from artisanal, grass-fed jerky to pemmican-like bars, they all have benefits (a savory break from endless sweets) and downsides (heavy in the stomach).
One of the better-known meat bars are made by Epic. The company makes a variety of grass-fed organic products based on the “paleo diet” that encourages people to eat lean protein and whole fruits and berries. All of its bars are organic and include no artificial flavors, preservatives, dairy products or soy.
We decided to put a few Epic Bars to the test against jerky. Each of our testers tried a piece of various bars and a couple different beef jerky types in a blind taste test and “cleansed our palates” with beer in between each taste. We gathered some impressions of the products, listed below.
Jack Links Peppered Beef Jerky: Although not marketed as an energy product, we’ve all grabbed this benchmark bag of gas station jerky while heading to a long ride or hike. $6 – 8, depending on the convenience store.
Our Impressions: In the blind test, we thought it tasted like you would expect gas station beef jerky to taste. Not bad, not wonderful. It was “chewy with a sweet peppery aftertaste,” one tester remarked. The jerky contains MSG, and one tester noted a subtle “artificial” flavor was off-putting to one of our testers, and the pepper flavor was “a little overpowering.”
Epic Bar Lamb Currant & Mint: Composed of a 100-percent organic, grass-fed lamb and organic currants mixed with Spearmint leaves. $30 for a box of 12.
Our Impressions: A fatty texture with hints of blueberries and fruit. This was a complex bar with a lot going on. As with all the Epic Bars, they were large and we had a hard time with the idea of eating an entire bar in one sitting, but our testers liked this for its fatty texture and subtle flavor.
The New Primal, Spicy Grass-Fed Beef Jerky: This “artisan jerky” is made from 100 percent grass-fed beef and sweetened with pineapple juice and honey. $7.59 for a 2oz pack.
Our Impressions: Spicy and leathery, the jerky didn’t taste like its gas station counterparts. Although the spice was a little overpowering, this was well liked among all our tasters. Side note: It has about one-half the sodium of our Jack Links.
Epic Bar Turkey Almond Cranberry: Low fat and loaded with vitamins, this bar has almonds and cranberries to spice up the turkey a little bit. $30 for a box of 12.
Our Impressions: Not particularly flavorful, this bar was dry and a little gritty. One of our testers likened it to a “bowl of curry and lentils.” The leanness of the turkey lent itself to a drier texture.
Golden Valley Turkey Jerky Teriyaki: Produced in Idaho, this turkey jerky is flavored with soy sauce, pineapple and apple cider. $6.95 for a 3.25 oz. package.
Our Impressions: This by far had the best texture of all the products we tasted. Soft and subtle, one of our testers even mistook it for salmon. It was a sweet blend of flavors and easy to chew. A favorite among our tasters.
Epic Bar Beef Habanero Cherry: Made from 100 percent organic grass-fed beef and a blend of cherries and habaneros. $30 for a box of 12.
Our Impressions: “Cardboard with a hint of liver,” was how one tester described this. Although not everyone was as critical, this bar did lack the complex flavor of some of the other Epic products. It was drier and had a strong smoky flavor to it.
Epic Bar Liver & Beef & Sea Salt: Epic Bar claims this to be the “first ever organ meat bar.” Yikes. The bar boasts impressive levels of vitamin A, vitamin B12, phosphorous, and copper. Made from grass-fed beef, these are the most nutrient-rich bars available from Epic.
Our Impressions: This was the worst-tasting bar according to our testers. It had a “soapy” aftertaste and the texture of a Slim Jim. The flavor stuck around long after it has been consumed. Definitely an acquired taste.
Epic Bar Bison Bacon Cranberry: The bar delivers a substantial serving of two of our favorite meats: buffalo and bacon. A modern-day take on the old classic, pemmican. $30 for a box of 12.
Our Impressions: By far the most delicious bar out of the mix. It was a tiny bit smoky, meaty, and fruity, and it kept us coming back for more. It was easy to stomach and left a delightful aftertaste behind. This was the most approachable flavor that we tested. A good place to start for users new to the Epic Bar lineup.
Final Conclusions: The world of meat-based nutrition holds a lot of potential. Epic Bar and other companies like it are on the front end of bringing the nutritional benefits of meat to the outdoors market. But if you’re still not feeling the love after trying some of these then Jack Links or another beef jerky standby probably won’t be disappearing from gas station shelves anytime soon.