Updated November 2021
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Buying guide for best meat sticks

Meat sticks offer a hearty alternative in a snack food market dominated by sugar and empty calories. They give health-conscious consumers more mindful options when hunger strikes.

Meat sticks are packed with protein, so they satisfy your hunger in a way that chips and popcorn simply can’t. What’s more, they provide your body with long-term fuel instead of the short-term sugar rush that cookies or candy bars offer. Some meat sticks even meet the nutritional requirements set by popular low-carb diets. Many don’t require refrigeration, so they’re easy to toss in a backpack, gym bag, or purse. 

Not every meat stick packs the same nutritional punch, however. Some have a higher protein content, while others may be loaded with fillers. A higher fat content is desirable in some diets but derails other plans. Meat sticks that are high in sodium may be harmful to snackers with specific health conditions.

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Even sedentary men should consume 56 grams of protein per day. Sedentary women need at least 46 grams. Active adults may require even higher protein intake.

Key considerations

Meat options

The inclusive term “meat stick” means that a snack may contain a variety of ground animal products. Originally, meat sticks were almost exclusively made from beef. Today, meat sticks can include anything from common turkey and chicken to exotic fare like pheasant, ostrich, or buffalo. These combinations offer varied flavors as well as different nutritional compositions.

Beef: These are the classic meat sticks. They pack more protein than turkey, pork, and many other types of meat, anywhere from 5 to 9 grams per ounce, depending on the cut. But they owe much of their tempting flavor to their higher fat content, ranging from 6 to 9 grams per ounce, depending on the cut. 

Chicken: Protein content in meat sticks made from chicken rivals or exceeds that in sticks made from beef, ranging from 7 to a whopping 15 grams per ounce. Their fat content is significantly lower at only 2 to 4 grams per ounce. They’re so naturally lean, in fact, that they may need additional ingredients to create an appealing taste and texture. Check the label to make sure you find any added ingredients acceptable. 

Turkey: These meat sticks are similar to chicken in nutritional value, but most turkey sticks have slightly higher fat and lower protein content. 

Pork: These meat sticks also contain 6 to 9 grams of protein per ounce but have a higher fat content, too, roughly 4 to 8 grams per ounce. But these higher-fat options are a staple in the keto and some other low-carb diets. Pork may also be added to leaner meats in combo meat sticks to improve flavor and texture. 

Game: Meat sticks made with wild game like bison, alligator, and ostrich vary in nutritional content. Most contain similar amounts of protein as pork but are much lower in fat. Some are mixed with other meats to improve texture; others are packaged as is in order to showcase their exotic flavors. 

Combination: These meat sticks mix a variety of ground meats to create a specific flavor or texture. Their nutritional value will vary, depending on the blend of meats used. Some use fattier meats to balance a leaner meat’s flavor or texture. These sticks are relatively high in quality and nutritional value. Others blend inexpensive meats to create a lower price point, an indicator that the stick may not be a terribly healthy choice. 

Health or other restrictions

Though they’re considered a healthier snack alternative, meat sticks may not be right for everyone. 

Fat: Those who suffer from gallbladder or pancreas problems must restrict their fat intake. Some experts recommend these individuals avoid foods with 3 grams of fat or more per serving. Additionally, those with high LDL cholesterol levels and heart-related problems are generally advised to limit fat consumption . 

Gluten: Some meat stick recipes use grains as fillers, which can sicken individuals who must avoid gluten. Even grains considered healthy by most, like wheat berries and semolina, can wreak havoc on individuals with celiac disease and other gluten intolerances. If you follow a gluten-free diet, check meat stick labels carefully.  

Sodium: Meat sticks are famous for their high salt content. Most meat sticks contain anywhere from 300 to 500 milligrams of sodium, between 1/8 and 1/4 of the 2,300-milligram recommended daily allowance for healthy adults. Some patients with high blood pressure, heart failure, or kidney disease are advised to limit their daily sodium intake to between 1,500 and 1,800 milligrams per day. If you’ve been advised to follow a reduced- or low-sodium diet, talk to your doctor before adding meat sticks to your snack rotation.

Kosher: Individuals who follow a kosher or halal diet should check labels carefully. Chicken and turkey meat sticks may include small amounts of other meats, too, in order to improve flavor or texture. 

Size: Meat sticks range from 1/2 ounce to over 1 ounce in size. Smaller sizes may be a better choice for little mouths, and may be easier to pack in lunch boxes, too. 

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Did you know?
Eating protein can help you increase your muscle mass and boost your strength.



Most meat sticks come in multipacks, and the more sticks included, the better the value. Varied packaging lends these snacks to different situations.

