Why Is Beef Jerky So Expensive? Find Out The Top 7 Reasons!


Beef jerky is one of the most popular snacks today. Hikers and outdoor enthusiasts love it! Beef jerky is made by taking select cuts of meat and drying it out in the sun. It’s a simple process that gives it a savory flavor and a chewy texture. Beef jerky can be found in a variety of shapes and flavors. 

You can find it in savory flavors like smoked and peppered, sweet flavors like honey and cinnamon, or in various flavors like chocolate and cherry. However, even with all the options, it is difficult to find affordable beef jerky. The price of beef jerky has been increasing in recent years. In this article, we are going to explain why!

Why Is Beef Jerky So Expensive?

Beef jerky is expensive because it requires a lot of lean beef (over $5 per pound!). Making it is also time-consuming, which results in high labor costs and limited supply. Beef jerky contains a variety of costly preservatives. Processing facilities are not cheap. Procedures and the supermarkets all add a markup to profit. 

  1. Beef is expensive

The key input to make beef jerky is beef. Beef is incredibly expensive compared to other food and even to other types of meat. This is because cattle take 3 years to raise before they can be slaughtered, and each cow needs around 2 acres of land. The cost of owning land and the labor of raising cattle is priced into the cost of beef. Cows also eat a lot! It can cost up to $3 per day to feed a cow. As the price of food, labor, and land is always increasing, the price of beef is also shooting up. This results in beef jerky becoming more and more expensive.

See also: Can You Marinate Ground Beef? – Don’t Make This Common Mistake!

It requires a lot of beef to make beef jerky. As beef jerky is dried, all moisture is taken out of the steak. This is why it takes 2.5 pounds of beef to make just 1 pound of beef jerky. So when you compare beef jerky to the price of beef based on weight, beef jerky will always be a lot more expensive.

  1. High labor costs

Beef jerky is very time-consuming to produce. Employees need to spend hours and hours smoking and then drying the meat. They need to be regularly monitoring the beef to ensure the final product is perfect. All of these employees need to be paid a salary. To compensate employees, producers need to price their beef jerky high enough so they can cover wagers. As most beef jerky you eat is made in America, wages will be high due to the strong labor market, high cost of living compared to developing countries, and minimum wage. Wages also slowly increase over time, and beef jerky’s price will also increase. When you are buying a packet of beef jerky, you aren’t just paying for raw ingredients, but you are paying for every employee who works at the company.

  1. Limited supply

It can take days to make a beef jerky because you have to soak it in the marinade, smoke it, and finally dry it. Due to the lengthy making process, companies’ output is limited. To compensate for this limited output, beef jerky producers will charge a premium price. Producers are not able to constantly increase production, so the strong demand for beef jerky can support high prices. If someone invents a way to produce professional beef jerky in half the current time, beef jerky supply will shoot through the roof, quickly exceed the demand and cause a drop in prices. Until this happens, the lack of supply due to time constraints will still allow producers to charge a high price for beef jerky.

See also: Beef from the Sea —What Does Tuna Taste Like?

  1. Contains preservatives

Beef jerky isn’t just beef and water. Beef jerky contains a range of ingredients and preservatives. Check out what Jack Link’s beef jerky contains: 

  • Beef
  • Water
  • Sugar
  • Sea Salt
  • Soy Sauce
  • Corin Protein
  • Yeast Extract
  • Celery Extract
  • Pineapple Powder
  • Beef Stock
  • Citric Acid
  • Maltodextrin

Beef jerky requires huge amounts of these different ingredients to create the marinade, which gives beef jerky that awesome taste. These ingredients are also used to keep the beef jerky fresh and extend its expiration date. This long list of ingredients is not cheap and drives up the price of beef jerky. Beef jerky would not be so expensive if companies could make it with just beef and water.

According to Statista.com, 128.73 million Americans consumed beef jerky in 2021!

  1. Expensive processing facilities

To produce commercial levels of beef jerky, you need to have a huge facility. You also need to have lots of commercial smokers that can cost over $20,000, and you need commercial dehumidifiers, which cost thousands of dollars. Beef jerky producers need to invest millions of dollars in their facilities and equipment and then spend hundreds of thousands and even millions every year to maintain their production capabilities. All of these expenses are added to the price of beef jerky.

See also: Is Wagyu Beef Healthier Than Normal Beef?

