A Saskatchewan meat and delicatessen shop has produced enough beef jerky to supply Canadian troops serving in Afghanistan with a popular taste from home.
Smokehaus Meats and Deli, in Martensville, Sask., cured enough beef to make 2,500 packages for shipping overseas.
The idea came from a customer who had a son serving in the military, said shop owner Trent Ens on Thursday.
The customer told Ens that a military family newsletter had suggested sending playing cards and beef jerky to loved ones.
That sparked an idea, Ens said. "If we would make a bag of jerky for each Canadian serving there, would they be able to get it to them?" he asked his customer.
'It's just to show them that somebody back home gives a crap about what they're doing there.' —Trent Ens, Smokehaus Meats and Deli
The customer put Ens in touch with military officials, and several phone calls later a plan was in place.
"You need some really, really lean beef," Ens said about the recipe he used. "This is a ground jerky that we made, you grind the spices into it."
In Ens's version, jerky is squeezed through the grinder with an attachment to produce thin strips.
"Then you run it through the smokehouse, where you dry it, smoke it and cook it," Ens said. "Then you take it out and package it in little vacuum bags."
Ens's store produces jerky on a weekly basis, and the additional packages for the military were made during extra shifts by his staff, with his company covering the costs.
"Twenty-five hundred bags is just about a week's production for us," Ens explained. The extra work was spread out among several evenings, a few hours at a time.
Friesen's Meat Processing, in Warman, Sask., also helped with parts of the production. JB's Sausage Maker Supplies, in Regina, donated spices and bags. A Saskatoon trucking company, Rosenau Transport, donated transportation to get the jerky to CFB Trenton in Ontario.
Arrival around mid-July
The work began in March and the lot was shipped to Ontario on Tuesday.
"From there, on either the sixth or seventh of July it goes on a Hercules to some secret airbase in Europe," Ens said.
He was told the European leg of the trip had to be kept a secret. "I told her 'That's fine. I'm not trying to gather intel here, or anything. I'm just trying to ship jerky.'"
From there it will be flown to Kandahar Airfield for distribution to Canadians serving in Afghanistan.
"They told me it's supposed to arrive in theatre on approximately the 11th or 12th," Ens said, noting that it will keep very well.
"That's the nice thing about it, it's shelf-stable," Ens said.
"I think they'll like it. We put a special label on it and everything," Ens said. "It's just to show them that somebody back home gives a crap about what they're doing there."