Veteran creates beef jerky brand to help fellow soldiers

Owosso U.S. Marine veteran Gerald Alcorn holds a package of his new product, Dove Creek Wagyu beef jerky, whose proceeds will benefit veterans, Wednesday at the Durand Veterans Memorial Park.

OWOSSO — In a bid to reduce the suicide rate among veterans, local U.S. Marine Corps veteran Gerald Alcorn and a partner are marketing a brand of beef jerky, with proceeds benefiting veterans programs and suicide prevention.

Dove Creek Wagyu is no ordinary beef jerky, Alcorn says. It’s made from Japanese Akaushi, an exclusive breed of Wagyu beef. The product can be purchased at the VG’s grocery store on M-52 in Owosso Township, and 70 other SpartanNash corporate stores throughout Michigan.

Alcorn said it’s the only commercial jerky he’s aware of that uses high-grade Wagyu beef.

“It’s unlike any other beef jerky you’ll ever have,” he said. “The ingredients are pure, with no hormones, and it has a rich, buttery beef flavor. It’s an amazing product.”

The idea came to Alcorn after reading reports on suicide containing troubling statistics. On average, he found out, 22 veterans commit suicide every day, and each death has a long-term effect on more than 100 people. The closer someone is to the suicide, the more likely they are to take their own lives.

More generally, suicide is the 10th leading cause of death for all ages and the second leading cause of death among people aged 10 to 34 in the U.S.

“I come from a long line of military people — two brothers and many cousins, uncles and grandfathers — and I was raised to be patriotic and give back,” Alcorn said. “When I read these studies, I wanted to do something to facilitate good.”

The 58-year-old, who grew up in Flint, served in the U.S. Marines from 1979-87. Following his stint, Alcorn stayed active in military affairs, working his way up through the ranks of the Marine Corps League. He was made commandant for the Department of Michigan Marine Corps League in the mid-2000s, and was named Marine of the Year by the state Marine Corps League in 2005.

For 15 years, Alcorn has served as the Shiawassee County coordinator for the Marine Corps Reserve Toys For Tots. He is a life member of the Marine Corps League, and belongs to the local Harold R. Cooley Detachment No. 841 and a detachment in Flint.

He is also self-employed by G. David and Associates, for which he’s the managing principal of a consortium that helps businesses find cost-saving measures that don’t change their day-to-day operations.

Formerly, he owned the UPS Store in Owosso.

Alcorn’s veteran-jerky project combines his compassion for troubled veterans with his vast business experience.

“I’ve been a serial entrepreneur all my life,” he said, adding: “Everything I do, I try to make the world a better place.”

The beef jerky venture began about a year ago, when a business Alcorn worked with implemented a computer platform for hospitals improving patient outcomes. Alcorn saw that the platform could be customized to address suicide prevention.

Frustrated by red tape in applying for government funding, Alcorn was determined to fund it himself. Enter Wayne and Michelle Johnson, a married couple Alcorn happened to meet in Grand Rapids while he was fundraising for a military unit’s family fun day.

Wayne Johnson, a fifth-generation cattleman from Missouri, told Alcorn about his Dove Creek Cattle Company, which specializes in high-end cattle, producing Akaushi (red Wagyu) beef to exclusive restaurants that charge as much as $150 for a steak.

When Johnson mentioned his latest business angle, making jerky out of trim cuts, Alcorn saw an opportunity to fund the suicide prevention platform and give a share of proceeds to worthy veterans programs.

“I said, if you let us take over repackaging and rebranding the jerky, I will give all my profits to veterans programs and the suicide prevention platform, if you do the same,” Alcorn recalled. The two men shook hands on a deal.

Alcorn created a nonprofit organization called Tango3 for the jerky project, and persuaded SpartanNash, a food distributor and grocery store retailer headquartered in Byron Center, to carry Dove Creek Wagyu in some of its corporate stores.

Then, the coronavirus pandemic hit. Sales of the jerky, which cost $6.99 a packet, are steady, Alcorn said, but because of the virus, currently sample packets can’t be handed out in stores.

“We’ve got a very special offer on case lots of jerky for individuals, businesses, organizations, military units and first responders,” Alcorn said. “This is a great cause. I’m never giving up.”

For more information, email Alcorn at info@tango3.org.

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