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Ohio’s Own: Snack Sticks from Great Lakes Smoked Meats

Miriam Bowers Abbott Miriam Bowers Abbott Ohio’s Own: Snack Sticks from Great Lakes Smoked MeatsPhoto provided by Celebrate Local.
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With the trendiness of low-carb diets, packaged beef sticks have been making a comeback. That is, they’re making comeback — if ever they were trendy. The original prototype Slim Jim snacks were invented in 1929 and have been a fixture in truck stops for generations.

Ohio has its very own version: Great Lakes Meat Snack Sticks out of Lorain. They can be found in a variety of flavors, including Pepperoni Smokie, Savory Swiss Smokie, and Beef & Cheddar Smokie. Just for grins, the flavor variations seemed ideal for a blind taste test: match the smokie chunk to its catchy name. Spoiler alert: there is a difference, but you have to be really, really engaged to distinguish the flavors.

At base, the sticks are pleasantly salty sustenance. They’re more tender and easily chewable than regular beef jerky, as expected and appreciated. The Beef & Cheddar has a stronger cheese sharpness than the milder Savory Swiss Smokie. And the Pepperoni offering is a bit brinier than the other two. Those are the most noticeable differences in the three versions.

All three are, of course, beef products. Even the one called “Savory Swiss.” Beef is the first ingredient in the cheddar stick. A pork and beef combo is listed first in the other two. The rest of the ingredient list is not as horrifying as expected. There are other familiar things like parsley flakes, paprika, maple sugar, and garlic in there too. And then there’s Sodium Polyphosphate. And the label says “sprayed with potassium sorbate.” That’s probably normal for meat sticks, but chemical-sounding.

The company also makes full-size sausages and smokies including kielbasa, chorizo and andouille options. Its house website points out that Great Lakes products lack fillers, and sure enough: while traditional Slim Jims include grains, corn syrup and soy protein in the mix, you won’t find that stuff at all on the Great Lakes ingredient lists.

For more information, visit greatlakessmokedmeats.com.

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