One of the best things about beef jerky is that it can be enjoyed anywhere at any time. With a shelf life that’s almost as incredible as its flavor, there’s a reason that beef jerky has become a staple at camp sites, on road trips, or even just as a snack on the go. Have you ever wondered why it is that beef jerky can last such a long time? The simple answer is preservatives, specifically, sodium nitrite.

The word preservatives may put a jolt of fear in some, but if you enjoy the natural beef jerky made locally by Crockett Creek, you don’t need to worry. Keep reading to find out why other leading jerky companies choose to use sodium nitrite, the harmful effects of this choice, and a better alternative that allows you to enjoy natural beef jerky with peace of mind.

What is Sodium Nitrite and How is it Used to Make Beef Jerky?

 Sodium Nitrite is a salt or an antioxidant that is used to preserve foods. It was first approved in 1925 as a meat-curing agent.

With mass production on the rise in the 1920s, and the development of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) just a few years before that, many companies were looking to find way to keep foodborne illness out of their products. Since Sodium Nitrite blocked the growth of botulism, a bacterium that causes foodborne illness, it was decidedly approved for use in manufacturing companies and “safe” for the public health.

Besides preventing the growth of botulism, the main uses for Sodium Nitrite in beef jerky are to cure the meat and prevent it from losing its color. Curing is the process of drying out jerky meat while also giving it that delicious salty flavor. This is a process that has been done nearly as long as civilizations have been around, and it’s perfectly safe. What’s not safe, however, is the use of harmful chemicals like sodium nitrite to do it.

Whenever you come across the term cured meat on a pack of jerky from a leading brand, be wary. Unless they specify what the meat has been cured with, they’re probably using Sodium Nitrite. Now, you may be asking yourself “what exactly makes Sodium Nitrite so harmful in jerky if it helps to prevent food poisoning?” The answer lies in the long-term consequences of using this preservative in the making of your beloved jerky.

What are the Dangerous Side Effects of Sodium Nitrite in Beef Jerky?

While it does destroy harmful bacteria, provide flavor, and preserve the color of jerky, the long-term effects of Sodium Nitrite outweigh all benefits. When digested, this preservative can form carcinogens called nitrosamines in the intestines which in some studies have been linked to colon cancer.

That’s why at Crockett Creek, we opt out of curing our meat with Sodium Nitrite and instead use natural processes that has worked just as well, if not better. You can read more about what makes our natural jerky different than the leading brand’s products here.

Why Is Natural Jerky Better for Your Health than Jerky from Leading Brands?

In addition to the presence of Sodium Nitrite, there are several other issues that come with beef jerky from leading brands such as nutritional concerns and food safety problems.

Nutritional Issues in the Leading Brand’s Beef Jerky

Although beef jerky is full of protein at about seven grams per piece, the main issue is the high amount of sodium in mass produced jerky. One ounce of beef jerky has about 450mg of sodium, or almost 20 percent of the maximum recommended daily intake. Since many jerky products from the leading companies are sold in four-ounce packages, you may end up consuming 4 servings at once if you finish off a whole bag. That’s almost a full day’s worth of sodium in one package. This can have dangerous long-term effects because consuming high levels of sodium has been linked to high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, and, in some cases, stomach cancer.

Crockett Creek Believes Natural Preserving Processes Make the Best Natural Jerky

Here at Crockett Creek, all our products are locally made and hand-crafted in-house for our East Tennessee customers, so we don’t need to use preservatives to make our natural beef jerky. The curing and drying process of our local, high-quality meat is all done naturally by a small team of artisanal butchers who only prepare the best, lean cuts of meat for our natural jerky. We use our own homemade spices and marinades for all our tasty flavors, too, so you can trust that our jerky doesn’t have anything in it that we wouldn’t eat ourselves. So next time you’re about to pick up that bag of Jack Link’s, put it down and come find out just how delicious natural jerky can be. Explore all our flavors and types of jerkies on our website today.