It tastes good though.....The risks pertain primarily to Salmonella and E. coli bacteria that can be present on the meat, generally due to contamination in the killing or butchering of the animal, or at any stage in the meat handling.
According to a major research study[SUP]1[/SUP], "marination alone did not result in significant reduction of the pathogen" so I'd say that salt or alcohol in the marinade wouldn't make enough of a difference for the jerky to be considered entirely safe. Salt can be used to preserve meat safely, but to be effective you'd have to actually "cure" the meat with it, which a normal jerky marination is just not sufficient to do (although if you are interested in getting into the science of curing meats, it is fascinating, fun, and delicious!). As for the inclusion of a bit of alcohol, it certainly doesn't hurt but again the amount used in a marinade just isn't going to be enough to insure the destruction of any pathogens present on the meat.
Biltong, which is very similar to jerky, also poses health risks due to the presence of these same pathogens. However, as biltong is generally partially cured and acidified before drying, the risks are statistically lower than for jerky. Regardless, whether you are drying meat jerky-style or biltong-style, the recommendation is to raise the meat to a temperature high enough to kill the pathogens before drying.
[SUP]1[/SUP] "Effects of Preparation Methods on the Microbiological Safety of Home-Dried Meat Jerky" by Brian A. Nummer et al. (Univ of Georgia), Journal of Food Protection, Vol. 67, No. 10, 2004, Pages 2337-2341.
that's is a problem Moondog as far as the salt issue goes, I too dislike a lot of salt (I have high blood pressure so salt is a killer for me, besides just about all processed food has more then enough salt in it, without having to add more) but jerky needs salt, part of the drying/preserving process I am afraid.Salami goes mouldy on the outside; it is considered part of the maturation process.
I have never come across a commercial jerky I would consider food for full time use, they all are far too salty and too many herbs and far too spice.
If I can find any really lean grass reared NON-FEEDLOT beef this year I may have a go once more but for my own consumption I really prefer pemmican, although I only made it once I was immediately convinced it was an excellent way to store meat for travel.
Trouble with beef like that is you need to be able; usually; to buy the whole carcass which is a lot of meat and we have only a small freezer for the rest of the meat.