Forget the knife and fork. Tucsonan John Rooney wants you to dive into your meat by unwrapping a bar.

Rooney’s DNX Foods has created meat bars — 1.5 ounces of a portable protein made with grass-fed beef, bison and free-range chicken.

“We deliver protein in the way nature intended, through meat,” Rooney said.

DNX meat bars launched a couple years ago and were mostly sold in the Pacific Northwest, Northern California and online through Amazon and the DNX website. Now they’re making their mark nationally with the help of Sprouts Farmers Market.

DNX Bars are being sold in Sprouts’ 300 U.S. locations, including six in the Tucson area. The bars retail for about $3 each.

Rooney, 55, has been focused on living a healthy, active lifestyle for the past five years, but when he first decided to change his unhealthy ways, he had no idea what he was doing.

Breakfast was sugar-laden Frosted Flakes cereal, which he considered low-fat, and he was shooting for 10 grams of fat a day. After consulting his Crossfit instructor, Rooney realized a low-fat diet was a fad.

Rooney began following a lifestyle he said many Crossfit trainees follow — Paleo. The Paleo diet, also known as the caveman diet, is focused on grass-fed proteins, seafood, fruits, vegetables, eggs, nuts and healthy oils.

Rooney knew he wanted his meat bars to be a product Paleo followers could enjoy, but when he was first approached by a bison-ranching couple in Montana, he didn’t know the first thing about turning meat into an energy bar.

“It was something I was super interested in. It was part of my lifestyle,” Rooney said.

Before entering the meat-bar market, Rooney was in the tech industry, starting three companies. He had the skills and years of experience needed to run a business; all he had to do was create a product, albeit one unlike any he had created before.

It took him nine months, Rooney said, before he struck on the perfect combination of meats, fruits and other ingredients, including sweet potatoes and goji berries.

Wholesome ingredients like grass-fed meat, free-range chicken and organic produce are what make up the DNX meat bars, produced in Missouri, Rooney said.

Free-range chicken, Jamaican-style grass-fed bison, and fennel sweet potato grass-fed beef are only a few of the bars available.

Drawn to the bars’ nutritional value and flavor profiles, Tucson’s Time Market has been selling DNX Bars for almost a year, said grocery manager Eddie Dick.

“The proteins in his bars are really high because he fortifies them with egg whites,” Dick said. “The two that have done the best are the Mexican-style and Jamaican-style.”

Nowadays, it’s hard for people to know exactly what is inside the food they eat, which is why Rooney says he uses clean, simple ingredients in DNX bars.

“Our goal is to provide healthy snacks and honest, factual information,” he said.

DNX meat bars aren’t the only meat bars on the market. There are several companies with similar bars, including Epic, which was acquired by food-industry giant General Mills in 2016.

Rooney said DNX meat bars are different from others because they are nutrient-dense macro bars with equal parts fat, protein and carbs — creating a well-rounded meal to go.

“You could live off our bars,” Rooney said.

Rooney is focused on working with Sprouts on a promotional campaign that will include demos at Sprouts locations.

By the end of the year, Rooney hopes to have expanded into 1,000 more retailers.

Elena Gonzalez is a University of Arizona journalism student who is an apprentice at the Star. Contact her at starapprentice@tucson.com