Glad to help.
1. .5" thickness cooks down and thins out to between .25" to .375". It is a much heftier piece of jerky then is usual, but my customers prefer it. There are ups and downs to it- it is fully cooked, but not totally dried through, making for a softer piece of jerky. The downside is it NOT shelf stable. I keep it under refrigeration until sold, and make sure the customer knows that if they leave it at room temperature for too long, it will spoil. I cut that thickness and keep cutting until I have a full smokehouse load, regardless of number of pieces. I don't worry about number of slices per screen, I'm more concerned with the final product. As far as bacon hooks, the bacon hooks i use look like this http://www.sausagemaker.com/49340andnbs ... anger.aspx
so it would be an incredibly inefficient method to spear a piece of jerky on each tine, then hang in. I'd estimate that could cut the amount of jerky I could smoke to 1/5th or less of the weight I do at once now.
2. The basic marinating is as follows: 20lb meat, dry spice, liquid smoke, sodium nitrite. This goes into a small vacuum tumbler, run to maximum vacuum and tumbled for 20 minutes (30 minutes for flavors with brown sugar or fresh vegetables). Open tumbler, dump contents into a clean 5-gallon bucket, label and let sit in cooler overnight. It then goes into the smokehouse the next night. Depending on varieties, other flavors will be added into the tumbler, or the dry spice changed, but that's the basic procedure. I don't add water as the basic spice (any variety I use) has salt already, which will pull plenty of liquid out to lubricate the tumbling process. However you do it at home, if the end result gives you the flavor you want, then you're good to go. Just don't use a whole lot of liquid if you can avoid it. I tell my hunters to use just enough liquid to make the batch easier to stir, you don't want the meat swimming. Just remember to give it some movement every few hours to make sure every cut surface is exposed to the marinade.
3. The wire screens in my truck are about 5" or so vertical separation apart, single column in. In the small smokehouse, I can fit 8 full screens in, which works out to about 160-180lb total meat wet weight. The finished weight changes, of course- some varieties dry out more than others. I could have more supports welded in and get more screens in, but I don't move enough jerky to make it worth fooling around with a stainless welder.
4. For kosher, let me be very clear here: do not take my word on this. Talk to a kosher meatcutter or certified kosher shop
. I know almost nothing about kosher laws as I don't make a kosher product in any way. That said, any lean muscle from the front shoulder can make jerky if you're willing to finesse it. We buy shoulder clods, chuck rolls and whole front quarters to cut steaks and roasts out of, and the end cuts of the muscles can all be made into jerky (waste not, want not). Granted, the tag end or the taper aren't going to be as tender a piece of jerky as the center cut of a ball tip or gooseneck round, but if you're willing to put in a little knife work to get the pieces cut to your desired thickness, you're good to go. The things that won't make jerky but are still meat, or you're unable to tease the jerky from out of intramuscular fat, goes into ground meat. Just make sure there's no tendon or silverskin in the jerky- they both dry out to be almost bone-like and can (no exaggeration) crack teeth.
*edit* Just got off the phone with the boss, if you're using a single muscle from the front shoulder, crossrib would be ideal.