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Old 12-07-2003, 01:05 PM
elmwood elmwood is offline
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Why is beef jerky so expensive?

The Subject: line is the question.

Go into any gas station or convenience store, and you'll see the usual assortment of beef jerky. US$7 for four ounces, though? That't about one third the current price of silver. Does making beef jerky really cost that much?

What's really unusual is that you encounter a much broader, larger selection of beef jerky in poorer rural areas; its availability is proportional with the distance of the convenience store from a large city. Do ru'rl folks love beef jerky more than them big city people? Why are they willing to pay so much for it, anyhow?
Old 12-07-2003, 01:11 PM
Ringo Ringo is offline
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Part of the answer is that you're looking at gas station/convenience store prices. My beef jerky connection (a co-worker) brings our supply in from one of those discount places, Sam's perhaps, at $2/4 oz. At Kroger it's $3.50, IIRC.
Old 12-07-2003, 01:47 PM
herman_and_bill herman_and_bill is offline
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When you dehydrate meat you end up with way less than what you started with. I made venison jerky from the loins and ended up with about 5 or 6 baggies of finished product, which was gone in a couple days.
Old 12-07-2003, 02:44 PM
NotBob13 NotBob13 is offline
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what they said.

It has been my experience that rural peoples have more experience with jerkies, due to hunters making thier own, and passing it around to friends/relatives. I haver a friend who prefers the Slim Jim style fattier sausage type jerkies, that his mom makes. I prefer a leaner spicy-sweet strip steak type jerky. And we buy jerky, when we buy it, to reflect our different preferences.
Old 12-07-2003, 06:27 PM
Mr2001 Mr2001 is offline
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At Tidyman's (chain grocery store) I see it for $5 a package, and they have about a dozen different varieties.
Old 12-07-2003, 06:42 PM
papergirl papergirl is offline
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At the Amish stores hereabouts, I buy it by the pound--last time I got it (probably a year ago), I paid about $12/pound.
Not bad pricewise, and it's mighty tasty stuff. I buy a pound each for the boys each Christmas, and I think it's all gone by the next morning.
Old 12-07-2003, 09:43 PM
KP KP is offline
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Also, in my personal experience, you need to use a cut that fairly lean and free of connective tissue to get the product in the commercial strips counter-side strips. A bit of fat isn't nearly as much problem, and can be more savory, but increasing connective tissue can quickly make the problem almost unpalatably chewy. A hunter or Indian, seeking sustenance, would chomp away without hesitation, but a snacking suburbanite wouldn't be very happy.

So why are jerky prices as low as they are? Many reasons:

1) Beef is graded by the entire carcass, not the specific piece;

2) higher USDA grades (select, choice, prime) contain progressively more distributed tissue fat (marbling), not less;

3) "dark beef" [dark maroon vs bright red] is fine to eat, but the darker the color, the lower the grade. You won't see canning or utility grade in the refrigerator case, but you often get it in processed prducts like stews and jerkies;

4) older carcasses are downgraded because they are often tougher;

5) tenderizing meat with enzymes is cheap.

Well, you get the idea. USDA beef grading is heavily skewed towards the standards suited for home-cooked steaks. The finest steak houses age steaks by storing them in conditions you'd never use at home unless you knew what you were doing, because they invite spoilage (e.g. moldy patches are common, but are scraped/trimmed off), while the cheapest steak houses may simply tenderize grades of beef below those in your local steak house, but mighty tasty nonetheless, because "grade" doesn't always equate with flavor, and a little spicing can ensure more uniformity.

Jerky can be made from dark beef your store never offers, even beef you'd never want to cook at home, though they're quite wholesome - it's the pricier aged cuts [still wholesome] that'd scare you. I haven't priced those grades, but I'dbet the market rate was a lot less than supermarket steak, so even after a 75% weight loss from dehydration, and a smaller net market, they make a living.
Old 12-07-2003, 10:02 PM
SunTzu2U SunTzu2U is offline
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If you like jerky you shoud try some pork cracklins, Tasso and boudin here in cajun land. Cracklins are not those lightly fluffed pork cracklins you get from frito-lay but something that looks like deep fried bacon. Tasso is similar to jerky but not dry and boudin well its a delicacy which is hard to describe.
Old 12-07-2003, 10:17 PM
Ringo Ringo is offline
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Thanks for an informative reply KP.
Old 12-07-2003, 11:19 PM
KP KP is offline
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Just to be clear. That's my personal experience in making jerky at home. I am not a professional jerker . er. jerk.. er ... meat handler
Old 12-07-2003, 11:49 PM
PhilAlex PhilAlex is offline
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Location: Hamilton, ON
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Of course, you could get the Ron Popeil Dehydrator and do it yourself.

