If you’ve ever found an old bag of jerky in your pantry and wondered to yourself, “Does beef jerky go bad?” you’re not alone.
“How long does beef jerky last?” is an age-old question with, not surprisingly, conflicting answers depending on who you ask. Beef jerky shelf life is determined by a variety of factors, but when it comes to quality jerky, you’ll want to heed the following recommendations to make the most of your meaty, delicious snack.
Beef Jerky Expiration, Explained
High quality jerky – especially handmade, nitrate-free jerky with no additives or fillers – should be consumed within six months of purchase to enjoy its premium flavor and texture. At Mountain America Jerky, we hold ourselves to high standards and smoke our jerky in small batches to ensure freshness. That means every package of jerky we sell is delivered as fresh as possible – you won’t ever receive a package that’s been languishing in some warehouse awaiting shipment.
One variable that determines beef jerky shelf life is moisture content. A high moisture content is what makes jerky moist and more pliable – but it also reduces its shelf life. While our jerky may not last as long as drier jerkies, we’re more than happy with the trade-off.
Because our hand-cut jerky has such a high moisture content, it has been often referred to as “meat licorice.” Unlike low-moisture jerky that tends to eat like leather, our jerky practically melts in your mouth.
How to Store Beef Jerky
While some jerky is made with hydrogenated oil to extend its expiration date, we prefer not to replace natural oils with unnatural additives. For this reason, our beef jerky should be stored in the refrigerator once it is opened.
To best lock in the flavor and freshness of your jerky, place it in an air-tight zip lock bag or in a snap lid container before refrigerating. If you can do both, even better. If you don’t plan on eating your jerky within the next week, though, you’re better off freezing it while it’s still fresh.
The Importance of Packaging
How your jerky is packaged is another indicator of its longevity. Most companies use a process that involves a nitrogen back flush. This is when a bag is filled with nitrogen to help preserve its contents. Take a look at any unopened bag of chips in your panty and you can see the result of this process. Many beef jerky companies who use this process will include an oxygen-absorbing packet to further remove oxygen, which causes jerky to expire quicker.
At Mountain America Jerky, we vacuum seal every product we make, as it preserves the integrity of our product better than any other method. When jerky is vacuum-sealed, bacteria are unable to grow – and the jerky better maintains its moisture, flavor and texture.
So, the next time someone asks you, “How long does beef jerky last?” you can be sure to answer with confidence. And who knows? They may just offer you some new exotic jerky as a thanks for sharing your jerky-saving knowledge.