Photo courtesy of Big John's Beef Jerky Facebook page
Hardcore beef jerky fans know the struggle of wanting to eat it 24/7, but being held back by one major factor: price.
Sure, $5 here, $7 dollars there, might not seem like a big deal, but if you're like me, you can down that bag of jerky within an hour and still want more. Then you look down at the the bottom of the bag and see that it's about 3 ounces of jerky or less, and think, "Why are 3 ounces worth of food so expensive?"
The main reason jerky is so expensive is because it takes a lot more meat to make it than the 2.7 ounces we see.
Pennsylvania-based Big John's Beef Jerky explained this on its site, as it is a commonly asked question:
The main reason is that all jerky is costly to make. Beef is about 60% water, so when it is dried most of the weight is evaporated. It takes about 2.5 Lbs of quality beef to make 1 Lb of jerky. Secondly, many jerky companies use expensive chemicals and preservatives when making their jerky, and they have a lot of waste just based on how they make it. We use minimal preservatives, especially in our Original and Fiery Hot flavors, and have a unique process that is much more efficient and reduces waste considerably. This saves you money. Finally, ordering directly from us "cuts out the middleman" and allows us to pass the savings directly to you.
So every pound of beef jerky produced, was originally about 2.5 pounds worth of beef.
The owner of Arizona-based Lawless Jerky touched on the subject in a 2014 Reddit thread, confirming Big John's explanation, and adding that cost of labor, cost of beef, packaging, shipping, and even insurance for a production facility all come into play with that relatively high price tag on the shelf.
As owner of an all-natural, grass-fed jerky company, I can give you tons of reasons it's so expensive... here's a few:
1) Requires lots of labor 2) Often deals with lean beef, which is more expensive than pork, chicken, or even beef fat. 3) packaging can be quite expensive. And labels. 4) Insurance and rent at a USDA approved facility.
5) Time: it takes a couple days from start and finish of even a small-batch run. 6) Shrink: Since the beef is mostly water and since you're dehydrating you lose 40-60% of the weight of the meat, further driving up the price. 7) Quality ingredients. For example we import crazy spices from all over the world and use top-quality all natural ingredients.
8) Shipping - getting all the ingredients to your facility and then shipping the jerky around the country is not cheap.
In that same thread, a Reddit user got a little more specific with the type of meat used for beef jerky, saying that jerky is usually made with rump roast, which can often go for about $5.99 a pound.
Photo courtesy of Lawless Jerky Facebook Page
"You buy a bag of jerky that's around 7 bucks because it was once 7 bucks worth of meat and spices," Reddit user cdb3492 said.
In the end, you're basically getting what you pay for. The jerky process isn't easy, and it's usually with good quality meats. You can taste that you're eating something of good quality, too, or else we wouldn't fork over those $7 so willingly.
You win, beef jerky. I'll pay your outrageous fee.