TCS Jerky History

The Beef Jerky That Won The West.

In the beginning, there were blisters. Big ones. But that didn't stop the pioneers who often walked every step of the Oregon Trail. The crazy few who ventured all the way to the shores of the Pacific had sore feet for sure, but also hearty souls. They didn't just put their feet up when they arrived. They got ready for the cold months ahead, building new homes and carving rich pastures out of the green forests where thousands of dairy cattle graze today.

One of the first things the settlers learned was how to dry and cure meat into beef jerky for winter. The ones who taught them were the original Oregonians - the Native Americans indigenous to the area. The name "Tillamook" itself is from the language of the people who lived here before us. Tillamook Country Smoker was founded on this long-standing survival heritage, a true expression of the pioneer spirit that exists today in the hearts of Tillamook people.

Tillamook Country Smokers roots reach back 50 years, when a man named Art Crossley started making his own unique brand of beef jerky. He sold it at his small meat market in Bay City, Oregon, just a few ticks up the road from the town of Tillamook. Before long, Art's flavorful jerky became well known in the area. Word (and meat sticks) traveled fast. Crawford Smith, a longtime friend of Art's and one of the early dairy farmers in Tillamook County, loved the stuff. So did the cows that would often nip it out of his coat pocket.

One day, Crawford's wife, Shirley, predicted that Art's amazing jerky would be a big hit if only more people could taste it. Crawford chewed it over and decided she was right. He then convinced Helen Gienger, a neighboring dairy farmer, to join him and Art in a pioneering business concept: Tillamook Country Smoker.

Like the settlers who came before them they were on the right trail, although it wasn't an easy journey. For years, the business crawled along, eating the dust of competitors. Art, Crawford and Helen fell back on farming income to survive. Their will to succeed, however, kept their fires burning. Art kept cutting and smoking meat, and Crawford kept loading meat sticks in the station wagon and driving the back roads selling them.

Unfortunately, in 1979 Art passed away. His son, Dick Crossley, stepped into his father's boots and brought fresh energy and vigor to the business. Soon, jerky sales started smokin'. The special beef jerky that Art Crossley created in the back of his meat market took off!

Today, Tillamook Country Smoker is a 3rd-generation family business. Natural wood smoked beef jerky is exploding in popularity. Every day, thousands of pounds of our delicious, high quality meat snacks are shipped throughout the world. We have several large smokehouses and many drying rooms packed with row after row of smoked meats. These delicious beef, pepperoni and sausage products end up in local stores, and eventually in the mouths of hungry shoppers who need a bite of energy.

Burly, bearded men with shotguns stand guard over our recipes. Uh, okay, we exaggerate. They don't all have beards. Indeed, our recipes are highly prized. "Competitors are always trying to find out the secret ingredients," says Crawford, "particularly of our Teriyaki Beef Jerky, a product style we invented." In the best pioneer tradition, Tillamook Country Smoker is always striving to create new flavors of jerky. Art Crossley would be proud.

As fast as they're growing, Crawford says he's too busy to think about how big Tillamook Country Smoker will be in the future. "With jerky this good, growth is unlimited," he says. "It just depends on how much we want to take on." Like the pioneers who arrived here 150 years ago, Crawford isn't likely to give up soon. Not when there's new territory to carve into.


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