Wendyl Wants to Know: Biltong and jerky

Long Lunch 19/03/2018

Cured meats such as biltong and jerky are becoming increasingly popular because they give you a low calorie meal of protein which is low in fat and carbohydrate free. And they taste good which makes a perfect snack.

I don’t have any scientific proof but I think that the dried meat also fills you up as it rehydrates in your stomach, which is also a great idea for a snack.

These caught my eye at the supermarket because for a very simple process, they seemed to have a lot of ingredients.

Jack Link’s BBQ Steak Bar. $1.99 for 25g.

Ingredients ( in order of greatest quantity first):
I will presume this is New Zealand beef as this product is made here but there is nothing on the pack confirming this. As the main ingredient this means you are getting some good protein. You will get 8g of protein per bar.


This will be in here for flavouring and comes in at 5.8g per bar which is just over one teaspoon. This bar does taste very sweet.


Anything which is cured as biltong or jerky will need salt. You will get 420mg of sodium per bar.


These will be artificial as the word “natural” doesn’t appear.

Tomato powder
This is dried tomato.

This is another form of sugar which is derived from starch.

Onion powder
This is dried onion.

Smoke flavour
Most food products will use “natural smoke flavour” which is made by burning wood chips or sawdust which produces smoke which is condensed into solids or liquids. Otherwise known as liquid smoke.

Or the flavour can be achieved by mixing chemicals together to get the same taste. I can’t tell you which one was used but I would think that if it was natural they might have told you on the ingredients label. Either way it tells us that this meat wasn’t smoked.

Flavour enhancer (E621)
This is MSG which some people avoid. It is accepted by the NZ Food Standards Authority that some people who consume MSG may experience symptoms such as burning sensations, numbness, chest pain, headache, nausea and asthma but it says that it is okay to have it in food as long as it is labelled.

Acidity regulator (E330)
This is citric acid.

Spice extract

Antioxidant (E316)
This is sodium erythorbate which is made from beetroot and sugarcane.

Caramel colour
Unclear which caramel colour is used in here. There are four types ranging from 150a which  is the safest to 150d which is made by reacting sugar with ammonia and sulphites under high pressures and  high temperatures.

Preservative (E250)
This is sodium nitrate which is a common preservative in packaged meats like bacon and sausages. It kills bacteria which cause botulism and also acts as a colour fixative. There is concern that it can react with stomach acid to form carcinogenic N-nitroso compounds during digestion. A study has found that adults who consumed the highest amounts of nitrate and nitrite were almost 30 per cent more likely to develop bladder cancer than those who consumed the lowest amount of the compounds. Our Food Standards point out that nitrite and nitrate are also found naturally in vegetables and says that conditions related to overexposure to nitrates and nitrite are rare.

Some smallgoods producers have started using other preservatives to avoid the use of sodium nitrate or nitrite.


My recommendations:

I’m not happy about the MSG or the sodium nitrate in this product. Both have big question marks over them as ingredients and healthy eaters avoid them.

I picked up another packet of beef snacks made by Canterbury Biltong called The Italian and found they had used just five ingredients which were beef, salt, sugar, spices and vinegar (which is a natural preservative). Also they go off after a week. So that proves you can have a beef snack without all the additives although there are differences in the nutrition analysis. Jack’s Links have more sugar and less fat than Canterbury Biltong whereas there is less sugar (only .45g per 30g serve compared to 5.8g per 25g serve in Jack’s Links) and more fat in their product (4.2g per 30g serve compared to less than 1g per 25g serve in Jack’s Link’s).

So my choice is Canterbury Biltong because I’d rather have my beef snack with less additives, less sugar and I can live with a little more fat.


·   Low in fat but makes up for that with sugar.
·   Uses MSG and sodium nitrate.
·   Contains artificial flavours.

The Long Lunch with Wendyl Nissen, 12pm - 3pm on RadioLIVE and streaming live to the rova app on Android and iPhone.