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What is the Difference Between Beef Jerky and Biltong?

Wild Karoo Biltong - Difference Between Biltong and Beef Jerky

Beef jerky and biltong are similar, yet there are some important differences.

Both beef jerky and biltong are dried meats, however, they are made differently, the ingredients used to make them are slightly different and they taste different too. Let’s walk through the differences.

Beef Jerky and Biltong Originated from Very Different Places

Sani Pass, Mkhomazi Wilderness area, South Africa

Sani Pass, Khomazi Wilderness area, South Africa. Photo by Joseph Argus

Biltong originated in the South of Africa in what is known today as South Africa, Zimbabwe, and Namibia. Jerky originated in the Americas.

They were discovered around the same time several hundreds of years ago by European colonizers in different parts of the world. Their roots come from ancient meat preservation techniques before the invention of modern refrigeration technology.

Biltong and Jerky Use Different Meat Cuts and Ingredients

Biltong is primarily made from cuts of fine beef such as fillet, sirloin or steaks. It can also be made from chicken, fish, game or ostrich. Jerky is also primarily made from beef, including ground beef which is thinly sliced or pressed into thin strips. Most of the fat is trimmed from jerky pieces prior to drying the meat, which is not usually the case for biltong.

The meat used to make biltong is much thicker, with strips measuring about 1” wide (2.5cm). Jerky is cut into thin strips usually about 1/4” thick (0.6cm). Jerky and biltong both undergo a curing process using spices and salt. Biltong is dried using vinegar, whereas jerky is not.

Both Jerky and Biltong are Regulated in the U.S. & Canada

In order to ensure the food safety of jerky and biltong, both products are closely regulated by the United-States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Every facility is regularly inspected, just like ours. You can rest assured that beef jerky and biltong are both very safe to eat.

Biltong and Jerky Taste Different

Jerky is oftentimes smoked giving it a dry smoky taste. Biltong is never smoked giving it a unique meat flavor. Jerky can also contain brown or cane sugar, making it sweet and a bit sugary. Biltong contains only natural ingredients without the use of added sugar or process additives. It is like eating small pieces of delicious dried steak.

The Production Process for Biltong is Longer

Jerky is cut into thin pieces prior to drying, then dehydrated for 3-8 hours on a rack making the end result much dryer. Biltong is a dried steak which is then hung, air-dried and cured over multiple days. Our biltong is cured for 21 days. This process allows for fine tuning the moisture and fat content. Biltong can come ‘wet’ which is more soft or buttery and ‘dry’ which is more like jerky. It can be cut to include lots or very little fat.

Beef Jerky and Biltong are Both Nutritious Snacks

Both beef jerky and biltong have similar nutrition profiles. In a 1 oz serving biltong contains 15g of protein, 2.5g of fat with no trans fat, no carbohydrates, and no sugar. Jerky often times contains some carbohydrates and sugar depending on the production process.

Biltong makes for an excellent protein source, it is more than 50% protein by mass, making it a preferred snack for athletes, bodybuilders, and outdoor adventurers. Since the meat is cured rather than cooked the natural enzymes are intact allowing for easy digestion. It’s gluten-free with no MSG, no nitrates, no chemical preservatives and no additives.

Still curious? Have a look at our biltong selection and give some a try!

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