Ryan Turri grabs a few ice cubes, plops them in a tumbler, and then pours a healthy amount of whiskey into the glass. It’s a weekday evening and he’s relaxing in the library of a San Francisco mansion that he rents along with several friends. Turri used to work for Credit Suisse, pushing IPOs to hedge funds and mutual funds. Today he’s trying to build a homemade beef jerky empire. “I really wanted to do something that I didn’t know that much about and that was different and challenging,” Turri says, taking a pull on his whiskey, while the Golden Gate Bridge fills the window behind him. “I definitely got that with beef jerky.”
Turri, 30, has been on something of a beef jerky odyssey. He wants to make all-natural jerky free of the preservatives found in your typical, gas station fare. That means no little plastic pouch at the bottom to keep out the moisture, and it means solving a host of chemistry problems and clearing lots of additional government regulations. This is the story of Turri’s jerky and just how hard it is to sell some dried beef in 2012 America.