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The Man Behind Slim Jims Is Dead of COVID

Food scientist Lon Adams developed the secret recipe we know today
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 22, 2020 8:48 AM CST

(Newser) – The name Lon Adams probably doesn't ring a bell, but if you've ever sampled a Slim Jim, you're familiar with his work. Adams was a food scientist for Goodmark Foods who developed the modern recipe for the popular jerky snack, reports the News & Observer of Raleigh, NC. Adams has died at 95 from complications of COVID. As the New York Times explains, Adams didn't invent the Slim Jim, which debuted in 1928, but he began tinkering with the recipe for Goodmark in 1968 and kept on tinkering until his retirement in the early 1990s. The company keeps the formula under wraps, but it gave the Times a peek at the manufacturing process years ago, which involves "beef head meat" (meat from the foreheads and cheeks of cattle), chicken, 30 spices, and "lactic acid 'starter' culture."

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Both stories note something else about Adams, whose job title was director of meat technology: He served in World War II and was shot in the face during the Battle of the Bulge. "The bullet went in under one eye and out on the other side of his face right in front of his ear,” daughter Eleanor Harrington tells the Times. "It’s miraculous that he lived." But survive he did, going on to get his master's in microbiology. And if you're wondering, Adams did not get free Slim Jims for life, son Eric Adams tells the Raleigh newspaper. Though Harrington does recall being a guinea pig of sorts as a child for Slim Jim varieties that never made it to market. "They went through barbecue flavor and Italian seasoning and pizza flavor and lots of different ones," she says. "I did not like them. I think it was all the testing I had to do as a kid." (Read more obituary stories.)

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