Can You Sell Homemade Beef Jerky? A Detailed Guide

Beef jerky is one of my favorite snacks. I love the protein punch and salty-savory flavor it provides. As someone who has been making homemade beef jerky for years, the idea of turning my hobby into an actual business has definitely crossed my mind. So I decided to do some research on the legalities and realities of selling homemade beef jerky.

Is It Legal To Sell Homemade Beef Jerky?

The short answer is yes, you can legally sell homemade beef jerky in most states. However, there are some important regulations and guidelines you need to follow to ensure the safety and legality of your product.

The USDA classifies beef jerky as a ready-to-eat meat product This means it needs to be prepared under strict food safety standards similar to other ready-to-eat foods like deli meats You can’t just make jerky in your home kitchen and sell it to the public without any oversight,

Specifically, if you want to sell homemade beef jerky commercially, you need:

  • A licensed commercial kitchen for production
  • State and local business licenses and permits
  • USDA or state meat processing inspection

Meeting all these requirements ensures your homemade jerky is safely handled, prepared, and packaged so it poses minimal food safety risks to consumers.

Steps For Selling Homemade Beef Jerky Legally

If you want to turn your passion for homemade beef jerky into a legitimate business, follow these key steps:

1. Research Regulations in Your State

Food safety regulations can vary somewhat from state to state So your first step is to thoroughly research the specific requirements in your state for selling manufactured food products like jerky.

Many states require a food manufacturing or processing license to commercially sell jerky and other prepared foods. There also may be additional permits required related to food safety, packaging and labeling, weights and measures, and sales tax.

2. Rent or Build a Commercial Kitchen

One of the biggest regulatory hurdles is that you cannot manufacture and sell jerky from a residential home kitchen. To legally produce jerky for commercial sale, you need access to a certified commercial kitchen that meets state and local standards.

Options for gaining access to a commercial kitchen include:

  • Renting time in an existing licensed commercial kitchen
  • Building your own commercial kitchen if you have adequate space and finances
  • Partnering with a co-packer that already has a commercial kitchen

Be sure to thoroughly vet any commercial kitchens you plan to utilize to ensure they meet all the legal requirements.

3. Develop a Food Safety Plan

Since jerky is considered a ready-to-eat food product, you need to implement a detailed food safety plan based on established regulations and guidance from the USDA and local health departments. This includes:

  • Following Good Manufacturing Practices for proper sanitation, employee health and hygiene, pest control, waste management, and other safety procedures
  • HACCP-based procedures covering jerky preparation, packaging, storage, and distribution
  • Rigorous product testing for any microbial pathogens

Proper documentation and record-keeping of all food safety activities is also a must.

4. Obtain Required Licenses and Permits

At minimum, you’ll need a state food processing or manufacturing license to produce jerky for sale. Depending on your state and locality, additional permits may be required such as:

  • Business license to operate in your city or county
  • Sales tax permit for collecting and remitting sales tax
  • Food handler card for employees
  • Weights and measures permit for scaling production

5. Comply with Packaging and Labeling Rules

Beef jerky sold commercially needs to adhere to strict federal and state guidelines for food packaging and labeling. Required labeling information includes:

  • Product identity statement (e.g. “Beef Jerky”)
  • Net weight statement
  • Ingredient list
  • Name and address of business
  • Nutrition facts
  • Allergen declarations (e.g. soy, wheat)
  • Safe handling instructions
  • Lot codes for traceability

You must have all legally required packaging and labels designed and approved before selling any jerky.

6. Understand Your Liability Risks

Selling any food product comes with potential liability risks if a customer gets injured or sick from consuming your product. That’s why obtaining product liability insurance is highly recommended to protect your business.

You’ll also want to be meticulous in your product testing and record-keeping to ensure no contaminated jerky makes it to market. Keeping detailed production and distribution records will help demonstrate due diligence if any liability issues arise.

7. Source High-Quality Ingredients

One advantage of homemade beef jerky is you can control exactly what ingredients go into it. Be sure to only source high-quality raw materials from reputable suppliers who can provide documentation on the purity and safety of their ingredients.

In particular, start with fresh premium cuts of lean beef and use ingredients like spices and curing salts from suppliers who follow Good Manufacturing Practices. This gives you a finished product you can stand behind.

8. Scale Up Your Production

Once all your licenses, permits, safety plans, and packaging is in place, you can start ramping up jerky production. Consider starting small with limited batch releases. This allows you to refine your processes and recipes to optimize quality and safety as you scale.

Pay close attention to factors like moisture content, texture, and flavor profile during scaled-up production. Make any tweaks needed to ensure your jerky’s artisanal appeal isn’t lost.

9. Market Your Jerky Effectively

With your jerky empire up and running, you need to get the word out and start selling! Reach out to local gourmet grocery stores, farmers markets, convenience stores, and other retailers to get your jerky on the shelf.

Promote your jerky heavily on social media and your website. Sponsor local events to do product sampling and demonstrations. Get creative with giveaways and promotions to create buzz around your homemade jerky.

Is Selling Homemade Jerky Profitable?

With the right approach, selling homemade beef jerky can certainly be a profitable business. Homemade jerky typically sells for around $20-30 per pound, sometimes more for premium quality.

And since jerky can be made from relatively inexpensive beef cuts like eye of round or top round, profit margins can be attractive if production costs are kept in check.

However, the substantial investments in licensing, kitchen space, equipment, and ingredients means profitability depends heavily on your sales volume. It can take some time to establish the level of customer demand needed to turn a good profit.

packaging and labeling costs also impact profit margins. You may want to consider selling at farmers markets and local events to minimize packaging costs when first starting out.

Overall, selling homemade beef jerky offers rewarding potential for food entrepreneurs. But make sure you plan carefully, start small, and focus relentlessly on product quality and food safety. This is the path to building a thriving and sustainable beef jerky business.

Frequently Asked Questions about Selling Beef Jerky

Does beef jerky need to be USDA approved?

Beef jerky falls under USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) guidelines. So commercially sold beef jerky must be prepared in a USDA-inspected facility. But pre-market approval of individual jerky products by the USDA is not required.

Can I use CBD oil in my homemade beef jerky?

Currently, the FDA prohibits adding CBD oil or other cannabinoid compounds to food products being sold across state lines. However, some states do allow CBD-infused foods like jerky to be produced and sold within state borders, under certain restrictions. Check your state’s regulations regarding CBD in foods.

Do I need a nutritional facts label on my beef jerky packages?

Yes, FDA labeling regulations require a nutritional facts panel listing serving size, calories, fat, sodium, and other nutritional information on all commercially sold beef jerky packages.

Can I sell beef jerky online?

Yes, you can sell homemade beef jerky online via your own e-commerce website. You can also partner with online retailers or list your jerky products on sites like Amazon. Just be sure to comply with all FDA and USDA regulations, including proper labeling.

What is the shelf life of homemade beef jerky?

Properly dried and packaged beef jerky has a typical shelf life of 1-2 months at room temperature. Refrigerating jerky can extend the shelf life up to 6 months. Use food-safe packaging materials and oxygen absorbers to help maximize jerky shelf life.

Selling homemade beef jerky can be a very rewarding entrepreneurial pursuit for passionate food makers. As long as you educate yourself on the legalities and put in the diligence to meet all regulatory requirements, it’s possible to turn your jerky-making hobby into a thriving business. Just be sure to start small, focus on quality, and put your customer’s safety first.

Homemade jerky business growing

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