Does Dehydrating Meat Kill Bacteria and Parasites?
The short answer is yes, so long as the jerky is properly handled and produced following all recommended guidelines.
Jerky has been around for centuries, going at least as far back as Ancient Egypt. In that time, it has been safely made and eaten by scores of humans. Drying meat to make jerky is a wonderful process for both making tasty food and aiding in food preservation. Because dehydrated meat, or jerky, has had most of its water removed through the dehydrating process, it can be stored without refrigeration. This gives jerky a very long shelf life and gives people that do not have access to refrigeration a good source of nutrient dense food.
However, in making jerky through the dehydration process, the producer needs to be very careful to fully kill all harmful bacteria and parasites. Several factors and certain critical steps come into play when producing jerky to properly kill all harmful bacteria and parasites.
PROPER FOOD HANDLING
Any person coming into contact with and handling any meat needs to follow proper hygiene guidelines when making beef jerky or any other type of jerky specifically, or making any food generally. These include thoroughly washing their hands, wearing sanitized coverings, hair nets, etc. The food handlers need to ensure they fully wash and lather soap onto their hands for at least 20 seconds; taking care to vigorously scrub their hands with an anti-bacterial soap and fully rinsing their hands following the scrubbing.
All food handlers also need to make sure that any utensils used to handle meat have been thoroughly cleaned and sanitized. Any surfaces or counters where meat is prepared should also be thoroughly cleaned and sanitized. Thawing any frozen meat should also be fully done in a refrigerated environment. Food handlers can never thaw meat laid out on a table, counter, or any room temperature surface, as this could promote bacteria growth during the thawing process. Furthermore, any marinating of meat should also be done in a refrigerated environment, and the food handler should never (absolutely never) reuse marinade. Any marinade used on raw meat should be immediately discarded after it has been used.
HOW DOES DEHYDRATING MEAT KILL HARMFUL BACTERIA AND PARASITES?
Dehydrating meat, by itself, does not kill all harmful bacteria and parasites. There are other steps that need to be followed to ensure proper food safety. Critically, it is important to heat the meat to 160 degrees Fahrenheit (165 degrees Fahrenheit for poultry) prior to dehydrating the meat to ensure all bacteria and parasites are killed.
SAFELY DEHYDRATING MEAT TO KILL HARMFUL BACTERIA AND PARASITES
The Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) of the United States Department of Agriculture recommend that critical steps be taken to ensure proper food safety by destroying harmful bacteria and parasites in the meat.
Some of the most common types of bacteria present in raw meat are Salmonella and E. Coli. These bacteria can cause sickness if consumed, which can even be deadly. This makes following the recommended steps extremely important when you are making beef jerky (or any other type of jerky).
It is recommended that meat be frozen for one to two months prior to making beef jerky to kill any parasites that may be present. This step is recommended, not required, but it does help ensure the meat is not contaminated with parasites. How long meat should be frozen depends on the thickness of each cut of meat. For any meat thinner than 1 inch, the FSIS recommends that you freeze it for at least one month. If the meat is thicker than 1 inch, it should be frozen for at least 2 months. The thickness of the meat matters as it determines how fast the meat can freeze all the way to the thickest part of the meat. However, it is important to remember that freezing will not kill all microbes and may not kill all parasites. Only thoroughly cooking the meat will kill all parasites.
After freezing the meat, the meat should be thawed in a refrigerated setting, and never on a room temperature surface. Any thawed ground beef and poultry should be used within 2 days; whole red meats, within 3 to 5 days.
After the meat is thoroughly thawed all the way to the thickest part of the meat, the current USDA guideline is to heat the meat to 160 degrees Fahrenheit (165 degrees Fahrenheit for poultry). This can be done by steaming the meat until the thickest part reaches the necessary temperature or by roasting the meat until the thickest part reaches the necessary temperature. The temperature of the meat interior can be measured by a food thermometer.
Following the steaming or roasting of the meat to the necessary and recommended temperature, the dehydration process begins. In the past, meat was frequently dehydrated in open air through 2 different processes, either in sunny or shady locations. However, in the present, these drying techniques are not recommended, and therefore most jerky is made using an artificial heat source. This can be either a warm oven or a food dehydrator. These are recommended because they provide a steady source of heat that does not fluctuate due to lack of sun, cloud covering, air temperature differentials, etc. It is recommended that any meat being dehydrated and turned into jerky be kept at a constant temperature of at least 130 degrees Fahrenheit to 140 degrees Fahrenheit throughout the drying process. This ensures that no harmful bacteria or parasites can attach onto the drying meat and cause harm to consumers.
So long as beef jerky producers (or producers of any other meat jerky) follow these steps, jerky is safe to eat.
HOW DOES FLYING G JERKY PRODUCE ITS JERKY?
Here at Flying G Jerky, your safety is our first priority. We are determined to always make safe and healthy jerky that is made using all the required and recommended guidelines, without sacrificing the delicious taste that our customers have come to expect from our beef jerky. We source our meat from the highest quality American producers, properly handle our meat, freeze, safely thaw, safely cook with delicious spices to the recommended temperature, and safely dehydrate our meat to bring you the highest quality beef jerky around. If you have any questions about our process, feel free to reach out to us. We always from to hear from existing and future customers!