Beef jerky is a great snack.
Its dehydrated properties make it great for hiking, road trips, or even just relaxing on the porch.
Many like to buy beef jerky because of its relatively cheap price.
However, you may have noticed that the price of beef jerky has increased over time.
Considering it’s just dried beef, you may wonder what has caused the price to increase.
Why Is Beef Jerky So Expensive? (10 Reasons)
The average price of jerky is around $8 for a four-ounce pack.
However, you can find some packages of jerky that sell by the pound and can go as high as $16 or even more.
Certain factors like beef costs, lean meat, and labor costs all make beef jerky quite expensive.
Let’s look at these factors in more detail.
1. Drought And Cattle Costs
Beef jerky obviously comes from cows.
As such, certain problems affecting the price of cows also affect the price of beef jerky.
One of those problems is drought.
At first, it may not be clear how drought affects cattle.
However, it can quickly increase the price of any beef products that come from them.
That’s because drought affects feed.
When a drought occurs, the typical crops used for feed are unable to grow.
Farmers will often feed their cattle corn, grass, wheat, and a few other things.
When drought affects those crops, farmers have less to harvest and sell.
As a result, ranchers have to buy more expensive feed to give to their cows.
The supply is lower but demand is still high which results in higher prices.
Since ranchers have to pay more to keep their cows fed, they charge higher prices for the products that come from their cows.
As a result, beef jerky makers have to pay more for beef.
Since they’re taking on higher costs, they’re selling at higher prices to make up for those costs.
Beef jerky is expensive because of the drought impacting cattle feed.
2. Organic Beef
There are two types of beef meat.
You can buy standard beef or you can buy organic beef.
Organic beef comes from a cow that wasn’t given synthetic pesticides or antibiotics.
The result is a “cleaner” cow.
People who have concerns about eating meat that contains antibiotics might prefer organic meat.
As such, some beef jerky makers produce organic beef jerky.
They take their beef from organic cows.
However, the cost of raising organic cows tends to be higher than standard cows.
That’s because using synthetic pesticides, antibiotics, and other solutions is cheap.
They’re cheap ways to keep cows healthy.
When a rancher is raising organic cows, they have to turn to natural methods of keeping them free from parasites, pests, and diseases.
Those methods tend to be more expensive.
Since the rancher takes on higher costs, they sell their organic beef at higher prices.
Organic beef jerky makers then sell at higher prices since they’re taking on higher costs as well.
There’s also the health factor to consider.
Since organic beef jerky seems healthier, it’s automatically considered a more expensive product.
Beef jerky is expensive when it contains organic beef.
3. US Beef
When shopping for beef jerky, you have an assortment of choices.
The location of where the beef came from is one of those choices.
A lot cheaper beef jerky brands will source their meat from China or other countries.
The beef there is cheaper since the cost of living is cheaper.
However, the meat also must travel a long way.
Other beef jerky makers will work with American ranchers to source their beef from US cows.
It’s a point of pride for them since they’re supporting local farmers.
The problem with US beef is that it tends to be quite expensive.
That’s simply because raising cattle in the United States is more expensive.
Ranchers have to pay decent wages, take care of their cows, and take care of other matters related to their business.
Since it costs the beef jerky makers more money to source their beef from US ranchers, they have to sell at higher prices.
Beef jerky is expensive when it uses US beef.
4. Lean Meat
Beef comes in different grades and types.
Beef jerky is lean meat.
This means that there’s very little fat content in it.
The dehydrating process is partly to blame for that.
However, it’s also a deliberate choice to use lean meat to make jerky.
It offers great flavor but also doesn’t contain too many calories.
The problem with lean meat is that it’s one of the more expensive cuts of meat.
Fat can do wonders for a good steak, but if the cut of meat has too much fat, then you’re essentially eating more fat than meat.
That isn’t exactly what you paid for.
As such, you’ll often find that some of the most expensive cuts of meat tend to be lean.
Beef jerky automatically becomes expensive because of its use of lean meat.
If its makers were to use the least expensive cut, then its price would probably be lower.
However, because it can’t have a lot of fat in it, beef jerky has to be made with lean meat.
Beef jerky is expensive because it contains lean meat which is one of the more expensive cuts of beef.
5. Premium Spices
One of the aspects that sets certain beef jerky varieties apart from one another is the spices used in them.
Some beef jerky makers will simply dehydrate the meat, then throw some salt on it and call it done.
They tend to let the flavor of the meat speak for itself.
