KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Country Archer Jerky Co. is a meat snack success story with an unlikely beginning and a promising future. After stopping at a roadside stand while on vacation almost 10 years ago, Eugene Kang bought some beef jerky that would change his life – it was love at first bite. Kang and his now business partner tracked down the maker of the products, an elderly man named Charlie Mirarchi, who was producing the products on a private label basis in San Bernardino, California. After meeting the owner and finding out he had no real succession plan for the business, Kang and his partner ultimately bought the company in 2011. Kang, who is now CEO of Country Archer, spent about a year in an apprentice role, working in a 2,000 sq.-ft. butcher shop to learn how to produce the products from Charlie. By 2012, the new owners were ready to put a fork in the private label strategy and launched Country Archer as its own brand of artisanal, clean-label, natural gourmet jerky. “Kind of like the Sam Adams of jerky,” Kang says.

The business quickly grew out of the confines of the butcher shop and the production moved to a 16,000-sq.-ft. plant, east of Los Angeles, in 2014. Two years later, they also bought the building next door, adding another 14,000 sq. ft. In the early years the operation employed about 13 people, and that number has grown to over 100 as the Country Archer is the fastest-growing meat snack company in the US among the top 25 meat snack brands. Its products are now stocked by retailers ranging from Costco to Starbucks to Whole Foods Market and Wegmans Food Markets. The offerings include products made from beef, pork and poultry with a focus on sourcing raw material from grass-fed beef and antibiotic-free poultry, pork and beef. 

For this week’s podcast, Kang talked to MEAT+POUTRY about the evolution of Country Archer, its growth and the promising future of the meat snack segment.