Why is Beef Jerky So Expensive? Getting to the Truth!

April 25, 2023
Written by Kristy J. Norton

Beef jerky is pricey due to the rising cost of beef, production costs, increase in demand, gourmet flavors, and more!

While working in fast paced kitchens, I used to often turn to beef jerky to keep my levels up. I have noticed that it has become increasingly expensive and I did some research to find out the reason.

If you have ever asked why is beef jerky so expensive, then this is the post with the answers for you. I have included a great recipe too!

Why is Beef Jerky So Expensive

Causes of High Beef Jerky Prices

Here are the main reasons that beef jerky costs quite so much:

Dried Meat Beef Jerky

Rising Cost of Beef

If you have been grocery shopping recently, then you will have realized that beef prices are far higher than they have been before.

There are actually a lot of factors that come into play here.

One of the biggest reasons for this has been the increase in fuel prices. When it comes to the production of beef jerky, fuel plays an important role at every turn. This is because it is required to transport everything from feed for the cattle to taking beef to the jerky manufacturers.

There is also the fact that animal feed has gone up in price. To add to this, consumers are becoming concerned with exactly what it is that cows are fed.

This has led to a greater number of farmers and ranchers providing their cattle with high grade, expensive food. This means that it costs more to feed the cows that eventually become jerky.

In some areas, labor costs have gone up as well and this is a cost that the jerky manufacturers have to bear.

The short answer, though, is that because the cost of beef has gone up, production costs for beef jerky have gone up as well. This has translated to more expensive beef jerky.

Higher Quality Beef Jerky

As consumers have become more informed, they have also become pickier. These days, people only want the highest quality of meat to be used in their jerky.

This is why you are more likely to find grass fed beef, organic meat, and other such options. It costs more to raise these cattle as farmers have to meet specific food and environmental conditions.

Due to this, they will automatically charge more for the beef jerky.

People also want high quality beef jerky. This means jerky that is made from more expensive cuts and grades of meat. Therefore, it is not unusual to find premium raw meat used for beef jerky.

Since these cuts can cost a pretty penny it is naturally going to be reflected in the price of beef jerky.

Beef Jerky is Made from Expensive Lean Beef

High quality beef jerky is traditionally made using lean beef. Fat in meat can make the beef jerky go rancid.

As such, by using lean cuts, manufacturers can make beef jerky last longer on the shelves and in your pantry.

The only problem is that lean meat tends to be more expensive. As there is more meat per pound, butchers and farmers charge more for it.

Beef Shrinks When Making Beef Jerky

One of the key elements of the beef jerky production process is that it is dehydrated.

During the dehydration process, all the liquid in the meat is removed. This causes the beef jerky to shrink into smaller strips. Due to this, a greater amount of meat is required to make a certain amount of jerky.

The more beef that is required for a particular amount of jerky, the higher the beef jerky cost.

Person Chopping Beef

Beef Jerky Production is Labor Intensive

The thing is, mass producing beef jerky is no easy task. It has to first be cut into precise, thin slices.

Then, the meat has to be kept in a brine for an extended period of time. If the flavor is being added to the beef jerky, then it must be placed in a marinade for a long time too.

The next step of the process is to dehydrate beef jerky. This, too, can take a long time to complete.

From start to finish, making jerky can take a couple of days – sometimes a little bit longer if the company is using special processes.

This means that the entire factory has to remain running during this time. This adds to production costs not even including utilities that are required to keep the factory going.

You also have to have people watch over the jerky and tend to it as needed. This means additional wages.

You must also keep in mind that beef jerky manufacturers have to maintain very high health and hygiene standards inside their production centers.

Failure to abide by strict codes and rules can result in the mass spread of foodborne illness. The technology, resources, and ingredients required to adhere to these standards can also cost a great deal of money.

Beef Jerky is Getting Fancier

It isn’t just that people are demanding better quality beef jerky, it is also that they require better and more exotic flavors.

From hickory smoked beef jerky to jerky flavored with truffles, chile, and more, manufacturers are spending more money on making their beef jerky taste good.

These premium flavors are resulting in premium price tags.

Beef Jerky Packaging Costs Are High

People often joke that beef jerky is the kind of food that can survive a nuclear explosion. Now, part of the reason that jerky is so shelf stable is due to the brining and dehydration process.

However, the packaging plays a pretty important role as well. You may have noticed that beef jerky packaging is made from thick and sturdy material. This is so that it isn’t easily pierced or damaged.

After all, if the packaging is compromised then so is the jerky.

