MINONG, Wisconsin (KMSP) - Minong, Wisconsin, just two hours northeast of the Twin Cities, is home to just over 500 people but it’s also home to the world leader in a product you may have enjoyed, or at least seen on store shelves.
Jack Links Beef Jerky is an old family recipe passed down through the generations.
“We’ve been at it for probably around 40 years,” said Jack Link. “We just started out small.”
Link started selling jerky out of a van and from those humble beginnings, Jack Link and his son Troy Link have turned their homegrown, family operation into the largest of its kind all around the world.
“We looked up some of grandpa’s recipes and we tried it,” said Jack of the jerky's origins. “It’s 20 below zero on a February morning. When it comes out of the oven it was absolutely delicious, so I said, 'We can sell this.'”
Troy said the company now operates 17 facilities in New Zealand, Europe, Brazil and North America.
Instead of using their own livestock, they buy meat by the slab and begin the processing from there.
Plants like the original in Minong crank out pound after pound of jerky. According to Jack Link, the company produces about 20 semi-truck loads of meat per day, which is about 40,000 pounds per load. Overall, it’s about one million pounds per day.
Jack Links’ worldwide expansion includes new headquarters in downtown Minneapolis at Mayo Square, providing hundreds of jobs in the Twin Cities.
“Our team wanted to be downtown,” said Troy Link. “They wanted to be part of the city and we did as well so we opened up a huge R and D center and we’ve got beautiful new offices. Minneapolis has grown simply because it’s a phenomenal food town. Great talent in Minneapolis. It’s a big enough city, a great airport, great infrastructure, so we’ve invested more and more in Minneapolis because of the great people that are there and the opportunities.”
Among their many clients and charities is the U.S. Military. Jack Links was presented a flag by the U.S. Marine Corps as a result.
Also, some of the world’s biggest names like Donald Trump and Barack Obama.
“Obama also ate a lot of Jack Links too because politicians, I guess, they need protein because they are always on the go,” Troy said.
At it’s roots, this is a small town American success story and the Links know that making it big means giving back.
Their latest contribution in Minong, where Jack and Troy grew up, is a new aquatics and events center for kids and families.
“We’ve never had a swimming pool in the county and so the kids always had to learn to swim in the lake,” said Jack Link. “Besides, the things we do in the community, I think we do it for the community.”
While in the Jack Links community, Jack and Troy Link also warned about the company’s mascot Squatch.
“I haven’t seen him, but I have heard his voice. He’s around, so you gotta watch out,” said Jack Link. “He’s definitely in the north woods and he goes out to the mountains. It depends on the time of year where most of them are. They migrate. It’s proven that they migrate.”
Next time you are out and about, or at a sporting event and see the name, you’ll know where it all began.