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How to Start a Beef Jerky Business
Opening a beef jerky business starts with a proven recipe for turning meat into tasty treats people can grab and eat right out of the package. But turning raw chunks of beef into yummy jerky requires more than just a dehydrator. You also need to turn your love of making beef jerky into a legitimate, legal business that’s regulated so your customers don’t get sick from contaminated meat that isn’t dehydrated properly.
Learn state and county requirements to make beef jerky in your home or in a commercial kitchen facility. For instance, the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Services agency inspects commercial operations to make sure the jerky is safe and bacteria-free for consumption. States do not allow you to legally sell meat products made in a home kitchen without some form of inspection and approval.
Buy Equipment and Supplies
The equipment you need depends on how much jerky you want to produce. If you plan to sell high volume, you need a large smoker or dehydrators, depending on how you make your jerky. To avoid salmonella poisoning, you also need a commercial oven and a temperature probe since the USDA recommends cooking your meat until it reaches 160 degrees Fahrenheit before you start the dehydration process. You also need cold storage to keep raw meat cold. Buy slicers to prep the meat and scales to measure portions. Packaging bags or containers are also needed. Build a relationship with your local butcher to buy sides of beef, as this is the least costly way to make your jerky. Buy smoke flavorings and spices in bulk to keep costs down.
Label Your Jerky
If you plan to sell your beef jerky to stores, familiarize yourself with the labeling requirements regulated by the FDA. For example, you must provide a full list of ingredients and nutritional information based on one serving. Plan to list any spices or smoke you use in your jerky recipe. Your label must also include your company name and address as the manufacturer.
Before you set a price for your jerky, research competing companies selling similar types of jerky. Next, add up the costs of making your own jerky and decide how much to charge over that as profit. If you want to sell your beef jerky to stores, you must offer wholesale pricing so the shop can mark up the jerky and make a profit, too.
Test your beef jerky on a local market to refine the recipe and build a following. For instance, you might sell your jerky at farmer’s markets, food festivals, concerts, flea markets and specialty or gourmet grocery stores in your area, then invite feedback from customers to find out how your product rates. Once you’re ready to sell outside of your local area, approach buyers for grocery and convenience stores that stock quick foods. Another option is to sell to natural food stores if your jerky contains no preservatives or uses natural spices or herbs. The beauty of selling jerky is that it requires no refrigeration once the dehydration process is complete, so you can build an e-commerce website and start shipping your product directly to consumers.
Nancy Wagner is a marketing strategist and speaker who started writing in 1998. She writes business plans for startups and established companies and teaches marketing and promotional tactics at local workshops. Wagner's business and marketing articles have appeared in "Home Business Journal," "Nation’s Business," "Emerging Business" and "The Mortgage Press," among others. She holds a B.S. from Eastern Illinois University.