Mold on Beef Jerky -Signs ,Causes & Safety

Despite the fact beef jerky is dried, processed and lasts longer than standard meats, that still doesn’t make it immune from mold.

This article will discuss how mold forms on beef jerky, steps you can take to prevent it and other related topics to prepare you next time you have this popular snack.

It’s important to know that mold can be harder to spot on beef jerky and what you think is mold might not be.

Beef jerky is made by marinating lean cuts in sauces, spices and preservatives. The meat is then cured and dried.

When beef jerky is made, there can be differences in color, texture and the drying process. Fat, salt and other substances can get onto the meat.

This might be mistaken for mold and can even look like it, but the beef jerky is safe to eat. 

Causes of Mold on Beef Jerky

The top cause of mold on beef jerky is from too much moisture remaining after the meat is dried. While at least 90% of the moisture is supposed to be removed, that doesn’t always happen, and that extra moisture can lead to mold growth.

Contrary to other types of meats, beef jerky doesn’t always show obvious signs of mold or spoilage. But here are signs to look for:

  • Bad smell
  • Foul taste
  • Rips in the bag it’s in
  • Green, white or gray spots in a spider-web pattern
  • Hardening of the meat

Differences Between Mold and Other Substances

If you see a white spot, don’t automatically assume it’s mold. It may be something else that is natural to the beef jerky.

For example, fat deposits may develop just like they do on other types of beef you cook like hamburgers or meatloaf. A solid white spot that looks shiny can appear on beef jerky, and this is not mold.

While beef jerky is made from lean meats, it is not completely free from fat.

Other white spots you see on the meat might be salt. Since beef jerky contains a lot of salt and it is used to help preserve the meat, you might see salt on the outside.

This happens more as moisture leaves the meat and evaporates, so if you see small white dots on your beef jerky, know it is not mold but salt.

What Happens if You Find Mold on Beef Jerky

If you find mold on your beef jerky, it is best to throw it out. Even if the mold is in a specific area, it likely penetrated all the meat and spread.

Your best bet is to throw out the whole package. Do not cut off the moldy parts and eat the rest, as there is probably mold you can’t see in other parts.

How to Prevent Mold on Beef Jerky

There are many ways you can prevent mold from getting on beef jerky. As already mentioned, it starts with the drying process.

While this is out of anyone’s hands who’s buying it in a store, you can control this if you make your own. Make sure as much moisture as possible is removed from the meat.

Here are other ways to help stop mold from getting on beef jerky:

  • Reduce the oxygen when packaging or storing it in a bag. Mold needs oxygen to grow, so use an airtight bag or anything with a strong seal.


  • Use an oxygen absorber or small packet that absorbs moisture and place that in the beef jerky. Most packages will come with this when bought in a store.


  • Keep it out of the fridge where there’s more moisture


How Long Does Beef Jerky Last before Mold Starts to Develop

The biggest factor in how long beef jerky lasts depends on whether it is store-bought or homemade.

When purchasing, it can last about a week once opened. If it stays sealed, it can last a lot longer, at least a few months.

Any longer and the beef jerky will lose flavor.

For the homemade kind, it will last a week if placed in a sealed bag and up to two months if you keep it in an air-tight container.

If you want to keep a lot of it, there are methods and steps you can take to preserve beef jerky and help it last longer.

Best Ways to Store Beef Jerky and Keep it Fresh

Removing oxygen and moisture is the key to keeping beef jerky from spoiling and helping it remain fresh for a long time. Airtight bags and containers work best.

Any of these options will work well.

  1. Vacuum-sealed bags: these are great for keeping oxygen out. The bags can be expensive but if you eat a lot of beef jerky, it may be worth it.


  1. Mason jars: placing beef jerky in these jars will allow it to last a long time. You first want to heat the jars in the oven for 10 minutes then remove them and put the beef jerky inside. Once the jars cool, a tight seal will form to help preserve the meat.


  1. Ziplock or paper bag: seal it up to make the beef jerky last and remove as much air as possible. This is a good method if you plan to eat it in a few days or weeks.


  1. Keep it out of sunlight: the heat can cause condensation and moisture which will spoil the beef jerky


  1. Put it in the freezer. Make sure you use an air-tight container or vacuum-sealed bag. Freezing it will prolong the beef jerky’s life and prevent bacteria from getting in it.

What Happens if You Eat Moldy Beef Jerky

If you eat moldy beef jerky, there’s a good chance nothing significant will happen. If you’re healthy and have an uncompromised immune system, you shouldn’t feel any effects.

If you do experience symptoms, they are likely to be relatively minor such as nausea, temporary discomfort or stomach pain.

Should you get very sick or have worse symptoms, see a doctor. It’s possible to have one of the following conditions after eating moldy beef jerky:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Fever
  • Headache

Spoiled beef can contain E. coli or Salmonella, which are serious bacteria that no one wants to ingest. While typically not deadly, this can cause a bad case of food poisoning and make you sick for a few days.

If you do bite into a piece of beef jerky that has spoiled, you’ll know it right away and will spit it out since it won’t taste good.

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