What’s the Skinny on Beef Jerky?

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How does drying affect that beef, and how does the beef affect you?

Beef jerky has long been a favored snack of both rugged frontiersmen and peckish office workers. It’s got an insanely long shelf life, comes in all sorts of zesty flavors, and it’s far leaner than ordinary, uncured beef. Of course, the obvious caveat to that is that, cured or not, beef is still beef. I love beef, don’t get me wrong, but while turning beef into jerky does add benefits, it does come with some concerns.


The upshot to jerky is its protein content, great for when you’re on the road or need a quick burst of energy. One serving of quality beef jerky can get you a good 6 grams of protein, and since it’s low-carb, it won’t make you unnecessarily pudgy. As with regular, uncured beef, jerky also contains all of the benefits of red meat, such as iron, calcium, and vitamins A and C. It’s also a little bit lower in fat compared to uncured meat (though not by much).

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So jerky definitely has benefits going for it, but it’s not all sweet teriyaki. The drying and curing process used to turn beef into jerky typical causes a large infusion of sodium, up to 443 milligrams per serving. Again, much like uncured red meat, eating large portions of jerky can increase your risk of colon complications, not to mention make your bathroom experiences far less pleasant.

If you want to eat jerky, you want to ensure it’s made of the very best ingredients. You want all-natural, grass-fed beef without nitrates or preservatives. If you want the best-quality jerky, you’re probably better off just making it yourself in a food dehydrator than trying to navigate all of the brands. Once you’ve got your jerky, enjoy in moderation. One bag of the stuff should last you a good while. One strip here, one slice there will give you the protein boost you’re craving without going overboard.