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Why is Beef Jerky So Expensive? Here's the Answer

Beef jerky is delicious. However, beef jerky is also expensive, meaning that interested individuals have a pay a fair amount for that deliciousness. Unfortunately, there are a number of unavoidable factors that drive up the price of beef jerky. Here are some of the main reasons that beef jerky is so expensive.

Beef Is Expensive

For starters, beef is expensive for a number of reasons. One example would be how beef production uses up more resources than either pork or chicken, which are the main competitors when it comes to meat consumption in the United States. However, it is important to note that beef production is much more resource-intensive, as shown by how it uses up 28 times more land, 6 times more fertilizer, and 11 times more water. Suffice to say that those inputs come at a cost, which in turn, contributes to the price paid by the consumer.

Another example would be the sheer popularity of beef for U.S. consumers. It isn't the single most popular meat in the United States. That would be chicken, which managed to overtake beef in very recent times. However, beef was the single most popular meat in the United States for a very long time before that. Furthermore, it remains very popular in the present time, meaning that there is considerable competition from consumers pushing up the beef prices.

Of course, there are numerous factors that can change beef prices. For example, more and more countries are becoming richer and richer with the result that they are eating more and more meat, thus causing the price of beef as well as other meats to increase throughout the entire world. In contrast, concerns over the increased health risks of eating red meat have caused a lot of consumers to cut down their consumption of beef in preference for healthier options, which is one of the factors responsible for chicken overtaking beef. However, beef remains expensive and is expected to remain expensive in the end because there is a limit to how much these factors that influence its prices barring something rare and unexpected.

Some Cuts of Beef Are More Expensive

There is different demand for the different parts of cattle. For proof, look no further than tripe, which is eaten by a wide range of people in a wide range of countries but tends to be inexpensive in the United States because it is looked down upon in spite of its bland, inoffensive nature. Meanwhile, there are other parts of cattle that are much more prized, so much so that it can be difficult to believe that these different products came from the same animal.

Generally speaking, there are a couple of things that interested individuals should keep in mind when it comes to the different prices for the different cuts of meat. One, the tender cuts are the most expensive cuts. This is based on how much the relevant muscles were used throughout the animal's lifetime as well as the presence of connective tissues that keep the muscles together, which is why the tenderest cuts can be found on the back of cattle. Two, the availability of a particular cut plays an important role in determining its price as well. For instance, the tenderloin is a single muscle situated close to the kidneys. As a result, there is very little tenderloin that can be harvested from a single animal, which when combined with its exceptional tenderness, makes it either the most expensive or one of the most expensive cuts on cattle.

In any case, the important part is that some parts of cattle are more expensive than others, which is a serious issue because beef jerky tends to be made from the more prized and thus more expensive parts. Theoretically, interested individuals can get less expensive beef jerky by going for products made using less expensive cuts. However, it is interesting to note that some of this expense is more or less locked in. Apparently, high fat content is bad for beef jerky production because fat can go rancid over time, meaning that beef jerky producers need to choose leaner but more expensive cuts of beef. They could buy fattier cuts of meat before trimming off the fat, but the extra step in the production process makes it less efficient than just buying lean mean from the very start.

Shrinkage

With that said, the single biggest issue should be the shrinkage. After all, jerky is defined as being meat that has been cut up and then dried for the purpose of preventing spoilage. Since beef is similar to other kinds of meat in that it is about 75 percent water with some variation based on the particular cut of meat as well as other factors, this means that a very large amount of beef results in a very small amount of beef jerky. To be exact, there are figures that say that between 2.5 and 4 pounds of beef goes into making a single pound of beef jerky, meaning that interested individuals are paying for a lot more beef than what they might have expected based on the look of the beef jerky.

Other Costs

Finally, it should be noted that there are a lot of other costs that go into beef jerky production as well. For instance, modern beef jerky tends to be marinated so that the finished product will taste better. However, that marination means a fair amount of time and effort, which is on top of the prices paid for the ingredients of the marinade. Something that can be higher than what consumers might expect if the ingredients include expensive spices shipped in from far-off locations. On top of that, there are costs for everything from preservatives and packaging to the manual labor needed for the production process. Some of these costs can be reduced in various ways without having too much of a negative effect on the finished product. Others, well, suffice to say that people tend to have very strong opinions when they can taste the consequences of cost-cutting.

Allen Lee

Written by Allen Lee

Allen Lee is a Toronto-based freelance writer who studied business in school but has since turned to other pursuits. He spends more time than is perhaps wise with his eyes fixed on a screen either reading history books, keeping up with international news, or playing the latest releases on the Steam platform, which serve as the subject matter for much of his writing output. Currently, Lee is practicing the smidgen of Chinese that he picked up while visiting the Chinese mainland in hopes of someday being able to read certain historical texts in their original language.

Read more posts by Allen Lee

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