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DECODING LABELS: Oh Boy Oberto Natural Beef Jerky


Everybody loves beef jerky. It’s a handy, portable, high-protein snack that’s compact and worry-free. You don’t have to worry about it spoiling, even if you’re out in the heat. You don’t have to worry about it spilling or leaking inside your purse or gym bag. You just grab it and go.

Most people prefer to avoid the MSG-laden brands of beef jerky, instead opting for more “natural” varieties.

That’s where this week’s Oh Boy Oberto Natural Beef Jerky comes into play.

Here’s what the manufacturer claims:

“It’s simple: Our all-natural Jerky is made with premium strips of lean meat and seasoned to perfection. Oberto takes great pride in using only the best ingredients. No added artificial ingredients or preservatives means you can feel good about choosing Oberto. Family owned providing quality meat snacks since 1918. No added MSG.”

Oh Boy! Oberto Natural Beef Jerkey: Ingredients

  • Beef
  • Sugar
  • Water
  • Beef Stock
  • Salt
  • Spices
  • Natural Flavorings
  • Natural Smoke Flavor
  • Vinegar

Oh Boy! Oberto Natural Beef Jerkey: DECODED

Beef is the first ingredient. Unfortunately, this is beef that’s been finished in feedlots. Animals finished in Confined Animal Feeding Operations are a sad example of animal husbandry. Not only are the CAFOs themselves destructive to the environment, but the animal foods they produce are far less healthy for you. Rather than derail this post, may I suggest that those of you interested in a discussion of how to eat HEALTHY, humanely-raised animal foods read my post Healthy Meats: What to Buy?

Sugar is most likely from genetically-modified sugar beets. If this had specified cane sugar, then we could potentially dismiss the GMO threat, but sadly that’s not the case. In addition to being genetically-modified, this sugar is also highly refined. It’s much better to stick to natural sweeteners! For more on what natural sweeteners are (here’s a hint: I’m not talking about Truvia!), please read My Natural Sweeteners of Choice.

Water, Beef Stock, Salt, Spices, Natural Flavorings, Natural Smoke Flavor, and Vinegar are most likely used to create a natural marinade for the meat that it’s then dehydrated in. I’m glad to see that they’re using Beef Stock, as that is likely what allows them to reduce the MSG in this product.

But wait! Why would I say “reduce”? Didn’t the manufacturer claim “No Added MSG”?

Yes, they did. But Spices, Natural Flavoring, and even Natural Smoke Flavor are all warning-flag ingredients because they often hide MSG. (Read more about why MSG is dangerous.)

Unfortunately, it’s perfectly legal for a company to say their food product has “No added MSG” so long as they don’t add an ingredient called “monosodium glutamate” to their food. MSG, however, hides in more than 40 commonly used ingredients in industrial food — ingredients like flavoring. This means MSG can sneak up on you in a whole host of foods that don’t technically have a single ingredient called monosodium glutamate listed on their label. (source)

And finally, that vinegar is most likely derived from genetically-modified corn.

Oh Boy! Oberto Natural Beef Jerkey: THE VERDICT

While I know we all want to find convenience foods to make our lives easier, we have to balance that convenience with just how far it compromises our ideals. In this case, I would give this product an immediate pass for the beef alone.

While I love beef, it’s extraordinarily important to me to prioritize the sourcing of my animal foods well. So, I stick to grass-fed beef, preferably from area farmers I know and trust.

When you add that in with the uncertainty about the product containing hidden MSG, I can’t in good conscience buy this food.

What should I eat instead?

I highly recommend making your own beef jerky at home. I love Jenny of Nourished Kitchen‘s recipe for Sweet Chipotle-spiced Beef Jerky.

If you don’t own a dehydrator yet or don’t want to make your own jerky, there are a few brands of quality beef jerky available online. This is the one my family buys. It’s one of the few grass-fed beef jerky brands that uses organic tamari instead of GMO soy sauce, all organic spices, and no preservatives or nitrites.

Want Your Labels Decoded?

In this series on Decoding Labels, I’m highlighting deceptive labeling practices, hidden ingredients, and more! If you’ve got a particular label pet-peeve you’d like me to share, please feel free to email me with your idea. It may just turn into a blog post!

