El Norteno Jerky, Austin, TX

As you know, I am a huge proponent of local products. One of the reasons I love local products is the stories behind why a company was started. Hearing the background of a company, as well as seeing how they are tied to a local area is awesome. I also like seeing how the product will fit the distinct tastes of a given region.

I first discovered El Norteno jerky at Rodeo Austin. I had randomly wandered in to the Taste of Texas booth. This is where a bunch of local product makers were competing to get HEB’s attention. HEB would put the products of the winners on their shelves. By coincidence, El Norteno Jerky was one of the vendors that day.

What first intrigued me was the difference between El Norteno and other jerky. El Norteno is air dried instead of smoked. The founders of the company had traveled to Northern Mexico and discovered that is how it is done there. Additionally, the jerky included hot sauce. This was one of the most unique things I had seen for jerky!

Another cool thing about the jerky was the branding. Each flavor was named after a member of a conjunto band. These bands play upbeat music. They are actually a mesh between German and Mexican influences. In the 19th Century, Germans settling Texas brought the accordion with them. The Mexican-Americans of Texas adopted this instrument and the rest is history. This jerky is also a reflection of a more modern German-Mexican melding of cultures. I will get into that in a bit.

I gave the jerky a try and decided I really liked it!

Now I was planning on going to HEB and buying some more of this jerky. Another set of coincidences brought me back to the jerky. Victoria and I were driving to College Station to take out engagement pictures. I was hungry and we needed gas, so we stopped at a gas station in Thrall, TX. Lo and behold, I saw some El Norteno jerky!

I looked at the package and it was different. It appeared to be the same jerky and same hot sauce. I confirmed the website was same. I was a bit confused. To add more confusion to the matter, I saw the jerky was actually packaged in Stoughton, WI and not Austin, TX.

Being that I’m originally from Wisconsin, I wanted to know the Wisconsin connection. Justin had given me his card at the rodeo, so I emailed him with a few questions on the jerky. I also saw he had a 608 area code phone number, so I knew his number was local to Madison. What I found was a product that resonated my personal story well.

I was first told about the packaging. What I had discovered was version 1.0 of the packaging. What I saw at the rodeo was version 2.0, which is their current packaging. The newest packaging was actually designed by two brothers in Monterrey, Mexico. The jerky itself is exactly the same and branded the same way. The packaging itself is just more vibrant. I personally think it’s way more catchy and cool looking.

For the Wisconsin connection, I found out that Monet Foods is the parent company of El Norteno. They distribute the jerky. I was told version 1.0’s jerky was made somewhere in Illinois. Version 2.0’s jerky is made in El Campo, TX, which is much more local.

I was told that there are four employees in the El Norteno company. Two of the employees live in Austin and two live in Madison, WI. It’s kind of crazy to think because I have lived in both Madison and currently live in Austin! This is where the story first really resonated with me.

Now the second Wisconsin connection is what really hit home, literally. I told Justin I was originally from Marshfield. He told me he knew Marshfield well and that’s where their beef sticks are made! Now beef sticks are one of my favorite things to eat. I wrote a blog entry on them a while back.

I knew there were only a few places in the little city of Marshfield that made beef sticks so I asked if it was Wenzel’s. Justin was surprised I even knew of the company. The funny thing is in my blog entry about beef sticks in Wisconsin, I specifically bought a pack of Wenzel’s. Wenzel’s is one of my favorite brands of beef sticks!

In many ways my mind is blown with the amount of personal connections this company has. My mind is also blown that I just randomly ran into them while walking around the rodeo. This company based out of Austin, where I currently live. They also have some of their products come from my hometown of Marshfield! The two places I visit the most are right in this product!

In many ways, Wisconsin is USA’s version of Germany. El Norteno’s influences came from Texas and Northern Mexico.  In the whole scheme of things, El Norteno repeated what was done in the 19th century. They melded both German and Mexican influences into meat products! Their products are a modern representation of a Conjunto band!

This product encompasses everything about me. I love jerky and beef sticks. What influenced these tastes were me growing up in Marshfield, WI. I have also come to like the flavors of Austin and Central Texas. El Norteno’s products combine both of these! The fact the company is based in Austin and Madison is also great! I love those two cities and hold them dear (and not to forget Marshfield).

I am really hoping for the continued success of El Norteno. The quality of the product speaks volumes for itself. The fact that it supports the communities I hold dear is also very amazing! This is the reason I am such a huge proponent of local products!

Jerky with hot sauce is such a novel idea. Have you tried it? Specifically, have you tried El Norteno jerky? If not, here is where you can get it.

Additionally, here are some more of El Norteno’s products, including the beef sticks that are made in Marshfield:

Let me know what you think and leave a comment below!

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