I was at a convenience store show, and even WHOLESALE, I still could not believe what it costs. Jerky is not as popular in Canada as it is in the US (Whole RACKS in AZ, last time I was there).

The small packages wholesaled for a dollar, and there wasn't even a small handful.

To each his own.
Old 12-08-2003, 12:17 AM
TestMagic TestMagic is offline
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Bottom line--it's expensive because the market will bear that price.

If you look at the other concoctions on the counter of your local convenience store, you'll notice that almost everything else is high-margin--the Lifesavers are essentially pure sugar, the sodas are mostly sugar and water, the snacks are mostly amalgamations of fat, salt, carbohydrates, and perhaps some sugar.

Beef jerky--if you insist on restocking at the local 7/11--is so expensive because it costs more to make than Slim Jims.
Old 12-08-2003, 01:12 AM
Gary T Gary T is offline
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Keeping in mind the 75% loss to dehydration that [b]KP[/] mentioned, that 4 oz. package represents a pound of meat before the jerking process. So at $7/$5/$3.50/$2 a pound, the price isn't as outlandish as it might first appear.
Old 12-08-2003, 01:13 AM
Dr_Paprika Dr_Paprika is offline
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I bought a Ronco dehydrator. I love it. I guess that makes me a jerker. I use good quality meat, usually a few pounds of inside or outside round steak, marinate it, dehydrate, and make a pound or two at a time. The cost of making it at home is much lower, and the product is far better. May I suggest it?
Old 12-08-2003, 12:05 PM
GaryM GaryM is offline
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Yep, make your own. Get a dehydrator and a sharp knife, some spices and you're ready to go.

I've used sliced turkey breast too and made turkey jerkey. It doesn't stay around too long.

I recently bought a vacuum food saver, so next time I'm gong to vacuum pack it.
Old 12-08-2003, 03:00 PM
AskNott AskNott is offline
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"At's why they call it jerky, bub!"
Old 12-08-2003, 06:03 PM
Earl Snake-Hips Tucker Earl Snake-Hips Tucker is offline
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Originally posted by KP
Just to be clear. That's my personal experience in making jerky at home. I am not a professional jerker . er. jerk.. er ... meat handler
But all the same, as I've said before, I trust someone named KP when it comes to kitchen matters.
Old 12-08-2003, 09:02 PM
lk1932 lk1932 is offline
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It takes at least 3 lbs. of lean meat to make one lb. of jerky. 3 lbs. of beef at $3.00 a pound (total $9) will only make 1 lb. or less of jerky, thus the jerky will cost at least $9 for the finished product presuming you make it yourself. You must have a good Dehydrator if you plan on making it yourself. I have two Excelabar dehydrators and each one has 9 15 in. square shelves in it. I can make about 20 lbs. of meat at one time in them. I make a lot of jerky for my neighbor hunters in the fall. The cut of meat is not all that important as long as it is lean and free of all fat as it will all be the same when finished. I have made jerky out of venison, bear, elk, moose caribou, beef, turkey, racoon and God only knows what else.
Old 12-08-2003, 10:57 PM
GaryM GaryM is offline
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Mmmm! Racoon jerky!
Old 12-09-2003, 02:28 AM
susan susan is offline
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CostCo, Oberto jerky (beef or turkey), two 9-oz packages for $9.99 = $.55/oz.

That said, the fancy stuff without preservatives costs a whole lot more at the health food store--but that's not the stuff the OP's talking about.
Old 12-09-2003, 08:11 AM
elmwood elmwood is offline
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Thanks for your answers!
Old 12-09-2003, 09:28 AM
Cheesesteak Cheesesteak is offline
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If you're interested in trying it yourself, you can dry the meat right in your own oven. Put it on really low with the door part way open, lay the prepared meat strips on the grid, and a day later you have jerky!

If there's a reason this is a really bad idea, like spoilage or something, please correct me.
Old 12-09-2003, 04:15 PM
Stan Doubt Stan Doubt is offline
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I have used the method Cheesesteak suggest many times with good results.


Why does store bought jerky have such a strange warning? From memory it is something like:

"This product is for consumer use only and not for sale. This product is made from animals that recieved post-mortem inspection..."

The warning is written in what appears to be asian and arabic symbols as well.


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