These Philly-invented ‘pork shreds’ are better than bacon

Ever wanted to carry pork in your pocket? Now you can.

Danya Henninger / Billy Penn

If you could carry bacon around in your pocket, ready to snack on whenever the craving hit, would you do it? Thanks to a pair of Philly meat entrepreneurs, something very similar now exists.

The new product is a collaboration between Marcos Espinoza of Side Project Jerky and Ari Miller of 1732 Meats.

It’s called “pork shreds” — and it’s delicious.

It’s not actually bacon, since it’s made of pork shoulder and not pork belly, but it’s cured with the same spices as 1732 Meats’ cult-favorite peppercorn flavor. And unlike those cut slabs, it requires no refrigeration and no cooking.

Just tear open a bag, scoop up a handful and pop it in your mouth. You’ll be immediately transported to the land of umami. You may never want to return.

Side Project’s beef jerky, which hit the market back in 2015, is already softer and more pliable than many other brands. But the shreds are even easier to chew.

Danya Henninger / Billy Penn

They can be a slight bit messy, since a few stray bits and pieces may escape your fingers as you grab — the consistency and appearance is a lot like tobacco — but as long as you’re not dressed for the opera, it shouldn’t be an issue.

If you don’t want to just eat ‘em plain, the lil shreddies also make a great topping.

Throw them on avocado toast to blow your (nonvegan) friends’ minds, or scatter on a salad bowl to take it up a notch. Miller likes them sprinkled on oysters.

Espinoza (who, full disclosure, has also contributed freelance stories to Billy Penn) is excited to introduce the project to Philly chefs and see what they make with it, since it’s an entirely novel ingredient.

Where’d it come from in the first place? The tasty invention owes its existence to social media. (See? It’s not all bad.) Espinoza is well known in the Philly food community for his Instagram account, where he posts hilarious photoshop mashups under the handle @fidelgastro. He and Miller, who posts at @1732Meats, became online friends.

“Camilla was my first real media hit!” Miller joked, referring to a YouTube series Espinoza created called featuring his adorable daughter.

The two men first met in person last summer, to try to concoct a collaboration. Miller had been looking for ways to reduce waste in his bacon processing, he said, and while he played around with “bacon bits,” the shreds were a much better end result.

“It took some playing around to get it right for larger production,” Miller said, “which is always the challenge.”

Production of the pork shreds isn’t all that large yet, but Espinoza has a goal of doubling Side Project’s sales this year, up from 23,000 packages sold in 2017. Nearly 70 percent of his product is sold by vendors at airports — you can currently find the jerky at PHL, JFK, Newark and O’Hare, among others. Soon you’ll be able to buy pork shreds most places the jerky is sold.

Locally, they’ll be available soon at boutique groceries like Green Aisle and Riverwards Produce, and they’ll also be sold at the two Manatawny Still Works tasting rooms.

If you don’t want to wait for them to show up on store shelves, no problem. You can order pork shreds online right now for $7.50 a pack.

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