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I am a passionate advocate for REAL FOOD -- food that's sustainable, organic, local, and traditionally-prepared according to the wisdom of our ancestors. I'm also an author and a nutrition educator. I enjoy playing in the rain, a good bottle of Caol Ila scotch, curling up with a page-turning book, sunbathing on my hammock, and watching my three children explore their world.
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11 Responses to DECODING LABELS: Oh Boy Oberto Natural Beef Jerky
  1. Kaye Kittrell
    September 15, 2013 | 12:52 pm

    Yesterday, after hearing Vandana Shiva speak about GMO’s, I stopped off at a local market for a little dinner. I stared at the sign over the gleaming, plastic-wrapped meat counter. (That was the first turn-off.) They made the all-natural beef sound delectable till I got to the end where it said the cows were fed “golden corn.” Isn’t “golden corn” a warm image? But, all I could think was Bt (as in Monsanto’s Bt GM corn) and said, “No thanks.” 85-90% OF ALL GENETICALLY MODIFIED FOODS ARE GROWN FOR ANIMAL FEED AND BIOFUELS. They are not grown, in spite of Monsanto’s big claims that we need GM foods to feed the world, to feed people directly. (And if, as they say, they ARE good for you, why wouldn’t they WANT GM labeling? They don’t want labeling because they know it isn’t good for you.) That means, if you eat meat from a corn-fed cow, you are eating GMO’s. I explained this to a young man recently and he was shocked. There are steakhouses that still boast on their menus about their corn-fed beef. The more you know, the healthier your food choices will be.

  2. Rachel
    September 15, 2013 | 4:18 pm

    Kristen! Have you tried Epic Bars yet? Grass-fed meat. Nothing artificial. They have been my dream come true since I love jerky and have had a hard time finding one that I feel confident eating :)

    • Kristen
      September 16, 2013 | 11:38 am

      No, I’ve never tried Epic bars. I’ll look them up! Thanks. :)

  3. Beth
    September 15, 2013 | 5:08 pm

    US Wellness has some nice sugar-free, grass-fed jerky products.

  4. Jan in Canada
    September 15, 2013 | 5:38 pm

    Great blog! Every time I think I’ve eliminated GMOs from my diet, another pops up. Vinegar! I assume you’re talking white vinegar (that I only use for cleaning) and that balsamic, malt, etc., are okay (?)

  5. Lynn
    September 15, 2013 | 10:19 pm

    Thanks for this. I got the most horrible case of IBS after eating this product…and a headache. All natural my @$$….

    Rachel, I just may try the Epic bars…Just google them? I have never heard of them.

  6. Robert Hathaway
    September 17, 2013 | 2:34 pm

    I was reading a site that said for jerky to be “real jerky” it needs to have jerky as an ingredient.

    • Jaymie Smith
      November 5, 2013 | 6:50 pm

      you’ll do

  7. Tara
    September 17, 2013 | 8:36 pm

    OH great, I didn’t know about sugar. I have been buying C and H sugar for years. Now I have to find something else. I want REAL sugar, not fake stuff. I hate all of this GMO crap, I can’t eat food anymore without worrying and I don’t have much money as it is, so this can be very hard at time.

  8. Josie
    September 21, 2013 | 10:23 pm

    Your family’s beef jerky from Amazon costs $4.50 an OUNCE once you factor in shipping! NO THANKS!

  9. lb
    September 29, 2013 | 9:20 pm

    i feel as though this is misleading and unfair. they never claimed to be gmo-free, only “natural”, which unfortunately in this day and age means it’s free of totally artificial ingredients. most likely they, like the rest of the companies that make this stuff, know little, or care little, about what we do. they are probably no worse than the rest of them.

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Who Am I?

My name is Kristen Michaelis. I'm a nutrition educator, author, and mother of three. I adore hats, happy skirts, horizons full of storm clouds, the full-bodied feel of wind as I ride motorcylces, reading in my hammock, and a hearty shot of Caol Ila scotch. I'm also a rebel with a cause.
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