Think you found mold on your beef jerky? Not so fast. White spots on beef jerky can be mold, fat, or salt. Proper identification is key. Fat and salt particles on the outside of beef jerky are perfectly safe to eat, but jerky that shows any signs of mold should be discarded.
What’s the white stuff on my jerky?
Most people forget that beef jerky is a natural product. Beef doesn’t come in perfectly square meat cubes. Variations in color and texture can happen. Some variations are perfectly normal and safe to consume, while others are not. What you think is mold, might be something else. We’re here to help!
When you find yourself asking the question—is this mold on my beef jerky—there are three possibilities to consider.
1. Mold on Beef Jerky
Molds are microscopic fungi that exist on plant and animal matter. Mold spores contribute to the green and white spots you see on spoiled beef jerky. Mold is gross, no doubt about it. The good news is that most mold is clearly visible to the naked eye.
The tell-tale signs of mold are fuzzy, dusty, or furry foreign substances that are green, white, or grey in color. Mold typically has a spider-web pattern. If it looks like cobwebs, it’s mold.
Smell is another way to identify mold. If the jerky has an “off smell” then this can be a sign that mold is present.
Verdict: Not safe to eat.
2. Fat on Beef Jerky
Fat will sometimes appear as white solids on the surface of beef jerky.
Beef jerky is made with lean meat, but that doesn’t mean it’s completely free from fat. Some batches of jerky will have slightly more marbling and fat content. The fat is not visible during the cooking and dehydration process, but once the jerky cools, small fat solids will remain.
Think of your favorite meat-based dish—hamburgers, meatloaf, or beef braise. When left to cool in the refrigerator, natural fat solids separate and harden on the surface. The same thing happens to jerky.
The residual fat will sometimes leave a shiny, wet appearance with small spots of white grease. The fat particles will often collect around areas of marbling. The fat content can be accentuated when a package is vacuum sealed. It squeezes out the fat to the surface. You can easily wipe away the fat or rub it into the meat. It’s perfectly safe to eat.
Verdict: Safe to eat.
3. Salt on Beef Jerky
The white, powdery substance on the outside of beef jerky can sometimes be salt.
Salt is an essential ingredient in beef jerky. It serves as a natural preservative. Salt is soluble in a liquid solution and is absorbed into the meat. As time passes and moisture continues to evaporate, the salt begins to form visible deposits on the surface of the jerky.
Think of the feeling when you go for a swim in the ocean and then sit in the sun to air dry—the salty film on your skin is the exact same.
Verdict: Safe to eat.
What to do if you find mold on jerky?
When in doubt, throw it out.
It is normal for some foods such as hard salami or dry-cured country ham to have surface mold. You can easily rub off the mold and consume the meat. Jerky is different.
It might be tempting to cut off the moldy parts and save the jerky pieces that don’t have mold, but there’s no guarantee the mold hasn’t spread beneath the surface. Mold’s root structure can reach deep into food, especially because jerky is more pliable and porous.
When mold is found on a piece of jerky, we advise discarding the entire package, even pieces that do not exhibit signs of mold.
Is it safe to eat jerky with white mold?
The short answer is no.
There is a wide diversity of mold types. While some types of mold are safe to eat and even beneficial to a product (think blue-veined cheese, brie, and salami), others can cause adverse health problems. As a general rule of thumb, most mold types will not harm you, but there’s no guarantee, and the risk is not worth it.
What if I eat jerky with mold?
If you accidentally consume beef jerky with mold and are showing negative symptoms, we recommend consulting a medical expert.
For most healthy individuals, consuming a small amount of moldy beef jerky can result in no symptoms up to minor symptoms such as nausea, upset stomach, and mild discomfort. If in doubt, contact a medical professional.
How can you prevent mold on beef jerky?
There are a number of ways to prevent mold on beef jerky. Here are the best ways to get started.
Properly Dry Your Beef Jerky
The number one cause of mold is insufficient dehydration, so the best way to prevent mold is at the start. Beef jerky should be dried to a sufficient level. This will ensure that the jerky is shelf-stable and less likely to mold. If the jerky is completely dried and properly packaged with minimal oxygen exposure, then mold will not grow.
Package Your Beef Jerky with Minimal Oxygen
Proper packaging is critical to preventing mold. Mold will not grow without oxygen. Minimal oxygen exposure will minimize the potential for mold growth. If you’ve opened a bag of jerky and want to maintain freshness and prevent mold, we recommend storing it in an airtight bag. It doesn’t have to be perfect, but the less air the better.
Add a Desiccant or Oxygen Absorber
The little packet found in beef jerky packages is either a desiccant or an oxygen. A desiccant absorbs moisture in the package where an oxygen absorber scavenges for oxygen in a package. Both options minimize the potential for mold, but in different ways.
Don’t Refrigerate Your Beef Jerky
If a jerky is properly dehydrated and packaged, there’s no need for refrigeration. Refrigeration can slow the growth of mold, but it also changes the texture of beef jerky. If you want to preserve your beef jerky for a long period of time, you can freeze the beef jerky.
Eat enough beef jerky and you’re bound to find some mold. It’s important to properly identify mold versus fat or salt. Nobody wants to throw away jerky that’s still good. When in doubt, throw it out. A reputable jerky producer will replace or refund any product that exhibits signs of mold. At People’s Choice Beef Jerky, we stand behind our products 100%.
Have a questionable piece of jerky? Feel free to email our customer service team who will be happy to advise.
Looking for all-natural, handcrafted beef jerky? Shop our full range of premium jerky today!