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AC’s Yummy Jerky — Cowboy Style Made in Statesville

Mar 08, 2022 03:25PM ● By Kristie Darling

I didn’t know that craft beef jerky is a thing until I met Alvin and Judy Cape. And, although I’ve seen AC’s Yummy Jerky on counters in convenience stores, and even boutiques, I didn’t realize that this unique, crispy jerky is made right here in Statesville. But now I know. I’ve sampled several flavors…all yummy…bought some so I can snack at home, and I do believe it really is the yummiest jerky I’ve ever had. Really.

A Bit of Background

Americans love jerky. The word is from a South American Quechua word for dried, salted meat. Many believe Incan tribes were making jerky as early as the 1500s, and cowboys throughout the Americas introduced their staple trail food to the rest of us.

The history of AC’s Yummy Jerky is a true success story that’s put their distinctive cowboy-style snack in over 500 convenience stores across North and South Carolina and Virginia. “Jerky and truck driving go hand-in-hand,” said former gas tanker driver Alvin Cape. “It was natural that I got into making jerky at home with a small plastic dehydrator. Over the years, I was making enough to share with family and friends…and they loved it!” 

Alvin’s kitchen hobby turned commercial in 2014 when he moved his jerky operation to his in-laws’ meat processing plant in Statesville. Conveniently, the building was already regularly inspected for producing food products. “I drove the tanker all night, then got into my pick-up and delivered jerky all morning. Afternoons, I made more jerky. I got a little sleep and started all over again.” After just a year working this hard, Alvin quit driving a tanker. “I still work really hard, but it’s a labor of love…we’re in business for ourselves, and that’s very rewarding.”

It was a hard start-up, and Alvin’s in-laws, both in their 80s, supported his efforts 100% and helped out. Judy’s mom, Colleen Huffstickler, still works part-time at the factory packing jerky into bags. At 88, she told me, “It gets me out of bed and gives me something to do.” Judy’s dad worked with them until just a few days before he died in 2016.

Judy is a bookkeeper by training, and the couple met while they both worked for the trucking company. They have three children and two grandkids.

The Cape’s jerky is made in the true cowboy style…thin and crisp, like potato chips. “We get fresh, very lean beef from May’s Meats in Taylorsville and our marinades are proprietary recipes we’ve developed. People ask for the recipes all the time, but we’re keeping those to ourselves,” Judy said with a smile. “Then we freeze the beef and slice it very thin. It’s in the marinade at least 24 hours before it’s put on trays and into our six-foot-tall dehydrators. We process 400 to 500 pounds of beef a week, and it’s delivered or shipped to customers immediately. Chances are, what you buy today was made this morning.”

Why Beef Jerky?

“Why not?” Alvin answered. “It’s the second-most purchased snack in convenience stores, just behind potato chips, and in the top ten snack foods sold at Market Basket stores. Our jerky is high in protein, made without preservatives or chemicals. It’s convenient and doesn’t need refrigeration.” Truck drivers love jerky because, as Alvin explained, “They can eat it out of their shirt pocket.”

AC’s products are keto friendly, and regular flavor is gluten free. “Our grandkids were teethed on jerky,” Judy shared. “A customer from Boone comes in regularly, and she’s lost 100 pounds…snacking on Yummy Jerky. And we’ve heard from cancer patients that our jerky is something they can eat when other foods don’t work for them.”

Backpackers, campers, hunters, golfers, athletes, after-school snackers, first responders, military, astronauts—even pets—love jerky. Dieters and paleo followers keep jerky handy for a quick snack. It’s high protein, low carb, and portable with a long shelf-life. Jerky is ready to eat anytime. It’s beef—America’s go-to favorite meat—prepared like cowboys did back in the day. It tastes great right out of the package. AC’s Yummy Jerky comes in eight flavors: cracked pepper, cowboy BBQ, hot, Cajun, regular, teriyaki, spicy honey BBQ, and Wild West. A new flavor, hot brown sugar bourbon, will be added in March. 

Folks around here needn’t to go far for their jerky. The vintage, re-modeled gas station at 3425  Taylorsville Highway, across from the Sheriff’s Training Facility, is open to the public for jerky shopping from 6 AM to 3 PM, Monday to Thursday. Cutting, slicing, marinading, and dehydrating, take place the rest of the week. The Capes offer a discount to military and first responders in the store, just bring your ID. Fill a gift basket after sampling each flavor, or just stock your pantry and glove box. It’s easy to order online and have shipped to friends, customers, family…anyone who likes a great jerky. Be sure to get your frequent buyer club card for freebies when you shop again!

Like I said earlier, artisan beef jerky is new to me, but Alvin and Judy have introduced me to a delicious snack that’s made by a former truck driver turned entrepreneur in Statesville, and I plan to try every flavor!