By Jess Kelsey
Turning an unexpected medical diagnosis into an opportunity to help others, a 2004 Mustang High School graduate has started a beef jerky company centered on raising awareness of Type 1 diabetes.
Mitch Morris, now of Oklahoma City, is the founder of Uptown Jerky Co., which came to be after a twist of fate landed Morris in numerous hospitals being poked, pricked and prodded by numerous doctors unsure of what was causing Morris’s sudden decline in health.
Starting in 2012, Morris kept having painful sensations he initially described as “feeling like a heart attack.” From there, Morris was diagnosed with having panic attacks and was placed on anxiety medication, but the painful sensations kept happening.
“At one point I felt like I was dying,” said Morris who was then taken to the emergency room only to be told he had consumed too much sugar.
Morris, however, was in good physical health and rarely consumed sugar due to his love for athletics.
Morris’s symptoms continued for nine months until a near death experience finally caught the attention of a nurse who recognized a peculiar smell on Morris’s breath.
The smell was a symptom of diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA), a life-threatening complication, and Morris was immediately rushed to an intensive care unit and diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes.
Following his extended stay in the hospital, Morris was sent home on a strict, low carbohydrate diet due to his heightened blood sugar.
Morris’s new diet requirements led him to experimenting in the kitchen, eventually teaching himself how to make his own beef jerky. Morris said beef jerky makes for a great, easy snack to take to work to help keep his diabetic symptoms under control.
“Every night I was in the kitchen making jerky trying to find the best recipe,” said Morris.
Morris said this journey caused him to become close with the butcher at his local grocery store who taught him a wealth of knowledge on the best meats to use for making jerky. Morris also spent many nights researching the best wholesome ingredients void of nitrates or monosodium glutamate to use to make his jerky.
This non-stop experimentation began to attract the attention of family, friends and coworkers who began wanting to try Morris’s jerky.
Soon enough, Morris was getting requests to sell his jerky.
“It was sort of an accidental business at that point,” joked Morris who became overwhelmed with the number of requests he was receiving to make jerky.
With enough interest stirring around his jerky, Morris began exploring the idea of creating his own jerky business. This took him on a long journey filled with ups and downs until he found a manufacture in Kansas that seemed promising. The manufacture believed in Morris’s mission of creating a jerky that had not only exceptional flavor, but was also a healthy, nutritious and affordable product.
The two worked for months trying to get the jerky just right, and Morris even admitted the two were almost on their last attempt before they both walked away from the project. But, another twist of fate delivered the “perfect batch” of jerky.
“My costumers were even telling me that this batch was better than any jerky I had made,” said Morris.
Together, Morris and his manufacture currently produce four beef jerky flavors, including his original recipe, Honey Sriracha, Teri-Okie Jack and Chipotle Lime available online at www.uptownjerky.com and throughout areas in the Oklahoma City metro, including being a featured item on the Local Board at Whiskey Cake in Oklahoma City.
Morris said he can’t believe how well his business has been supported and hopes to eventually open a store front, focusing on not only “providing gourmet jerky, but also to help raise funds for research and to further awareness about diabetes.”
“Jerky was the thing that got me through those first few months following my diagnosis,” said Morris. “I want to continue to have fun with this and use it for good. It’s been a journey.”
According to Morris and his mother, Cynde Morris, the community of Mustang has been an important factor in Morris’s continued success.
“Mitchell’s friends from his senior class and others in the community have totally supported us,” said Cynde Morris.
“Oklahoma, especially Mustang, is a place where people take care of each other,” said Morris.