So it is not as simple as calculating the cost of beef, marinades, and preservatives and then determining the jerky price. You need to account for all equipment, maintenance, and the facility itself. Running a commercial beef jerky operation is incredibly expensive and requires significant capital. This capital is often debt-financed, and companies are paying interest on their loans which further increases the price of beef jerky.

  1. Beef jerky producer markup

It would be great if beef jerky producers were making incredibly tasty jerky out of the kindness of their hearts, but they are for-profit businesses. For beef jerky producers to continue to make jerky, they need to earn a profit. To earn this profit, they have to charge way more than it costs to make beef jerky because the cost they charge for beef jerky needs to cover all expenses from labor to insurance to equipment to rent and maintenance of the plant. And still, leave enough left over for profit. The producer markup on beef jerky is incredibly large because jack link’s employees can buy 1 pound of beef jerky for just $2, if you buy pound retail expect to pay over $15 even when buying in bulk!

  1. Supermarket markup

Supermarkets need to make a profit. The way supermarkets make a profit is by buying from suppliers at price X and selling to you at price Y. They run calculations to determine what price they need to sell a good at to break even and profit. They then study the market and come up with a price that product demand will support. Ideally, they want to charge as much as possible. With a product like beef jerky, supermarkets can charge markups as high as 300%! While this may seem like a very high markup, supermarkets have huge expenses, including logistics, labor, spoiled food, insurance, and more! You can save a lot of money by buying beef jerky in bulk directly from the producer. This way, you avoid the supermarket’s markup.

See also: Is Wagyu Beef Raising Ethical or Inhumane?

So, to sum up, here are the 7 main reasons why beef jerky is so expensive:

  1. Beef is expensive
  2. High labor costs
  3. Limited supply
  4. Contains preservatives
  5. Expensive processing facilities
  6. Beef jerky producer markup
  7. Supermarket markup

Is Beef Jerky Worth the Price?

Beef jerky is worth the price if you are looking for a snack that has protein, healthy fats, and is high in minerals like iron and zinc. However, if you are on a budget, you are better off buying other types of processed meat such as bacon.

Beef jerky is pricey and not very filling. It is also very salty and can quickly become boring to eat. However, if you love the taste of beef and love salty dried meats, then beef jerky is worth trying.

Is Making Beef Jerky Cheaper Than Buying It?

It is far cheaper to make your own beef jerky than buy it from the store. You can save $5 on every 18oz (510g) of beef jerky made. This is because store-bought beef jerky has a markup from the producer and another markup from the supermarket. 

Beef jerky producers and supermarkets need to make a profit. To achieve a profit, they jack up the prices of beef jerky way above the production cost of beef jerky. You can save $5 on every 18oz (510g) of beef jerky by avoiding these markups and making your beef jerky.

Homemade beef jerky is incredibly easy to make. All you need is some flank steak and a few condiments for your marinade. We like soy sauce, black pepper, and Worcestershire sauce. Then just buy a dehydrator at any department store and create your own texture and flavor combinations. If you are ready to ake your own beef jerky, check out this useful video guide on how to make beef jerky in the oven:

Beef Jerky Nutrition Facts

Beef jerky is a popular and healthy snack loaded with protein, fiber, vitamins, and antioxidants. High-protein foods help with weight loss, muscle recovery, and overall health. The fiber in beef jerky helps you feel full longer so that you don’t overeat. Beef jerky is a good source of vitamins and minerals, including vitamin B12. Beef jerky also contains several antioxidants, including selenium, niacin, vitamins A, E, and C. Not only is beef jerky a great source of protein, but it’s also packed with other nutrients, too.

See also: What Does Wagyu Beef Taste and Smell Like?

What does beef jerky taste like? Beef jerky has a distinct tangy and salty taste, with hints of sweetness and spiciness. Beef jerky tastes similar to beef sausage. Beef jerky also smells like beef, so some people may find that it smells a bit gamey.

Beef jerky can be eaten by itself, or you can top it with various things like fruit jam, cayenne pepper, or honey mustard. The best part about eating beef jerky is that you don’t need utensils. You can easily take it out of the bag and eat it with your hands!

Conclusion

Beef jerky is one of the most popular snacks in America and also one of the most expensive. It is so pricey because the cost of beef continues to rise, and it is labor-intensive. The average price of beef jerky is now over $2 per ounce! But if you’re on a budget, you can swap out your beef jerky for turkey jerky or even make your own beef jerky at home!

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