According to IBISWorld, the market size for the meat jerky production industry is $1.4 bn in 2021, and the market size of this industry in the U.S. has grown 0.9% per year on average between 2016 and 2021. Therefore, if you have a passion for making your own beef jerky, this might be a great business to pursue.
The best way to start a beef jerky business is by doing a deep analysis of the target market, competition and becoming familiar with regulations in the state you choose to operate in. Other than that, you must decide on branding (private label or franchise) and securing financing.
If you are ready to turn your passion for making beef jerky into a business, this could be the industry for you! To get you started on your journey, we have compiled the following guide that will help you learn the ins and outs of starting your own beef jerky business.
1.Write a Business Plan
Your business plan will be the foundation of your business and a guide for how you would like to run your operation. There are multiple ways to write a successful business plan, and the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) has a helpful guide that can act as a great resource. According to their website, there are a few key areas you will likely want to consider:
- Identify your target market: You will want to get specific about who your consumer will be and what you can offer them with your services.
- Your competition: What beef jerky producers already exist in your service area? Research similar businesses and identify what they are doing well and also what they could be doing better.
- Compliance: It’s important to keep in mind that the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has specific requirements for any product intended for human consumption, specifically for animals defined as “livestock” (cattle, sheep, swine, and goat). Such food products must be inspected and passed for human consumption, so it will be important to become familiar with both federal laws and the laws that govern your specific state.
- Costs to start a beef jerky business: The start-up costs for a beef jerky business vary widely and greatly depend on the amount of equipment you will need to buy upfront and the location where you will be producing the jerky.
- Profit margins – Is a beef jerky business profitable?: The answer to this question will vary based on individual circumstances, but according to Investopedia a net profit margin can be calculated by dividing your net income by revenue over a period of time. In order to maximize the profit margin, it’s ideal for the expenses to be low and the net sales high.
2.Decide If You Are Going for Homemade or Factory Made
Beef jerky is a shelf-stable product that is produced by drying or dehydrating meat. The meat can be smoked, dehydrated, or cooked at a low temperature in an oven. The production facility you use will be decided by both your financial resources as well as the amount of jerky you are hoping to produce; however, as mentioned earlier, the USDA has specific requirements that must be followed regarding the preparation and sale of meat products.
Due to the importance of heating the meat to a proper temperature (160°F for meat and 165°F for poultry, according to the USDA) to reduce the possibility of foodborne illness, it is important that jerky producers understand the rules and regulations regarding proper meat preparation.
The USDA provides a comprehensive document of compliance guidelines for meat and poultry jerky produced by small and very small establishments, which are designed to provide scientific support to help develop a safe product for consumers.
What To Consider If Going For Homemade
If you decide to make homemade beef jerky, there are a number of decisions you will need to consider. You will first need to research and comply with the many regulatory requirements that need to be met when opening a food business.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) lists various requirements for starting a food business, with some specific ones pertaining specifically to home-based businesses. You will want to discuss your product as well as facility with the FDA District Office as well as the state and local regulatory agencies in your area. While producing your product will give you total agency over the process, you will also need to consider the cost of equipment and product packaging.
Regulation of Factory Based Beef Jerky
If you make the decision to produce your product at a factory, the operators of the facility will often be very familiar with government regulations regarding food production and how to comply with them. Many manufacturing facilities offer contract packing, or co-packing services, which is when a company manufactures and packages a product for clients.
With a little bit of research on the Internet, it should be relatively easy to find local co-packing services that might work well for your beef jerky business. While co-packing comes with a price tag, you wouldn’t need to worry about buying and running your own equipment or packaging your product.
3.Register Your Business Structure
Once you have decided how you will produce your beef jerky, it’s time to think about registering your business. According to the SBA, registering your business will make it a distinct legal entity, but exactly how and where to register will vary greatly based on the structure of your business as well as your business location.
According to their website, the first step will be registering your business name with state and local governments. You will, of course, first need to think of a unique name that is true to your brand. Once you decide on a name, registering your business is a good way to protect it. There are four main ways to register your business name:
- Entity name (protects the name of your business on a state level)
- Trademark (can protect the name of your business, goods, and services at a national level)
- Doing Business As (DBA)
- Domain name (This is your website address)
Your entity name is how the state identifies your business, and you will need to check with your state for rules about how to register. As far as the trademark for your business is concerned, you will need to check your prospective business name against the official trademark database.
Decide If To Use A DBA
Your Doing Business As, or DBA name, may need to be registered with the state, county, or city your business is located in, so it will be important to determine your DBA requirements based on your location. As for your Domain Name, this will be unique to your business as long as you own it. It’s a good idea to consult a directory of accredited registrars to complete this step.
