West Chester’s Righteous Felon Jerky Cartel Brings the Artisan’s Touch to Jerky

Righteous Felon paired up and on display with Victory Beer.--via Emily Ryan.
Different jerky flavors--via Emily Ryan
Different jerky flavors–via Emily Ryan

Beef Jerky is changing significantly from the rather dry and very chewy snack commonly on offer at gas stations and is now moving into a niche artisan market that focuses on producing a smaller amount of high quality, uniquely flavored jerky products.

One of the new company’s promoting this higher class of artisan jerky is the West Chester based Righteous Felon Jerky Cartel which produces over 9,000 bags a month with the help of a team of longtime family and friends and its collaboration with the Victory Brewing Company writes Emily Ryan for Digital First Media on Delcotimes.com.

Jerky “definitely is having a moment,” says Brendan Crawley one of the founders of Righteous Felon Jerky Cartel. “It’s just hitting on a lot of points that I think are appealing to people right now.”

The idea of a higher class of jerky hit Crawley when he was about 10 or 11 years old and he got inspiration from his uncle in Pittsburgh who worked at the steel mills and made his own jerky in his basement. This inspired Crawley to start experimenting with different techniques and flavors and he soon had a loyal student following.

Now, fifteen years or so later, his experimentation has turned into the six different flavors of Righteous Felon jerky made from all-natural, dry-aged Black Angus beef from Roseda Farm in Maryland.

Righteous Felon is not the only artisan producer out there creating innovative version of this high protein, low carb and fat meat candy. Jodi Gauker of Gauker Farms in Fleetwood has hired a Lancaster County butcher to turn some of their Holstein Steers meat into jerky which they sell at specialty stores such as West Chester’s Artisan Exchange while Marcos Espinoza, a construction manager has launched Side Project Jerky in Philadelphia.

“I’ve always loved jerky. It’s a great snack,” says Espinoza “I was at a friend’s house, one of my business partners. He was making jerky instead of cookies for Christmas.” This led him to start experiment with different flavors often late into the night as has resulted in “Jerky for Gentleman — well-bred, well-fed, tasteful beef jerky.”

“A lot of jerkies out there can be really brittle and toothsome. Ours is more tender,” explains Espinoza. “I think we have very creative flavors that are also approachable. The most important thing to me is just to bring a really good, unique product to market.”