Can You Eat Beef Jerky While Pregnant?

Can You Eat Beef Jerky While Pregnant?

Pregnancy cravings can be truly bizarre yet undeniably compelling at the same time. From pickles to ice cream, nothing seems to satisfy like the one specific food currently captivating your mind and taste buds!

There are some commonly known food cravings during pregnancy. However, other cravings can be totally random, and that fixation may center around seemingly simple snacks like beef jerky. For others, beef jerky is an ideal salty and portable protein-packed snack solution. Whether due to cravings or convenience, many wonder if beef jerky is a safe choice for mothers-to-be. 

In this post, I will discuss whether consuming beef jerky poses any health risks/food safety concerns or if it can generally be considered safe to eat during pregnancy. 

Can You Eat Beef Jerky While Pregnant?

Can You Eat Beef Jerky While Pregnant?

Commercial beef jerky is produced in a Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) and USDA-inspected facility. Beef jerky is made through several steps, such as seasoning, curing, cooking or smoking, and drying, to create a tasty and preserved meat snack. It is not traditionally cooked in the same way as a steak or other fresh cuts of meat. Instead, it undergoes dehydration to achieve its unique texture and preservation. The preparation of beef jerky typically involves marinating thin slices of meat in a mixture of seasonings, sometimes “curing” them with salt, cooking them in an oven, or smoking them in a smoker, then drying them even further. Most jerky is cooked “low and slow,” similar to other more traditional meats like brisket or ribs.

The “jerky” meat is exposed to low temperatures for an extended period, which removes moisture from the meat and does COOK it. Jerky is not raw meat. The moisture is taken out of jerky when made, making it a more unlikely environment for bacteria to grow in. Bacteria like moisture to grow and thrive. The salting or “curing” of the meat also reduces the risk of bacteria growth. 

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No food can be considered 100% safe or unsafe during pregnancy. Contamination can happen at various stages of preparation and manufacturing to virtually any beverage or food!

However, we can say that outbreaks linked to commercial jerky are very rare. There were no CDC food-borne illness investigations on jerky or deli meats in 2023, and only one investigation into deli meats in 2022. With that said, it’s a personal decision whether or not to include beef jerky during pregnancy. Jerky made in non-commercial settings is not subject to the same regulations and inspections and may pose a higher risk of containing harmful bacteria than commercially prepared snacks. 

Considerations When Eating Beef Jerky During Pregnancy


Quality-wise, some beef jerky options are better than others. Ideally, we’d recommend choosing one that is organic, grass-fed, and free of added nitrates and nitrites. Also, check the food labels and watch the added sugar content. The teriyaki flavors tend to have more sugar than other varieties.

Homemade Jerky

As mentioned above, while commercial options have to adhere to certain regulatory guidelines and inspections, homemade jerky does not. Homemade jerky introduces additional variables. When contemplating homemade beef jerky outside of pregnancy, but especially during pregnancy, meticulous attention to hygiene and proper preparation is paramount.

Individuals preparing jerky at home should follow strict food safety guidelines, including using fresh, high-quality meat, maintaining a clean cooking environment, and thoroughly dehydrating the meat to remove moisture that could harbor bacteria. Homemade jerky would be considered a higher-risk choice from a food safety perspective than commercial jerky.

Overall Minimal Risk and Personal Decision 

As stated, the decision to include beef jerky in the diet during pregnancy is ultimately personal. While not cooked “traditionally,” jerky is cooked or smoked; the dehydration removes moisture, minimizing the environment for bacterial growth; the salt/curing of the meat further reduces bacteria growth. At The Prenatal Nutritionist, we consider commercially made beef jerky a safe + quick, and convenient protein source for pregnancy! 

Can You Eat Beef Jerky While Pregnant?

Beef Jerky Alternatives For Pregnant Women

After reading through the above, here are a few alternatives if you choose not to include beef jerky during pregnancy!

Steak Cooked to 145 F

There are so many nutritional benefits to incorporating red meat during pregnancy. For example, it’s a good source of vitamin B12 and iron! Two nutrients you need in high amounts during pregnancy. Red meats can help nourish the body and safely satisfy salt/protein cravings. The best practice for food safety is to cook steak to a minimum internal temperature of 145 F. 

Turkey or Chicken Jerky

Do you prefer turkey jerky or chicken jerky to beef jerky? Go for it! They are similar to beef jerky but offer slightly different tastes. The information above about risk and personal comfort level applies to these options, too.

Hard-Boiled Eggs with Salt

Hard-boiled eggs serve as another easy and packable protein for pregnancy. Eggs are rich in nutrients, like choline, that are important for pregnancy. Sprinkle a little sea salt on top of sliced hard-boiled eggs to help bring out the flavor and satisfy the salt cravings. Yes, salt is good! You need to consume more salt during pregnancy.

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Deli Meats 

Deli meats serve as another quick and convenient protein choice. Plus, there’s a lot of variety in deli meat options. The best practice for food safety for eating deli meats during pregnancy, per the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), is to heat to 165 F before eating. 

Read my post about eating deli meat while pregnant for more on this topic! (You may be surprised!) An even more comprehensive write-up can be found in The Prenatal Nutrition Library App.

Can You Eat Beef Jerky While Pregnant?

Beef jerky is a quick and convenient protein source for pregnancy. It’s a personal decision to include it or not.

In conclusion, beef jerky can be an easy solution for salty cravings. We believe choosing quality commercial-made beef jerky options can be safely incorporated during pregnancy. With any food choice during pregnancy, it’s a personal decision. Weigh the benefits and the risks for yourself. However, outbreaks linked to commercial-made jerky are rare. 

I don’t want to downplay the seriousness of listeriosis during pregnancy. However, I don’t want you to panic or feel you must avoid all your favorite foods. When properly made, the risk of contracting listeriosis from beef jerky (or deli meats!) is very low. Of course, the risk ratio is not zero, but this is true for all foods! If you choose to avoid these foods, finding alternative protein sources to include with every meal and snack is crucial. 

I also encourage you to familiarize yourself with food safety guidelines during pregnancy to help you stay food-safe. To learn about nourishing foods to include (and foods to avoid) in your diet during pregnancy, check out The Prenatal Nutrition Library (TPNL). We cover all the details on deli meats during pregnancy, soft cheese, sushi, quick lunch ideas, and thousands of other topics.

TPNL is your one-stop hub for ALL things preconception and prenatal nutrition that provides evidence-based, clear recommendations to ensure you have a feel-good pregnancy!

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