It’s a delicious dried meat snack that’s made from big chunks of beef steak, marinated in vinegar and other spices. Various spices can be used to add flavour but the most common include black pepper, coriander and sea salt. The marinated steaks are then hung in a room that circulates air around the pieces to slowly dry them out at ambient temperatures. This keeps biltong soft and tender during the drying process. Once dried, you’re left an air dried steak aka biltong, that can easily be sliced into thin, easy-to-enjoy strips.
At this point, some of you are probably thinking, “Oh, so it’s like beef jerky, right?”.
Well — only in that they’re both dried meats. But otherwise, hell no! Most beef jerky is very processed, where thin strips of meat are covered in artificial sauces and then cooked at high temperatures over a few hours inside drying ovens. To be frank, the team at Barbell Foods have never been beef jerky fans as most commercial jerky is loaded with preservatives, sugars, and other bad stuff. Barbell Biltong is healthier and tastier than beef jerky and contains no preservatives, dairy, gluten, soy or added sugar.
It takes 7 days to dry our biltong to perfection, and no heat is used to cook the meat during this process. This gives it a softer texture and makes it less chewy compared to jerky — it’s a welcome contrast to the often-leathery texture and artificial taste that comes with most commercial jerky on the market.
Just in case you’d missed it earlier, biltong is made from dried beef steaks. By sourcing the healthiest beef possible and avoiding preservatives, our biltong differs from most in that it’s made with a health focus in mind. We use biltong to complement our own lifestyles as the perfect high protein, low carb, real food.
It’s marinated in vinegar and other spices to add flavour and after that, we hang it out to air dry.
During this time, the steaks lose most of their weight from water evaporation. About 3kg of beef is used to make 1kg of biltong. What’s left is a convenient and dense source of protein that tastes great — a biltong steak (more on this below).
Biltong is deliberately made in such a way to discourage mould or bacteria growing on the final product. The lack of water content inside biltong is the main step that prevents it from spoiling but the use of salt, vinegar and other spices also help as they have natural antimicrobial properties. Beef itself is also quite resilient when it’s dried and preserved. However, it is important to make sure it’s handled properly when it’s being packaged to avoid any cross-contamination. If biltong is stored for long periods of time, it’s best to keep it in a zero oxygen environment because the lack of oxygen will prevent mould growth. Here at Barbell Foods, we take every precaution to prevent issues arising with our biltong. We have rigorous quality control and health and safety measures in place to ensure that your biltong is of the best quality when you buy from us.
Early on in our journey as we started to learn about the beef industry, we made a decision that above all else; the welfare of the animals we’re eating and the sustainable nature in which they are farmed must come before profits. Simply put, the success of our business must work to support better farming practices or else we were willing to walk away. We’re proud to have found these suppliers who share our values.
Hewitt Foods is one of the pioneers when it comes to supporting better farming practices in Australia. Their beef is organic, 100% grass-fed and finished and they’re also certified as a LowCO2 business. As we’ve learnt more about the beef industry, we’ve come to believe that regenerative agriculture is the way forward but the challenge we’re now faced with is that there’s no agreed upon framework as to what constitutes regenerative farming. In this regard, Arcadian is leading the way by working towards their Regenerative Organic Certification (ROC) which is an exciting new certification with stringent requirements for soil health, animal welfare, and social fairness. Eco-conscious brands like Patagonia are part of the ROC and the auditing process helps ensure that regenerative agriculture claims are backed by standards that improve the health of the land - which is why we love working with Arcadian.
Australia’s largest organic cattle farming operation, OBE have been at the speartip of organic cattle farming in Australia. Their cattle roam freely on large farmlands and are organic and 100% grass-fed and finished. Their farms are absolutely humongous! Located in the wetlands of central Queensland, OBE’s cattle graze on land larger than the size of Tasmania. Stockmen on motorbikes and horseback; drive cattle onto new, fertile land, where they are left to graze on 250 species of native grasses and herbaceous plants. No fences, with land as far as the eye can see; free from synthetic chemicals, herbicides and pesticides, OBE beef is some of the best in the world.
Regenerative farming principles mimic the natural cycle of nature. Using cattle to stimulate growth and fertilise soil, regenerative farming can put more carbon back into the soil, than is being taken out - a true regenerative cycle. We do our best to source our beef from farmers practising regenerative agriculture and we are behind it in every way we can be.
Kangaroo meat is ethically harvested in the wild and is some of the most nutrient-dense meat available. With the overpopulation of kangaroos placing increasing stress on Australia’s fragile ecosystems, a shift towards eating kangaroo meat will help restore their numbers to sustainable levels.
Indigenous Australians and the early settlers relied on eating kangaroo as a vital source of protein, and it was only recently that eating kangaroo came out of fashion. Now with the loss of natural predators, greater availability of pasture and less hunting pressure, kangaroo population numbers have grown out of control in some areas.
Although they are native, an overabundance of kangaroos threatens biodiversity and degrades forest understory through their competition with our other native species. Many people are surprised to hear that kangaroos aren’t farmed in Australia but instead are harvested from the wild. We believe that if you choose to eat meat, then ethically harvesting from the wild is one of the most humane ways to source it.
Furthermore, population management means that those kangaroos that aren’t harvested will experience less suffering through decreased competition for scarce resources. Sadly it’s not uncommon for millions of kangaroos to starve to death in periods of drought.
The lean meat from kangaroo is considered exceptionally healthy and, being naturally organic, is also high in protein, minerals and vitamins. It has double the amount of iron contained in beef.
Most of the kangaroo meat harvested in Australia is exported, and as such, we’d like to help shift the current cultural perspective on eating kangaroo and hope more Australians see it as our healthy, sustainable resource. If you’re looking to eat meat that is responsibly sourced — both environmentally and ethically — then eating kangaroo meat or beef sourced from regenerative farms is your best option.
We started making meat snacks simply because everything else we found had BS ingredients added to them. We also know that junk food’s a seductive bastard who only leaves you with the taste of regret but you're better than that! When you're on-the-go, a handful of meat sticks or biltong will satisfy those cravings and keep you going strong until your next meal. Whichever path you choose, we hope that Barbell, in some small way, enriches your experience of this strange old universe.