Bulk: Many meat sticks come in a resealable bag. These packages lend themselves to snacking at home or at the office, since most must be refrigerated after opening. They’re not as easy to take on the go, but they are better for the environment than packs of individually wrapped meat sticks.

Singles: Meat sticks that are individually wrapped are less messy to pack in a lunch bag or eat on the way to practice. They can usually be stored in the pantry for longer periods, since they don’t need to be refrigerated. Individually wrapping multiple sticks does create extra waste, so choose your priority. 

Meat source

Whatever goes into your meat can go into your meat stick, too. Some farms preventatively treat their herds with antibiotics to avoid illness or with hormones to ensure a larger meat harvest. In other cases, the food the animals are given is less than ideal. 

If you find these practices concerning, look for meat sticks labeled as free from hormones and antibiotics. Meat sticks made from grass-fed beef, free-range chicken, or animals that have been given non-GMO feed are usually safer and may have a better taste, too. Nitrates, artificial preservatives, and GMO ingredients can be added as fillers after the fact, so watch for this practice, too. 


Meat sticks are made using a process similar to that used to make sausage, so casings are used to hold most sticks together. These casings are edible and made from collagen, sometimes the same protein as the stick itself. Sometimes, chicken or turkey sticks are made with beef or pork casing, which may be an issue for those who only eat poultry or who avoid pork products for religious reasons. Check the casing material if this is a concern of yours.


Some meat sticks include minimal additives to maximize their natural flavor. Others blend in spices, herbs, and other flavorings to create enticing options. If you’re not keen on the natural taste of beef or chicken, look for options that include pepper, teriyaki, honey, or other ingredients, but make sure you find the source of those ingredients acceptable. 


Beef jerky: People’s Choice Beef Jerky
If jerky is more your style, consider snacking on this beef variety from People’s Choice. These thick-cut beef strips have a texture reminiscent of steak and come in several flavors. Even better, they’re free from preservatives and artificial ingredients.

Ketone test strips: Perfect Keto Ketone Testing Strips
It’s important for those following the keto diet to monitor their ketogenic state. These testing strips give you quick results whether you urinate or dip the strip.

Meat stick prices

Inexpensive: You can find budget packs of meat sticks priced between $0.50 and $0.70 per ounce. At this price range, meat sticks come in resealable pouches but aren’t individually wrapped. You’ll find both beef and combination sticks, but most won’t have any special flavorings. 

Mid-range: The next tier of meat sticks costs $0.75 to around $1.25 per ounce. In this range, you can find sticks made from higher-quality domesticated animals but not wild game. Most will be individually packaged and may be flavored. They may be hormone- and antibiotic-free, but they probably won’t be organic. 

Expensive: You’ll pay $1.50 to $2.00 per ounce for the highest-quality meat sticks, and even more for those made with wild game. If you’re paying this much, you should be getting individually packaged snacks made from animals that have been fed grass, organic, or other quality feed. They should not contain hormones, nitrates, or GMO ingredients. 


  • Check the flavors. Some multi-flavor meat stick packs include duplicates or irregular distribution. If your heart is set on a particular flavor, it might be best to verify or buy a single-flavor pack. 

  • Check ingredients carefully. If you have food allergies, be sure to carefully check the label for surprise ingredients that will hurt rather than improve your health. 

  • Know if the meat sticks require refrigeration. Some meat sticks must be refrigerated. Check the package if you’re ordering for an extended outdoors trip or if you want to keep an emergency pack in your vehicle. 

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If you must restrict sodium for health reasons, talk to your doctor before beginning a low-carb diet.


Q. Are meat sticks and jerky the same thing? 
A. Jerky is typically made from lean meat cuts cooked for long periods at low heat. Jerky starts off with a lower fat content, and what’s left is mostly cooked off, so it’s not as good for diets that require higher lipid levels. The lack of fat and moisture makes jerky hard for some people to chew. Meat sticks, on the other hand, have a casing similar to a sausage, locking in the moisture and fat. Meat sticks’ fat content makes them a better fit for many popular diets. They’re also easier to chew and have a texture many find more appetizing.  

Q. Why must some meat sticks be refrigerated?
A. As customers have grown more label savvy, they’ve also become more aware of and concerned about what goes into their food. Many customers don’t want added preservatives — artificial ingredients that can extend the meat stick’s shelf life and allow for room-temperature storage. As a result, more meat sticks are individually vacuum sealed to keep air out. It’s recommended that sticks that aren’t — and even some that are — be refrigerated for safety. 

Q. Which popular diet plans include meat sticks?  
A. Many meat sticks fit the requirements for Whole30, keto, paleo, gluten-free, and other low-carb diets. Different brands may or may not meet restrictions for specific diets, depending on their ingredients. Check the label to make sure the stick you choose fits with your specific diet, as well as any health concerns you may have. 

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