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Primal Strips Vegan Jerky is Eco-Friendly, Healthy – and Tasty

Primal Strips - worthy of a place in my pack.

Soon, I’m going to get on a 6-hour flight. A day later, I’ll put on a backpack and head into Iceland’s remote Landmannalaugar region. Right now, the road to Landmannalaugar isn’t even open yet. There will be no Starbucks, no fast food, no convenience stores. It’s all gotta go in with me.

That means I’ll need some snacks. They have to be compact, of course. But they also have to be tasty, relatively healthy and a bit on the salty side. Tasty and healthy are obvious. But why the salt? I’m planning to sweat out some eletrolytes.

Before I really got far into planning the contents of my pack, the folks from Primal Strips contacted me to ask for a review of their vegan “jerky” snacks. They sent two of each of their flavors.

I’d planned to take the whole lot to Iceland for testing. But I got a little impatient and opened my first a few weeks out. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Let’s talk about jerky first – the kind made from meat. I have a love/hate relationship with it. Cheap jerky is leathery and briny. Good jerky is expensive, and a bit less salty. Exotic jerkies like shark, ostrich and bison are fun, but they’re often a bit on the chewy side.

This all means the idea of a vegan jerky intrigued me. I’m an ominover. I think meat is delicious, but I have absolutely no knee-jerk ideological hangups about eating something that didn’t “have a face,” as so many people do.

Primal Spirit Foods makes the Primal Strips from soy, seitan (a type of wheat gluten) and shiitake mushrooms. Different flavors use one of the three as their main base. The first one I tried was the Thai Peanut flavor, which is made from seitan.

It had a meaty appearance, right down to some bacon-like marbling. I poked at it to gauge the texture and took a bite. What I found was a surprisingly meaty texture – a tad more spongy than jerky, but far easier to chew. And I liked the spicy peanut flavor. I was pretty impressed – so much so that I knew it would be hard to stay disciplined and not eat them all before boarding my Icelandair flight.

So I modified my original plan – save one of each flavor for Iceland. In the meantime, I started snacking on Primal Strips during my local hikes. Here’s how I rank the flavors (check the Primal Web site for nutrional info):

Mesquite Lime
Thai Peanut
Hot & Spicy
Hickory Smoked
Texas BBQ
Teriyaki

Here’s the bottom line: I liked all of them, with the seitan varieties offering my favorite texture. They’re inexpensive, tasty and compact. I like the ratio of carbs, protein and fat – plus the dash of much-needed salt. Give me a choice between these and jerky, and I’ll take the Primal Strips. In a lot of ways, Primal Strips are a lot like carob. Some people treated carob like the successor of chocolate. It wasn’t, but I always thought it was delicious in it’s own right. Primal Strips are the same. No, it’s not really meat, and it won’t trick you into believing otherwise. What you’re getting is a nutritious and flavorful snack that is perfect for active people. I can also seeing these being super-handy for epic bike rides and long races (the 12 and 24-hour variety).

I wouldn’t mind seeing just a touch less salt (no more than 10 percent USRDA in the current sizes), and I’d like to see larger versions. I can’t quibble at all about the price, which is about $1.39. Better deals are easy to find in higher quantities. I’m really astounded that REI hasn’t brought Primal Strips into its stores. This product seems tailor-made for REI’s shopper base. I’ll give Sunflower Markets and New Frontiers credit for flying the Primal flag here in Arizona.

If you are a vegetarian or vegan, odds are good that you’ll become a Primal Strip fan. If you’re not … well, it depends. People who are open-minded about their eating will be satisfied – maybe as much as I am. You’ll also get a bit of “green” satisfaction.

But if you’re a meat-and-potatoes person who is skeptical of stuff made out of seitan, mushrooms or soy, here’s my advice: Get over it. There’s a big world of interesting flavors out there, and you’re missing out on it. Taste new things – the worst that can happen is that you won’t like some of them.

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