The Great Mike’s Jerky Competition: A New Mexico-Style Beef Jerky Taste Test

Mike's Jerky, New Mexico

GUEST AUTHOR: Craig Mathias

If you: (a) are going to be visiting Albuquerque, New Mexico, and (b) enjoy beef jerky, then Mike’s Jerky, a/k/a Old World Beef Company needs to be on your destination list. Mike’s is near legendary in the jerky world, having even been featured on Travel Channel’s Bizarre Foods: Delicious Destinations. Mike’s is a family-run business with a two retail stores, both in Albuquerque, one of which we visited. There are two walls of jerky featuring more than 20 varieties, many of which are unique to Mike’s. As beef jerky fans ourselves, Mike’s was a must-visit — along with a few other stops as we drove through Albuquerque.

Mike’s Jerky is sliced very thin, with an almost crisp texture and mouthfeel, which is characteristic of Southwestern beef jerky. There’s a clear emphasis on quality, which is obvious in the product. Like all quality beef jerky, it’s not cheap, but the attraction of unusual flavors was overwhelming. We purchased six different varieties of Mike’s Jerky and settled in for an old-fashioned, no-holds-barred taste test. The participants were yours truly, Stephanie and Adam from Road Unraveled, and Donna Mathias, who’s been tolerating me for more than 40 years. Bless her.

New Mexico-style Jerky

Mike's Jerky in Albuquerque, New MexicoAnd so to the jerkies, below in order of increasing spiciness, with a description. Scoring from each of our tasters was on a 1-10 scale (and thus a maximum of 40 points each), with 1 being worst-jerky-ever and 10 being I’d-live-on-this-alone-if-I-could:


This is most similar to what most people think of as beef jerky and is described as “a nice smokey [sic] BBQ flavor” on the label.

Butter Mesquite

Very similar to number one above, the label states (correctly, IMHO) that “butter makes everything better.”

Special Pineapple

This is pretty much what you might think it is, with a “Hawaiian” influence. There’s a definite, pleasant pineapple flavor here.

Green Chile

Hatch Green Chiles are the stuff of legend in New Mexico, and their flavor is, well, wonderful – not too spicy, and central to good Mexican cuisine. The green chile really pops in this product and is, again, not so spicy as to overwhelm the beef itself.


“Christmas” is a New-Mexican term used to describe the combination of green and red chile in a single dish. While most commonly seen as two enchiladas each with one of red and green sauces, in this case the jerky has both peppers. It’s spicier than Green Chile version, but, again, not overwhelmingly so.

Santa Fe

This jerky features habanero peppers, which are distinctly (some might say terminally) hot. We found this one, again, not really all that hot, but it was clearly the spiciest of the bunch.

New Mexico Jerky Taste Test- the results are in!

Stephanie noted that she prefers the thinner style of Mike’s Jerky, mentioning that it’s easier to chew than many other brands. We all preferred the spicier varieties, and, let’s face it: most brands limit themselves to simple smoked and teriyaki versions. It’s pretty safe to assume that if Mike’s Jerky doesn’t have a jerky you like, you probably don’t like beef jerky.

Drum roll, please: our summed final scores are as follows:

  • Christmas 36. Obviously loved by all.
  • Santa Fe 33. Might have been the top scorer had it not been for Christmas.
  • Green Chile 30. Might have been the top scorer had it not been for Santa Fe.
  • Butter Mesquite 27. This is a definite step up from the Mesquite (item one above).
  • Mesquite and Special Pineapple (tie) 22. Obviously, this group had a preference for the spicier varieties, but I assure you these are both pretty good as well.

Of course, your scores might (read: will) vary, as preference is indeed very personal. Regardless, would we like to try all of Mike’s Jerky varieties? I think that’s a safe assumption, but I’d be pretty happy to abscond with a big bag of Mike’s Christmas jerky and something cold to wash it down.

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* From time to time, our travels are directly impacted by a service or company. This post includes our candid review of our experiences at Mike’s Jerky in Albuquerque, New Mexico. We selected this location based on our own research and travel needs; we were not offered and did not receive compensation of any kind from them or any other party in exchange for our review. Learn more about our travel philosophy here.

About The Author:

Craig Mathias is a seasoned world traveler, having visited almost 25 countries on five continents as well as almost all of the United States. Craig’s day job for the past 25 years is working as a technology analyst specializing in wireless networking and mobile computing – hence all that global travel. He is also a published author, columnist, former elected public official, inventor, conference organizer, and popular speaker at a wide variety of events. Craig’s goal is to travel to at least as many countries as his daughter, Stephanie, who is in the lead at the moment.