These days, most jerky comes in resealable packaging and this can add to the reason why is beef jerky so expensive.

There is High Demand

It is estimated that around 50 percent of the US population eats beef jerky on a regular basis. This amounts to about 160 million individuals in North America alone.

And, it appears that jerky is simply becoming more and more popular. Due to the widespread adoption of keto and paleo diets, people are turning to beef jerky as a nutritious snack.

What’s more, beef jerky is becoming popular all over the world, including in Europe. This means that prices are going to continue to rise over the next few years.

How to Get Cheap Jerky?

The easiest way to get affordable beef jerky is to make it yourself. I know that this can seem like a daunting experience but it is actually easier than you might imagine!

Not only is making homemade beef jerky less expensive, it is also a lot healthier for you too. Most beef jerky brands tend to be very high in sodium. Therefore, you have to be careful about how much you eat.

When you make your own, though, you are in complete control over all the ingredients that you include. This means that you will only use ingredients in amounts that are good for you.

What’s more, you skip all those nasty additives that are typically used in commercially produced jerky as well.

Beef Jerky

Do You Need a Dehydrator to Make Beef Jerky?

No, you don’t! A dehydrator can make this process easier for you but you don’t actually need one to prepare your own jerky.

As long as you have an oven, you should be able to mimic the dehydration process beautifully.

What Kind of Cut Should You Use for Jerky?

Technically, you can use any kind of cut as you want, even rump roast. As I mentioned earlier, though, the leaner the meat, the better the jerky.

A flank steak will produce the best quality jerky as it is one of the leanest cuts, but I know that it can be a rather pricey option. If you want to make cheap jerky, the eye of round, top round or bottom round should be your top options.

Beef Jerky Recipe


  • 1lb. of beef
  • 1/4 cup of low sodium soy sauce
  • 1 tbs. of Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp. of freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. of kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp. of onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp. of liquid smoke
  • 1/4 tsp. of garlic powder


Step 1

Slice the beef into thin strips – the thinner they are, the better.

If you would like jerky that is a bit more tender, then make sure to slice the meat against the grain. In case you would prefer a bit more chew to it, slice it with the grain.

To make it easier to slice the beef, keep the meat in the freezer for about half an hour. This way, it will firm up and allow you to cut thinner slices.

Step 2

Combine the rest of the ingredients in a bowl.

Place the strips of beef in a large Ziploc bag. Then pour in the marinade.

Seal the bag and make sure that the meat is evenly coated.

Place in the refrigerator and keep for at least an hour. For maximum flavor, let the marinade set in for a whole day.

Step 3

Preheat the oven to 175 degrees F.

Line the baking sheets with aluminum foil. Place the strips of beef on the trays. Make sure that the meat is in a single layer and that the meat doesn’t overlap each other.

Step 4

Place the trays on the middle and lower racks, leaving the uppermost one free.

Cook for at least 4 hours or until the jerky is firm but still bendy.

If you have cut thicker slices, then you will likely have to cook the jerky for longer.

Make sure to flip the jerky at the halfway point.

Take the beef jerky out of the oven and let cool.

What Kind of Seasonings Can Use for the Jerky Making Process?

This is the beauty of making your own jerky. Your flavor options are endless. It is up to you to choose what you want to add to the marinade.

Some like to add some smoked paprika, while others prefer a sweeter option, and like to throw in some maple syrup.

If you like spice, then you can also use other kinds of pepper and chili powder.

The one ingredient that I would advise you to stick with is the liquid smoke, though. It makes all the difference and gets your jerky to taste like it has been smoked.

How Long Can You Store Homemade Jerky For?

Since you are skipping the additives and not using a dehydrator, your beef jerky will not last as long as the store bought version. You should also store the jerky in the refrigerator in an airtight container.

Keep the jerky sealed and you should be able to keep it for up to a month, provided that you don’t eat it all!

Homemade Dried Beef Jerky

Related Reading

Wrapping It Up

There you have it – your answers to why is beef jerky so expensive! As you can see, there are a lot of different factors here and it would appear that the cost of beef jerky is only going to continue to rise.

The good news for you is that I have included a jerky recipe for you here. You can now make your very own batch at home and save yourself a pretty penny. Not to mention, your jerky will be a lot healthier too!

By Kristy J. Norton
I'm Kristy – a chef and connoisseur of all things BBQ! You can find me either in my kitchen (or someone else's) or at a big outdoor barbecue surrounded by friends and family. In both my professional and personal life I’ve picked up more than a few tips and tricks for turning out delicious food. I consider it a privilege to share it with others!
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