Others will marinate their beef cuts in premium spices.
Some do so to change the color of the meat.
They might want their meat to look darker or lighter.
They’ll use spices to achieve that effect.
Others will use spices to give their jerky a particular flavor.
Someone who wants to make cajun beef jerky, for example, will use spices associated with cajun flavors.
The problem with using premium spices is that it comes at premium prices.
This is especially true if something is affecting the supply of a certain spice.
It may require the beef jerky maker to spend more on spice than they usually do.
To make up for that cost, they sell at higher prices.
Some beef jerky makers will also use rare spices.
Since it’s more difficult to source that particular spice, they might have to pay an expensive price to acquire it.
They then sell their beef jerky at high prices.
Beef jerky is expensive when it uses premium spices.
You might think that beef jerky is primarily made in a factory.
That’s true to some extent.
Many beef jerky makers will use certain machines to cut the meat to make the process faster.
However, by and large, making beef jerky is a handmade process.
Once the meat is cut, a worker will actually take it and marinate it.
They’ll also hang it on a rack to start the dehydrating process.
While a good portion of making beef jerky is hands-free, it still requires a lot of supervision.
The area needs to be sanitary and clean since they’re making products for human consumption.
They also have to make sure that their dehydrating chamber is working.
Otherwise, they run the risk of allowing bacteria or mold to grow in the meat.
Instead of jerky, they’d end up with a putrid slice of meat.
Because making beef jerky is quite a hands-on experience, it comes at handcrafted prices.
Handcrafting something takes more time.
A machine can perform some tasks quickly, but the result isn’t always the best quality.
Something made by hand has an extra level of care put into it.
However, that also means that beef jerky makers have to pay their workers decent wages.
Since it impacts their labor costs, they sell their jerky at higher prices.
Beef jerky is expensive because a large part of it gets made by hand.
7. Long Cooking Period
Beef jerky also takes a considerable amount of time to make.
When making beef jerky at home, you can sometimes have your jerky ready anywhere between four and six hours.
However, the best jerky is the type that you leave hanging for longer.
Artisans might let their jerky dry for a few days, if not weeks, before packaging it for sale.
The dehydrating process, alone, isn’t what takes a long time either.
Some will let their beef marinate with spices and flavors for a considerable amount of time.
The longer it marinates, the more powerful the flavor.
As such, the process of making beef jerky can take a long time.
When something costs more time to make, it also costs more money.
The company has to pay for energy costs on top of labor wages.
To make sure their time investments are worth it, they have to sell their beef jerky at higher prices.
Beef jerky is expensive because it takes considerable time to make.
8. Expensive Dehydration Process
Dehydrating beef jerky is also expensive.
It involves using certain types of equipment that ensure there isn’t any moisture in the air.
Some beef jerky companies might have a whole room dedicated to this process.
Others might simply hang their meat in a dry basement.
Companies that want to produce beef jerky at a faster rate tend to have some equipment that helps speed up the process.
Buying and running that equipment is also expensive.
It adds more cost to the production of beef jerky.
Since it’s more expensive for them, they charge more for their beef jerky.
Beef jerky is expensive because of its expensive dehydrating process.
9. Lasts A Long Time
Since beef jerky undergoes a dehydrating process, it can last for a long time.
There is not much, if any, moisture within the meat.
As such, it’s difficult for bacteria to grow in the meat.
That makes beef jerky a great snack to take on hikes or on trips where you know you’re not going to have access to a refrigerator.
However, it’s also a reason it’s expensive.
Because beef jerky doesn’t spoil quickly, people can hold onto their packages for a long time.
They don’t have to worry about it spoiling.
Since they can store for it a long time, they don’t have to go out and buy more jerky in case their current jerky goes bad.
This impacts repeat sales.
Since beef jerky makers can’t rely on quick repeat sales, they have to earn as much money as they can on the original sale.
Beef jerky is expensive because it lasts a long time.
10. Rare Flavors
Some beef jerky makers also make rare flavors that you can’t find anywhere else.
They’ll have niche beef jerky products like one that uses cajun flavoring or bourbon flavoring.
These varieties tend to be more expensive because they’re niche.
You can’t get them as easily elsewhere.
The suppliers know that, so they sell their jerky at higher prices.
Beef jerky is expensive when you buy rare flavors.
Beef jerky is a wonderful snack to take on hikes or trips.
However, beef costs, production costs, and rare flavors can make buying beef jerky expensive.