What Does Moldy Beef Jerky Look Like? Telltale Signs and What to Do

Beef jerky is a shelf-stable snack made by drying thin strips of flavorful, seasoned beef. But despite best preservation efforts, jerky can still become contaminated by mold during storage or handling. Knowing how to identify mold on jerky is critical, since moldy jerky should always be discarded.

This article covers common visual and olfactory signs of mold growth on jerky. It also explores safety, removal, prevention and what to do if you’ve eaten moldy jerky. Let’s dive in to detect moldy beef jerky.

Detecting Visible Signs of Mold on Jerky

Mold on jerky may show up as:

  • Fuzzy patches or dust – Mold has a soft, furry or powdery texture unlike the dry jerky surface.

  • Web-like fibers – Mold can have stringy filaments that resemble cobwebs spread across the jerky.

  • White, green or gray discoloration – Look for unusual colors compared to the normal jerky hue.

  • Spotty or splotchy areas – Mold growth starts localized in small spots before potentially spreading.

  • Sheen or wetness – Mold colonies can create a sheen compared to the matte finish of properly dried jerky.

Carefully inspect all surfaces of the jerky for these common visual characteristics of mold contamination. Always discard affected jerky immediately.

Detecting Mold Odor in Beef Jerky

Along with visible signs, odor provides another clue to detect moldy jerky:

  • Musty, earthy smell – Mold produces a distinct funky, dirt-like aroma.

  • Ammonia-like – Some molds give off an overpowering, urine-like smell.

  • Rotten or decomposition odor – Extensive mold growth leads to putrid smells like rotting food.

  • No smell – Certain molds lack any particular odor in initial stages.

Trust your nose – any unfamiliar or unpleasant smells could indicate mold’s presence. When in doubt, throw it out.

Is It Ever Safe to Eat Moldy Jerky?

The short answer is no. Unlike dense cured meats like salami where surface mold can be trimmed, mold easily penetrates the porous structure of jerky, making it unsafe once contamination occurs.

It’s not worth the risk to consume moldy jerky or pieces that don’t visibly show mold, since contamination likely spread beneath the surface. Always discard the entire package.

What Happens If You Eat Moldy Jerky?

In most cases, consuming a small amount of moldy jerky causes no to minimal effects in healthy adults. However, risks include:

  • Allergic reactions – Mold allergies trigger coughing, wheezing, eye irritation or skin rashes.

  • Respiratory issues – Mold exposure aggravates conditions like asthma.

  • Gastrointestinal distress – Abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhea from toxins.

  • Infections (rare) – Some molds cause serious fungal infections, especially in those with compromised immunity.

Seek medical care immediately if you exhibit concerning symptoms after eating moldy jerky.

How to Remove Mold from Jerky & Storage Areas

Cleaning jerky: Discard any infected jerky in sealed bags to avoid spreading spores. Do not attempt to save uncontaminated pieces.

Cleaning storage areas: Remove all jerky packages and wipe down shelves with a 50/50 vinegar and water solution to kill mold spores.

Cleaning electronics: For humidifiers or dehydrators that grew mold, wash removable parts in vinegar solution. Non-removable moldy parts likely need replacement.

Tips to Prevent Mold on Beef Jerky

You can minimize mold growth with these proactive measures:

  • Dry thoroughly – Mold needs moisture, so ensure jerky reaches proper dryness before storage.

  • Limit oxygen – Mold needs air to thrive. Package jerky in vacuum bags or with oxygen absorbers.

  • Clean equipment – Disinfect dehydrators, spatulas, etc. after each use to avoid mold transfers.

  • Check seal integrity – Don’t use packages with defects or leaks that allow air inside.

  • Use desiccants – Silica gel or clay desiccant packs remove tiny moisture amounts.

  • Refrigerate only for short term – Cold temperatures slow mold but alter jerky’s texture. For long-term storage, freeze instead of refrigerating.

With vigilance and preventative steps, you can largely avoid finding moldy jerky ruining your snack. Trust your eyes, nose and common sense – when in doubt if jerky went moldy, play it safe and throw it out.

Meat Fact Friday: White Crystals on Jerky


How do you know if beef jerky is moldy?

Mold on jerky is usually indicated by visible patches of discoloration or fuzziness on the surface of the meat. The color of the mold can vary from green, white, black, or blue, and it may have a musty or sour smell. If you suspect that your jerky may be moldy, it’s important to inspect it closely before consuming it.

How can you tell if beef jerky is bad?

Mold, discoloration, or sliminess on the surface of the beef jerky are all signs of spoilage and should not be ignored. Fresh jerky should be uniform in color and free of any visible mold or growth. If you notice such signs on your jerky, it’s best to dispose of it and find a replacement.

What are the tiny white spots on beef jerky?

appear on your jerky usually isn’t anything to worry. about, it’s just salt, sugar or tyrosine that has been. “pushed” to the surface of the meat.

What is the white mold on dehydrated meat?

In the case of dry-cured meats, it’s perfectly normal for a shelf-stable product like this to develop non-dangerous white surface mold over time, and it can be scrubbed or cut off. If you don’t dig the way it looks and don’t want to eat it, you can remove the mold by cutting around and below the visible spores.

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