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Question about selling jerky

post #1 of 28
Thread Starter 
I pretty much know the responses I will get but please be candid.

Here is Michigan things are getting pretty bad. I'm a builder and do some remodeling and handyman services. I am getting by but by no means making the money that I used to. I have a lot of extra time on my hands and it is not so much a money issue as I do have some free time and I really like to smoke and mess around in my sausage kitchen.

I have stainless steel tables and a stainless deep sink as well as hot water and sanitizing equipment. I want to make beef jerky and sell it. My plan is to take top round or sirloin that I can get downtown Detroit at the meat plants for usually $1.89 lb sometimes less. I can make 30 lbs at a time and I have a commercial canister vacuum packer and want to package 1/4 lb units for $5.00 ea. My plan is to make about three weeks worth at a time.

I have a lot of shot and beer bars locally and was thinking about walking in on Fridays I guess with some samples and sell my jerky that way. I thought a couple guys having a brew after work might say yea give me a pack or two. After all $5 is not that much to part with. I already have a huge following for my jerky recipe and make pretty close to 50 lbs a year for sale for guys going fishing or hunting.

I am trying to make about an extra hundred dollars a week or so to just kinda help out with my spending money that I used to have up until a couple of months ago. I also believe that I will only be spending about two hours at most hitting the local watering holes.

I know about the health dept. I will take every precaution to make things clean. I have been in a lot of restaurant kitchens in my day and most I would never eat in again, so I know I'll be cleaner than that.
Do you think this will work?
post #2 of 28
See, this is tough...
First off I would get premission from the bars to sell... They may ask you for a cut of the money, or not... Then there is your packaging... Technically you need to list every and all ingridents of your jerky alone with how much is in each package.
You would also have to say on your sticker that your jerky has not been authorized for sale by the FDA. (This is just to cover your own butt)

To be burtually honest with you this is a great idea especially with the amount of people who love jerky but who are too lazy to make their own. Or to get the great flavor of a native made prouduct without all the preservatives, but without the proper insurance and liscencing and all I would not take the risk in doing this...
post #3 of 28
Hi Builder, I'm in Warren, MI.

My mother tried to open a cheesecake business out of our home when I was a youngin'. The problem she came across is that we had a dog and a cat...which no matter how clean or sanitized everything was, that was a big no-no to the health department. So if you have a pet, and nothing has changed since the early 90's, you would need a seperate entrance to the jerky kitchen that is not acessible to the rest of the house.

This and the licensing and the fee pretty much made her only cater to friends and collegues which she still does to this day. Once you open to the general public, you open youself to a lot of legal issues.
post #4 of 28
Thread Starter 
I have a seperate building altogether for doing this. Commercial fridge and basically a commercial kitchen. I would ask the bar if I could do this and I also would be doing this on the sly as far as the health dept is concerned.
My thought is basically if a couple of friends are sitting at a table like I do we all usually have ten to twenty bucks laying on the table. I would politely approach and ask if they would like to try some home made jerky and give them a sample and then let them know I have it for sale. I would package as close to 1/4 lb. as possible and I would not label anything as I don't want anything to get back to me. After a few weeks of visiting the same places I hope to get a following.
post #5 of 28
Sorry but it sounds like asking for trouble, either jump through hoops to do it all legal like or don't do it at all, otherwise you are just looking for trouble down the road, Sorry just don't want you get into trouble but that is my suggestion. I would be scared sh*tless of what come back to haunt me.
post #6 of 28
Almost wish I had not read that part.

Seriously, you are asking for major problems with this route.

I too would make it legal, if for no other reason than to cover your rear end. Today's Society is a litigious ( sp ) society. All you need is 1 person to get sick or file a complaint and you could very easily lose everything you have, including that nice commercial kitchen.

Not worth it in my opinion
post #7 of 28
I agree, I have an acquaintance that owned a packaging plant, in the Salinas CA area, who big part of the business was Spinach. well we all heard about the spinach problems and deaths that came of it. His company wasn't the one ultimately to blame but he was put through the ringer and ultimately lost the business.
post #8 of 28

Go for it!

I say go for it. Sounds like a great idea!
post #9 of 28
I was making sausage and selling it to friends and family, then it expanded to their friends and family and expanded on from there. It got too big and out of control. I got worried and shut it down for the reasons that everyone said here. Basically if anyone gets sick or complains, your butt and everything you own is on the line. If you are not going to get permission from the bars, why would they let you do business on their property? I can see a bar owner or manager calling the police on you real quick. Even if you cut them in on the action, you are still exposing them to liability.

Go legit or quit
post #10 of 28
He said he was going to ask the Bars.
post #11 of 28
Recipe for disaster in my opinion. In today's society do you really think that you could not be held liable or have your face sued off just because you didn't label anything??

What he said.^^ If you do it that way, it actually sounds like a good idea.

post #12 of 28
Actually USDA, not FDA has authority on meat products, and technically you can't even give it away to the public unless it is inspected. So, first start with USDA and your local health department for a commercial kitchen license. The local Extension office should also be of some assistance with whom you need to see regarding this too.
You may find the HACCP plan required for meat manufacturing to be not worth the bother to go down this road, but Extension should be able to put you in contact with someone in the Meat Science group at MSU to give you the lowdown on that issue.