The SBA further suggests that, although some businesses aren’t required to, you will want to research the specific requirements for your business in regards to registering with the federal government. This is often done to get a federal tax ID, tax exempt status, or trademark protection, as discussed above.
If your company is an LLC, corporation, partnership, or nonprofit corporation, another important step will be registering with state agencies, which most often requires registering with the Secretary of State’s office, a Business Bureau, or Business Agency.
If you meet one of those four designations, you will also need to get a registered agent and you may need to file for foreign qualification and register with local agencies. You will also need to file state documents and fees, which are often less than $300 according to the SBA.
4.Decide on Private Label Vs. Franchise
Another decision you will need to make is if you would like to produce your beef jerky under a private label or as part of a franchise. A private label could provide a sense of novelty and originality to your product; however, it’s fair to consider that a franchise would have a built-in customer base with a sense of loyalty to the product.
Plenty of artisan beef jerky companies have achieved success under a private label. If you decide to go this route, you will need to make logo and branding decisions for your product. It may be helpful to hire a graphic designer for help with designing your logo.
According to Marianne Kipp, a writer for 99designs, the go-to graphic design service by Vistaprint, a quality logo design can cost anywhere from $300 – $1,300. You will also need to consider your food packaging design and include any required labels as indicated by FDA guidelines.
That being said, a franchised beef jerky provider may be a great opportunity to learn about the business from seasoned pros in an already established company. The Beef Jerky Outlet Franchise currently has franchise opportunities all across the U.S., excluding Hawaii and Rhode Island.
The company estimates that a Beef Jerky Outlet franchise costs between $215,750 and $394,900 (including the $44,900 franchise fee). On average, they say a site can take about 6 months to open. Happy Jack’s Jerky is also currently offering franchise opportunities. Jeff’s Famous Beef Jerky is not offering franchise opportunities but is offering opportunities for vendors to buy jerky wholesale and sell retail.
5.Apply for License
According to the SBA, most small businesses need a combination of licenses and permits from both federal and state agencies. Requirements and fees will vary based on what kind of business you own as well as your location, so be sure to check the local requirements in your state. In general, states tend to regulate a broader range of activities than the federal government.
Also, some licenses and permits expire after a certain amount of time, so be sure to make note of when to renew them.
6.Choose a Location
Another important step in starting your beef jerky business will be choosing a location. If you are making your own jerky, it may be a no-brainer to choose a facility close to your home. However, if you have decided to go with a co-packing service or open a franchise, there are a few things you will need to consider.
According to the SBA, the location of your business will determine your taxes, zoning laws, and regulations for your business. This is why it’s important to think through this decision and decide which option will work best for you and your business. Once you choose your location, you will need to register your business, obtain the necessary licenses and permits (as discussed above), and also pay taxes. You should consider the location of your target market when choosing a location.
The SBA website notes that costs can vary greatly by location, you will want to take all of these factors into consideration when calculating your startup costs. You will need to ensure that the physical property site for your beef jerky business adheres to local zoning requirements.
Since neighborhoods are usually zoned for commercial or residential use, you will need to do your homework and research what kinds of business are allowed in the area you are considering. Your department of city planning, or a similar local office, will be the best place to find out about your zoning laws.
Taxes are another factor to consider, according to the SBA, and they often vary based on the location of your business.
If you have the flexibility to choose the state where you will operate your beef jerky business, you may find that certain states have tax environments that are more conducive to starting a business. Along the same lines, there could be certain financial incentives offered by local and state governments.
7.Get a Website
Your website will be important to your business for a number of reasons. It can be an opportunity to showcase your products to a larger audience, and it can also be an opportunity to sell products. This will, of course, depend on your licenses and permits as well as the specific rules in place regarding the selling of meat products in your location, so be sure to check local regulations. When choosing a website host, consider your business needs and what layouts you like best.
WordPress is Great For DIY Businessowners
You could use a website builder such as WordPress, which is one of the more popular website builders. With WordPress, you can choose from professionally designed themes to customize your website, and they boast a user-friendly interface where you can build your website according to your vision. They recommend the Business plan for small businesses or the eCommerce plan for online stores, which are $25 and $45 per month, respectively.
Have It Build by Professional Companies
Companies such as Wix offer hundreds of templates, a custom domain name, and mobile optimization, and website plans run anywhere from $14 to $39 a month. Squarespace is another popular platform, and business plans start at $18 a month and move up to $26 to $40 a month for commerce plans.
