Meet their meat
Family-owned and -operated Sierra Gold Jerky Co. suffered a setback when the patriarch of the artisanal jerky company, Eugene Buchanan, passed away from cancer last year. Buchanan and his brother, Jerry, started the Oroville-based company seven years ago, after working for 30 years in the meat-cutting business in the Bay Area. Jerry has moved away, and Eugene's wife, Sandra, son Robert and daughter-in-law Corinna have since take over the operation, selling their products at trade shows and events, including the Thursday Night Market, and online. The CN&R recently sat down with Corinna, the general manager, who has over 20 years of culinary background in Chico, from bakeries to catering. She prides herself on using her knowledge as a chef to tweak the jerky recipes by making them gluten- and MSG-free to produce a more natural snack. You can find Sierra Gold Jerky Co. on Facebook, or order online at sierragoldjerky.com.
What is artisanal jerky?
It is jerky that has been hand-cut, grinded, marinated or seasoned, and smoked. We make sticks, which are more tender and put into a casing, and jerky, which is chewier. Our elk that we get is from a meat distributor in New Zealand, and it is all natural, free-range, and non-GMO. Our beef and pork, however, is commodity meat. Whatever spices we use for a particular batch will greatly change the flavor of our jerky.
Why isn’t Sierra Gold Jerky in stores?
Totally a USDA thing. It's so complicated. We are only California Certified, which means that we are only able to sell our own product. That is, we can't sell the jerky to stores or wherever. If we were to be USDA-certified, we would have to pay for a USDA regulator to come and inspect every run of meat we do. It is not worth it for us.
What’s special about your meat?
Well, for one, meat gets graded. For beef, there is select, choice and prime. The higher the fat content, the higher the grade. Personally, we want a low grade. Our beef has low fat content, because fat doesn't cure as well as lean meat, and the more fat in our jerky, the less shelf life it has. We cure our meats using sodium nitrate, which is standard. Conventionally, meat was cured using salt and drying, but if it's not cured using sodium nitrate, it is considered “uncured” by the USDA. Also, we aren't allowed to process wild game and sell it because it isn't inspected, but we are allowed to process someone else's wild game and sell it back to them.
Are you successful selling online?
We definitely want to increase our business, which is hopefully going to happen when we get a new website. We do about three shows a month and we usually see a bump in our sales afterward. During Christmas time, there is a huge increase for the jerky as a holiday gift. And, we are expanding our choices from pork, beef and elk to also include turkey jerky, which has been asked for a bunch.