Seattle meat snack manufacturer Oh Boy! Oberto deemed its recent release of bacon jerky so momentous that the company didn’t just mob food writers with samples of the product: It issued bacon-print wallets, pre-stocked with bacon-themed cards in the credit card pockets. But none of the fancy packaging addressed the critical question raised by bacon jerky: Is bacon jerky a card-carrying member of the jerky family?
Oberto didn’t invent bacon jerky. That honor belongs to Los Angeles’ BaconFreak.com, which in 200 introduced its rendition of the fad-capitalizing snack. But a press release accompanying the wallet and bacon jerky bags stressed that Oberto’s rendition doesn’t rely on mere bacon flavoring.
“Oberto’s new bacon jerky is made of real, hearty, premium strips of bacon,” Oberto CEO Tom Ennis is quoted as saying, adding that the snack’s on track to set a company record for introductory sales.
But, paradoxically, the realness of the bacon undercuts the product’s jerky claim. Bacon, unlike beef, isn’t a naturally existing protein. As publicist Margo Helgen conceded one week after I first requested clarification, “bacon is defined as naturally smoked and cured.” So when Oberto takes strips of cured pork belly and “applewood (smokes them) to perfection,” as the release puts it, it’s making bacon.
“Bacon jerky is bacon,” Helgen agrees.
Still, Oberto says its bacon is distinguished by a “unique cook process” which makes its bacon 20 percent leaner than most bacons destined for frying pans. Helgen refused to reveal details about the method, but points out it doesn’t require preservatives or customer participation.
“Oberto has introduced a new usage occasion for bacon: Convenient on-the-go snacking,” she says. “No cooking, cleaning and no greasy hands.”
And no jerky either, but bacon fans probably won’t care.