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How Safe is Jerky? Homemade vs. Commercial


For those making homemade jerky, you’re probably very careful about the process. But have you ever wondered about the quality or safety of eating commercially prepared jerky? Jerky made from wild game?

If you haven’t thought about these questions, you may want to take a few moments to see what the US Department of Agriculture has to say.

Wild Game vs Store Bought Meat

Here in Texas everyone hunts or knows someone that hunts. And, wild game jerky – especially venison – is some of the best jerky around. However, before making jerky from wild game, there are considerations since contamination (from fecal matter) is an issue based on the hunter’s ability, location of wound and processing of the carcass afterwards. Concern is also partly due to the fact that game dressed in the field is not refrigerated afterwards – which can lead to bacterial growth.

None of these issues need be a cause for concern when making jerky from beef that is purchased at the grocery store. This beef will have been properly processed and have a ‘purchase by’ date shown for freshness.

Commercial Jerky

Commercially sold jerky is overseen by the federal government’s Food Safety and Inspection Service. This jerky may be smoked or unsmoked; cured or uncured, air or oven dried. The packaging of commercial jerky is also controlled where the labeling indicates how the jerky was processed.

The following designations are the most commonly found on commercially processed jerky (1):

  • Beef Jerky – made from a single piece of meat.
  • Beef Jerky Chunked & Formed – made from bits of meat that have been molded then cut into strips.
  • Beef Jerky Ground and Formed (or Chopped and Formed) – made from ground/chopped meat that has been molded and cut into strips.
  • Jerky Sausage – product has been chopped, dried at any state of the process and then stuffed into casings.

For any jerky product containing any binder or extender, this information must be shown on the packaging. For example, “Beef and Soy Protein Concentrate Jerky, Ground and Formed”.

Home or Commercial Jerky – Safe Storage Time

General rule is that commercially package jerky can be kept for up to twelve (12) months, homemade jerky can be stored one to two months.(1)

If you have plans to make homemade jerky in the near future, read our post on the Top 5 Jerky Guns  for prices, brief description and user comments.

And,  if you’re looking for good seasonings- read our post on the Top 5 Jerky Seasonings for ratings and customer comments.




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