Good luck.
post #13 of 28
I thought that said that at first, but then it sounded like he was going to approach customers at the bar, so I wasn't sure. First I thought he was going to sell the jerky to the bars and they would sell it to the customer, then it sounded like he was going to sell it directly to the customer himself. If he's selling it to the customer, what's in it for the bar owner?

What got me started was reading Rytek Kutas' book. Sounds like he started out selling kielbasa (similar to the way builder59 is talking about) to bars. I was thinking I could start small and see how things went and see if I was going to be able to make any money before going the legit route. Of course Rytek's story was from a long time ago and I'm sure you could get away with a lot more back then than you can now. Turned out I was doing a whole lot of work and not making much money, needing more space and bigger equipment (which I couldn't afford) in order to be more efficient. Add on worring about liability led me to shut it down.
post #14 of 28
Thread Starter 
Thanks for all of the responses. It seems it's really hard to make a buck these days with all the red tape. By the time I do everything legit with the fda and the tax man. It is definitely not worth it. I was just hoping to make 100 to 150 bucks a week extra. You folks are right about not losing my house. It's very nice.

To clarify about the bars, around here every one is good ole boys so to speak, I'm sure when the guys would eat the jerky right there in the bar it would sell a few more beers to wash it down. Around here everyone is very laid back, but you are right, all it takes is one bad person. Personally I can't see anything going wrong with the jerky process. Buy fresh meat take care of it right away use your cure and process quickly to temp, should be a no brainer. But I will take everyones advice and cool it. The response is what I thought it would be, I just wanted to see if my gut reaction was correct.

Thanks again,
post #15 of 28
I still wouldn't let the idea die at this point. It shouldn't cost anything to at least explore the option of doing this enterprise in a legitimate fashion. Check with some of the agencies mentioned, maybe even the SBA for a business plan, then decide where to go. Yeah, it is tougher to make a buck in this day and age, but not impossible.
post #16 of 28
The problem is it becoming too much of a good thing - someone else will get wind of it and turn you in because they wanted to do the same thing and didn't because of all the reasons above; I've seen it happen to many a meatcutter throughout the years getting ambitious. Then, the next thing you know, one of the 'good ole boys' sitting around the bar is a USDA inspector ready to buy up a whole bunch of your product and his buddies are outside ready to arrest you; saw it happen at football games, a friend and meatcutter (who had his own deer cutting side business) was selling venison jerky to the locals the very same way. Midway thru the high school season (his son was a junior and on the varsity team), a USDA plant 'gave a donation' for a couple packages (he thought that would protect him asking for 'donations' - nope, still selling it, just at a negotiable price) and State Troopers arrested him outside the high school when he went to leave, he got a citation for selling adulterated and unlabeled meat, all his equipment in his barn (it was like a separate shed, very nice, impervious walls, floor drains, everything - I'd urged him several times to get it inspected as a wild game processing plant but he was stubborn) was confiscated and he had to go to court. He settled for a $10,000 fine plus a $15,000 'detainer' fee for his equipment (their cost of auctioning it off, storage, moving, etc.) and was put out of business for good. All because (he suspects) a meatcutter who helped him process a few deer one weekend got p.o'ed because Doug was selling his jerky and his wife wouldn't let him sell his own because of the very things above, so he turned him in. Of course, Doug couldn't keep his mouth shut and had to brag to him how he scored bigger than either team at the football games, making over $100 at each one and that got the other cutter ticked off enough to toss him under the bus. The complaint he turned in was that the jerky 'had a funny taste' and that's all they needed to do an investigation.
At that time I was considering selling a little breakfast sausage on the side.. scuttled those plans in a hurry! Oh yeah, Doug also lost his job as a meat department manager over it too, which at that time was paying over $25/hr plus OT at least 8 hrs. a week or more (minimum work week was 6 days, 48 hrs a week). Last I knew he moved to Pa. to be a boner on a processing line in a packing plant, at about $8-$10 hr., Moyer's if I remember correctly.

My advice? Explore what it will take to be a legally owned and operated processing plant, however be it so small, get your processing license, and you can show a loss up to 5 years (which gives you a nice tax break while moving towards profitability and extra monies back on your taxes!) while you do the necessary processes to become an inspected plant. Then, when you get your USDA seal, produce away, find markets for your product, sell it part time until you can expand and grow. Within 5 years if you have a good product (and I'm sure you will!) you can move to bigger facilities, be a full - time processor, and start the empire that all your future generations will grow to know and admire! The only person stopping you is you!
post #17 of 28

Sound like good advice

I think that sounds like a plan!
post #18 of 28
Thread Starter 

That does sound like an idea, as you say it won't cost but a little time to investigate. I really appreciate your time it took to respond being so thorough. I really like this site, you sure can get a lot of information from these forums.

Thank you again,
post #19 of 28
couldnt he do it at a bar that sells some food too? I wouldnt think it would be a big deal if the bar had snacks like popcorn, chips and salsa ect. as long as it was cool with the owners. I dont see how it would be any different.
post #20 of 28
I say to sell to family and friends that you trust. But other than that you need to remember you're likely selling to people who may be in the same financial boat as you, or worse. All it's gonna take is one person to get sick and think "I'll sue that guy and that'll set me up for a while". Just hate to see you get you're life ruined over it.

Like dad always said "son, you keep playing with bees, you're gonna get stung."
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