Meat snacks continue to trend as healthy eaters seek out quick, good-for-you snacks in a world filled with too much sugar and highly processed food. In response, Organic Valley/CROPP Cooperative, La Farge, Wisconsin, offers a range of shelf-stable meat and chicken bars.

“A lot of people snack more than they sit down at the dining table these days,” said Ellie France, Mighty Organic brand manager. “With our new chicken bars, we added to the current 100 percent grass-fed beef line, introducing more bold flavors, more choices. They’re a great option for people looking for a leaner protein-rich snack. The organic chicken bars are the first of its kind, and we couldn’t be more excited.”

Ellie France

MEAT+POULTRY spoke with France about the meat bar business.

MEAT+POULTRY: How do meat bars differ from jerky and other meat snacks?

Ellie France: The main difference between a meat bar and jerky is the way it is produced. Our jerky is sliced from whole muscle, mixed with ingredients, then smoked. For our meat bars, we mix our ingredients and the meat together to form loaves, sort of like meatloaf.  We then smoke each loaf and slice into bars when done.

M+P: When did Mighty Organic first enter the meat bar category?

France: Mighty Organic first considered meat bars several years ago when we saw the beginnings of the meat bar market. At the time, no one was making an organic, 100 percent grass-fed beef bar and we knew there was a market for it. Consumers wanted more grass-fed beef and ethically produced snacking options. And at Mighty Organic, we believe in doing meat the way it should be done. So, we created the first and only organic and 100 percent grass-fed beef bar in 2015. We started with two flavors and launched a third in 2016. Now we’re excited to bring the first and only organic chicken bar to the market.

We went much faster with our chicken bar development. We started evaluating the concept in late 2017. We knew there were many consumers who don’t eat red meat, but still look for high-quality protein snacks. We wanted to expand our presence on store shelves, give the consumers what they were looking for, and be the only ones doing it organically.

M+P: From where do you source the chicken?

France: The organic, free-range chickens used for the bars come from CROPP cooperative’s farmers who know the value of, and practice, humane animal care. The chickens are raised right, which also means Mighty Organic Chicken Bars are produced without toxic pesticides, antibiotics, hormones or GMOs. It’s the way meat should be done.

M+P: What special considerations go into manufacturing meat bars, for example, package requirements, distribution and storage temperature, shelf life?

France: In all Mighty Organic meat snacks, we take great care in every aspect of the product. That starts with the utmost care for our animals. We then select the finest organic ingredients and produce our meat snacks in a family-owned processing plant that shares our core values. We wanted to create a meat bar you could take with you to fuel every day or outdoor adventures. That meant it needed to hold up in a work bag or gym bag, the packaging needed to be easy to open, and it needed to be easy to eat on the go.

We use organic honey to enhance the quality and shelf life of our meat bars, but this ingredient also gives the bar a nice bite and mouthfeel. Without honey, our bars would be dry and hard to chew. No one wants that. They can be stored just about anywhere, and at most temperatures. Though you wouldn’t want to put them in the deep freeze. They have a shelf life of six months, but good luck keeping them around that long. Indeed, sometimes it’s difficult to eat just one.

M+P: How did you come up with the flavors for the meat bars?

France: We looked at flavors doing well in the market and we saw they were some variation of spice/chili/heat. Yet, we wanted to put our own twist on things. Mighty has uniquely bold flavors in all our products, so we came up with two flavors for the chicken bar: black pepper and sweet chili. The black pepper flavor is a perfectly mild chicken bar, but with a hint of organic black pepper and spices. For those who crave a little heat, we use organic chilies to balance the tenderness in our sweet chili recipe.

M+P: What’s the best sales channel for the bars?

France: Meat bars started in the natural channel at co-ops and independent food stores. We are gaining momentum with traditional — even convenience — consumers. It’s also exciting to now see meat bars show up at airport kiosks and in hotel lobbies.