Why Is Beef Jerky So Expensive?

Beef jerky is expensive because it's made of higher-quality, nutrient-dense ingredients that require a greater level of preparation than most other snack foods.

Beef Jerky Cost vs. Other Snack Foods

Infograph of relative costs per ounce - beef jerky much higher than the following chocolate, Potato chips, Corn chips, Crackers, Cookies, Pretzels
Source: USDA, et al.

A simple cost comparison of Beef Jerky vs. other snack foods shows that on average, it's over 9 times more expensive. The reason behind this eye-popping statistic is more complicated than just higher cost ingredients. Let's take a look at why jerky is so expensive.

Factors That Make Beef Jerky Expensive

Making beef jerky isn't as simple as preparing other snack foods like potato chips, cheese curls, cookies and the rest. Not only are there many pieces to the cost puzzle, but every jerky is different which adds to the mystery. Consider how each of these elements can have a dramatic effect on the cost of beef jerky.


The ingredients for every beef jerky recipe represent a significant reason why beef jerky is so expensive.


The cost of beef itself is significantly higher the than primary ingredients of other popular snacks.

Main Ingredient Snack Price Per Pound
Beef Beef Jerky $6.23
Russet Potatoes Potato Chips $0.75
Corn Corn Chips $0.07
Peanuts Roasted Peanuts $0.21
All-Purpose Flour Crackers $0.45
Source: Source: Beef Magazine,,,

In addition, differences in beef quality can also add to the cost of individual jerkies. Examples include:

  • Leaner cuts of beef are preferred for higher quality jerky
  • Pasture-raised and grass-fed beef has greater flavor
  • Humane livestock practices require more space

Spices & Flavorings

The type of spices and flavorings used in preparation of the meat also contribute to the cost. For higher quality product these tend to be natural flavors and spices, while others may rely on extracts or powders to impart flavor.


Unlike other foods, the primary ingredient in beef jerky shrinks in size by 60-70% during preparation; this is water weight. So, a 6 oz steak only yields about 3.9 oz of jerky!

That's a big reason why jerky is so expensive.


Preparing beef jerky requires a series of steps that are more labor intensive than the many mass-produced snack alternatives. The result? A pricier snack.

Beef jerky is prepared using the following steps:

  1. Slicing - Meat is sliced and trimmed of fat by hand
  2. Marinading - Combined with spices, the meat is marinaded to develop flavor
  3. Laying - Meat strips are arranged by hand on a metal screen to ensure even cooking
  4. Cooking - The strips are delicately heated at a low temperature and a consistent humidity
  5. Packaging - The jerky sealed in air-tight, low-light containers to order to preserve freshness

Quality vs Cheap Beef Jerky

Generally beef jerky is more expensive than other snacks, but there can be a big difference between individual jerkies. You may have wondered: What's the difference? Simply put: Quality.

When considering which beef jerky you want to sample, you may find that the additional cost may be worth it.

Quality Jerky Cheap Jerky
Meat Grass-Fed
Commercially Raised
Added Hormones
Ingredients Ingredients Natural spices and Flavorings
Hydrolyzed Corn Protein
Preservatives Celery Juice Powder MSG
Fat Content Lower Higher
Protein Higher Lower

High-Quality Ingredients Make Beef Jerky Cost More

Beef jerky is more expensive because it's a higher quality, more nutritious snack than most mass-produced snack foods. It's generally high protein, low fat and ready in a moment's notice.

At Karl Family Farms, we're dedicated to making high-quality beef jerky. If you're looking for cheap beef jerky, we don't have that. But if you want a high-quality beef jerky that tastes great and is something you can feel good about, give us a try.