If you have the desire and skillset to do so, you could use software such as Adobe Dreamweaver to create and publish your own website. Pricing runs anywhere from $19.99 a month to $52.99 a month (this is for the entire collection of Creative Cloud apps).
You could also go the route of hiring a website designer. With this option, you would be fairly hands-off with the process, but there would be an upfront cost. Pricing varies greatly depending on whether you are hiring a freelance, independent website designer, or going with a larger company. Depending on your vision and business needs, it will be important to do your research and choose the best option for your professional goals.
Depending on the size and scope of your business, the equipment you need will vary. If you are looking to produce on a larger scale, a commercial dehydrator may be your best bet. A 3 Zone, 60 Tray Commercial Food Dehydrator runs about $4,995.00 on Commercial Dehydrators’ website.
A smaller, Mighty Bite 10 tray option costs about $149.99 at Home Depot. So, the pricing will vary greatly on this equipment depending on the kind of output you are expecting.
You will also need a jerky slicer to ensure your product is uniform and dehydrates evenly. Cabela’s® Pro Series Manual Jerky Slicer runs about $139.99. This tool cuts meat into 18 slices that are 1.5 inches wide by 3/8 inches thick. If you are looking for a more automated option, Hotel Restaurant Supply offers an electric, countertop jerky slicer that creates ¼ inch strips of meat for about $1,049.00.
While these are just a few examples of products you can consider, this information should get you on the right track when considering the equipment you will need for your business.
Hiring employees will be an important step in your business development. If you are looking to produce beef jerky on a larger scale, you will likely need some help in the form of a paid staff. The SBA offers some guidance on the best way to proceed with this task.
According to the SBA, once you have an Employer Identification Number (EIN) and a state or local tax ID (if needed), you can decide if you want to hire an independent contractor or an employee.
All new employees will need to complete a W-4 form, and you will need to do important tasks such as scheduling pay periods and creating compensation plans for holidays, vacations, and leaves. You will also need to decide on a payroll system and report payroll taxes as needed.
It will be important to become familiar with required employee benefits such as social security taxes and worker’s compensation, just to name a few. You will also need to adhere to labor laws, which can vary on a state and federal level. The Department of Labor’s federal and state law requirements will be an important resource for you.
10.Decide on Selling Venue – Magazine, Online, or Retail Store
The next important decision you will make will be deciding how you will sell your product. Depending on the size of your business as well as your personal goals, you may decide that a smaller-scale, in-person retail store is the way to go.
Or, you could explore the option of selling your product via a magazine or online. As mentioned before, the meat industry is regulated by the FDA and USDA, so you will want to check and comply with all government requirements regarding the marketing and sales of your product.
If you decide to sell your beef jerky in a printed publication, you will need to either design and distribute your product information or reach out to a graphic designer who may be able to offer this service. Be sure to include all relevant pricing information as well as a phone number or website where customers may submit their orders.
You may decide to sell your products via a website. Many website hosting services offer a storefront option in some of their subscription plans, and it should be fairly easy to list and track your products using this service. If you decide to open a retail store for your product, you will want to consider the location of the property as well as the cost for maintenance, rent, and product displays.
11.Market and Grow Your Brand
Once your business is up and running, a large portion of your time will go into marketing and growing your brand. With the help of the internet, there are many different strategies you can use to increase your product visibility.
You can explore more traditional avenues of paid marketing using social media ads or traditional magazine ads. You can also learn how to use social media websites such as Facebook and Instagram to your advantage when deciding how to market your business.
A service like Google Ads allows you to set a budget that works for you. This service allows you to create a message and advertise it in a specific area to get the results you want. They offer expert help in creating your design plan, and prices can vary greatly so it will be important to do your research.
Facebook for Business, which also includes Instagram, offers a variety of services to fit your business marketing needs. They have plans that allow you to set you own budget, so you can customize your campaign based on your business needs. Their service gives you the ability to reach a certain number and type of people, allowing you to fine-tune your marketing goals.
A beef jerky business can be a profitable way for you to pursue your passion. This is a business that can be run as a side gig or something you can turn into a full-time job if you wish. If you have the dedication to learn and follow the various regulations in place and the desire to share your product with a larger audience, a beef jerky business may be the perfect job for you.
Ruben has been doing online marketing for the last 4 years. Prior to that, he spent 15 years managing different brick-and-mortar businesses, in the home improvement and logistics industries. Overall, he has 20 years of business experience under his belt. Recently, he added SEO, affiliate marketing, and link building to his business skills.