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DO THEY GET COLD FEET?: Ducks paddle upstream at Third Dam in Logan Canyon. / Photo by Mike Sweeney

Today's word on journalism

Friday, January 20, 2006

Variations on "truthiness":

"Get your facts first, and then you can distort them as much as you please."

-- Mark Twain, author, newspaperman and humorist (1835-1910)

MENTORS WANTED: Media professionals in all fields wanted to serve as email mentors for journalism students. If interested, send email slugged "Mentors" to Ted Pease (


Lewiston's Smoky Ridge Jerky company dreams of national presence

By Sarah Ali

December 5, 2005 | LEWISTON -- New owners of Smoky Ridge Jerky have big plans for the small town jerky shop. Calvin Sharp and Tom North, who recently bought the shop from previous owner Blake Wardell, have been open for about a month and are already brainstorming on ways to expand their business.

"We have the quality to compete nationally, but we just have to jump through all the hoops to be able to get to that point," North said.

The two owners are awaiting USDA certification before they can move on with their plans to increase production and work on growth.

"They basically want us to make everything idiot-proof," North said, in reference to the government inspectors.

A few of the bottlenecks in the jerky process North says lie in the current equipment. The vacuum sealer that they use to package the jerky can only handle a few bags at a time. They are currently working on a deal with another local business, Theurer's Custom Meat, to buy their large vacuum.

Another piece of equipment they hope to attain is another large smoker to replace the two small ones they have that are not as efficient.

"The USDA wants everything automated, the humidity levels, the smoke distribution, things like that -- this would be good because we could regulate better how the product came out," North said.

Since its reopening Smoky Ridge has only been working on custom orders of wild game brought in by hunters. The customers have the choice of seven flavors for their jerky: Teriyaki, BBQ, Peppered, Hot Italian, Cajun, Sweet N'Hot, and Inferno. Sharp and North bought the copyright to the recipes that were used before and are now in the process of quantifying the ingredients.

"Right now we're just eyeballing everything when we season the meat," North said. What North has envisioned for Smoky Ridge is similar to what the fast food industry has accomplished: uniformity.

"We want the jerky to be the same, just like the Big Mac. You can go to any McDonalds in the world and you already know how much it's going to cost you and you know exactly what to expect it to taste like... I want customers to be able to pick up a Smoky Ridge piece of jerky anywhere at anytime and have it always be the best jerky they ever had," North said.

The shop's 12 employees are the same ones who worked under Wardell. "Calvin and I knew nothing about what we were getting into, that's what it was good that we kept the same staff because they already knew how things ran," North said.

According to North, he and Sharp have had inventory and manufacturing experience, the two were able to work with the employees and make production more efficient.

"We are a little more pricey then your average jerky, but we put the time and effort into the work for a better product; real jerky connoisseurs will find us and pay our price willingly."

Sharp, a local of Lewiston, and North, from nearby Preston, Idaho, have known each other for many years. "I used to be Calvin's home teacher when he was a little boy," said North.

Smoky Ridge Jerky is distributed in various locations around the valley: Lee's Market place, Theurer's Market, Macey's, certain gas stations and various Cache Valley High Schools. The individual sticks which are priced at $1.45 each, are ideal gifts or stocking stuffers for those outdoorsy people on your list. For a gift basket with a variety of local products North said that Gossner's makes gift packs with a combination of their cheeses and Smoky Ridge Jerky.


Copyright 1997-2005 Utah State University Department of Journalism & Communication, Logan UT 84322, (435) 797-1000
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