Tech Meets Texas BBQ: How ‘Modern Meat Science’ Became the Secret Ingredient in H-E-B Exclusive Sausage Line

Fort Worth’s Standard Meat Co. partnered with Austin’s Hardcore Carnivore and “total meat nerd" Jess Pryles to craft a sausage that’s rooted in tradition and optimized through technology. Last year, the Cowtown company acquired a Denton County sausage maker and invested in plant-based meat startup Nowadays.

In Texas, where barbecue is more than food—it’s a way of life—two companies set out to create an exclusive sausage line for retail giant H-E-B.

Fort Worth’s Standard Meat Co., an expert in meat science, food safety and quality assurance, culinary trends, purchasing, and packaging, partnered with Austin’s Hardcore Carnivore, a brand known for its meat seasonings, to craft a product that’s rooted in tasty tradition and optimized through technology.

Jess Pryles created Hardcore Carnivore in 2015 with the launch of her Black spice seasoning blend. The Hardcore Carnivore seasoning line includes a variety of rubs, including Red for chicken and pork, and Amplify, a savory boosting powder.

Pryles is a renowned live-fire cook, author, and self-proclaimed “total meat nerd.”

Hardcore Carnivore’s Jess Pryles, above, and sausage partner Ashli Rosenthal Blumenfeld, co-president of Standard Meat Company, are part of a wave of female leadership in a traditionally male-dominated sector. [Photo: Ben Yanto/Hardcore Carnivore]

“Creating these sausages was the next logical step for the Hardcore Carnivore brand,” Pryles said in a statement. “All the flavors are designed to recognize and honor different aspects of Texas heritage, which is important for us at Hardcore Carnivore, and also important for H-E-B, a company with such a strong connection to their own Texas heritage.”

Pryles said that when she learned of the opportunity to create a Hardcore Carnivore sausage line exclusively for H-E-B, she was eager to get to work honoring Texas meat heritage with perfectly seasoned sausages.

Born and raised in Melbourne, Australia, Pryles now lives in Austin.

She was determined to honor the use of real hardwood smoke on her sausages, not bottled smoke flavor, but that presented a technical challenge, she said.

A match made in meat

Pryles needed to pair her live-fire roots with innovative meat science solutions. The answer: Fort Worth’s Standard Meat Co.

“I had a relationship with Ashli (Rosenthal Blumenfeld, Standard Meat Co. co-president) as fellow meat industry businesswomen,” Pryles said in a statement. “So when this project came about, I knew I had the right people to help me bring it to life.”

Ashli Rosenthal Blumenfeld teamed up with Pryles to bring Standard Meat Company’s nearly nine decades of meat science expertise to create the “perfect smoked sausages” for H-E-B. [Photo: Standard Meat Company]

Blumenfeld said teaming up with Pryles was a natural move.

“Helping Jess achieve her culinary vision for these heritage-inspired sausages was a dream project for us,” Blumenfeld said. “At Standard Meat, we understand tradition. My great-grandfather, Ben Rosenthal, started this company in 1935, and we’re still family-owned and operated. We honor our heritage today the same way he did back then — by seeking out creative, innovative solutions for each customer’s unique needs.”

Blumenfeld runs the company with her brother Ben Rosenthal, co-president and CEO of Standard Meat Company.

Pryles said that Standard Meat’s willingness to support innovation and really work with her helped get the project off the ground.

“When I said that we need to use real hardwood smoke, they figured out a way to do that,” she said. 

Relentless pursuit of perfect sausages

Next came two years of what Pryles called a relentless pursuit to create the perfect smoked sausages.

“I am so excited to finally share our new product, available exclusively at H-E-B stores across Texas,” she said.

The Hardcore Carnivore premium sausages are certified GO TEXAN by the Texas Department of Agriculture, and feature gluten free ingredients, natural casings, and of course, a real hardwood smoked finish, the company said.

The sausages are available in four varieties: Tex Mex, Beef (with Beef Brisket), Jalapeño Cheddar, and Prime Rib flavor (with Beef Prime Rib).

“To be able to bring my first protein products to market with a family that has such incredible involvement in the history of Texas meat means so much to me,” Pryles said. “Imagine walking into the Fort Worth Stockyards — a legendary location — and getting to work with an innovative meat company that is headquartered at that very place. It doesn’t get more Texan than working with the Rosenthal family right in the home of Texas beef.”

Bringing tech and innovation to meat industry 

Standard Meat Co. is known for its cutting-edge solutions in beef, pork, and poultry processing, packaging, and cooking.

For many years, the company’s headquarters was a fixture in downtown Fort Worth near the stockyards. But just before the onset of the pandemic, the company relocated to a site deeply rooted in historical significance—the former Swift & Co. Office Building on Fort Worth’s Exchange Ave. Built in 1902, the location harkens back to its time as a for numerous large-scale meatpacking facilities.

An acknowledged innovator in the industry, when designing its plants, Standard Meat turned to Iceland-based Marel, a global leader in advanced equipment and systems for the fish-processing industry, according to the company website. Standard Meat said it was the first to apply Marel’s fish-processing technology to meat processing. 

That technology helps reduce costs, saves time, and increases yields while providing ergonomic working conditions for company employees, it noted. The company also uses programmable water-jet trimming and portioning that expands its custom-cutting capabilities; advanced inventory technology that provides full traceability from receipt of raw materials to delivery of packaged products; and chef-inspired cooking technology such as cast-iron searing and sous vide.

The company also expanded into the subscription meal kit market in 2019, which turned out to be a timely move as services like Hello Fresh and Blue Apron surged in popularity during the pandemic, according to the Fort Worth Report.

Investments include plant-based meat company Nowadays

Standard Meat Co. had a busy year in 2022, naming company veteran Tom Allen as chief operating officer to oversee all company operations, and it acquired Syracuse Sausage in the small Denton County town of Ponder.

With an eye toward other protein offerings, the company also took part in a $7 million seed round funding of plant-based meat company Nowadays.

“We are constantly looking ahead to the future, bringing innovation to every aspect of our business. Today, that means investing in and supporting Nowadays and their plant-based meats that will deliver the nutritional benefits flexitarians are craving,” Standard Meat CEO & Co-President Ben Rosenthal said at the time

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