Made in South Dakota: Jack Link's in Alpena

Published: May. 17, 2017 at 5:37 AM CDT
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It's no secret, the beef industry is huge in South Dakota, and in 1994 Jack Link's decided to use that to its advantage. Though, who would have thought the company would put its plant in a town of just 265 people? In fact, the plant in Alpena is the largest beef jerky plant in the world.

Jack Link's took over an existing jerky plant in Alpena back in 1994, and today the number of employees more than triples the town's population.

Plant Manager Rick Tebay has been along for the entire ride.

"I am Alpena born and raised. I graduated from Alpena High School with a class of 10. We had a total of 38 students in high school when I graduated," he said.

Since Tebay started in high school, the now 140,000 sq. foot facility has changed quite a bit. In 1999 Jack Link's built a state of the art plant on 78 acres on north side of Alpena. Since then, the jerky plant has continuously added on with the latest addition going on in 2012-2013 making the plant the size it is today.

"Right now we have 853 employees, and we draw from about a 50 mile radius of Alpena with a largest share of them coming from Huron," he said.

The Jack Link's plant is one of seven in the upper Midwest. The company also has three international plants. As Tebay mentioned, the Alpena plant has more than 850 team members and is in the process of hiring more than 100 more. Jack Link's employs roughly 4,000 people worldwide. Alpena is the smallest town where one of these plants is located.

"It really helps the economy in a small town when you have that many jobs in this area," Tebay said.

Tebay is passionate about the beef, and he says beef jerky is creeping up the ladder when it comes to the top salty snacks.

"Lays is number one. We are number five in the salty snacks, so we're gaining momentum, we're coming, gonna get up there," Tebay said.

The Alpena plant produces 800 bags a minute of jerky. If you lined up bags packed last year, the line would go 25,000 miles or one trip around the world!

In 2014 it was named Processor of the Year, by the National Provisioner. The Alpena plant was up against all other plants in the nation.

Jack Link's offers beef, chicken, turkey and pork options with 75 different flavor variations. Jack Link himself does make stops at the Alpena location. Here is a little history of how the brand started:

"While hunting with his family, Jack had the idea to make jerky with his great-grandfather's Old World recipes. Working with his sons they created a jerky that was so good friends and neighbors were always asking for more. At this point they created their first product, Jack Link's Beef Steaks, and began selling it throughout the region," courtesy of

For a history of Jack Link's jerky that started in Minong, Wisconsin, check out the attached link.