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Canned Meat: A Must-Have Survival Food

Unless you raise livestock for meat, you are at the mercy of the industrial meat complex in an SHTF situation. As I’m writing this article, online retailers are out of canned beef, pork, and chicken, limiting how much you can purchase. Meat, protein, and fats are hard to get in an SHTF situation, so stock up. Up next, 13 reasons canned meat is excellent survival food.

13 Reasons Canned Meat is an Excellent Survival Food

  1. Excellent Protein Source
  2. Source of Fat, which is often difficult to come by in survival situations
  3. No freezing, thawing, or pre-cooking is necessary.
  4. Shelf Stable
  5. Long Shelf Life: Most canned meats will last 5+ Years beyond the “best buy date.”
  6. Unopened cans don’t need refrigeration.
  7. Pre-cooked so you can eat the meat out of the can without heating
  8. Commercial canning sterilizes meat
  9. Sealed Cans are an excellent container for long-term storage
  10. It remains edible far beyond the best-buy date.
  11. In a pinch, you can place the can directly on campfire coals to heat
  12. Perfect for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), 72 Hour Emergency kit.
  13. Excellent for rotation in a long-term survival pantry.
  14. Canned Meat loses very little of its nutritional value in the canning process.

Tip: Avoid mixing meat soups that include vegetables or tomatoes when storing meats for long shelf life. These ingredients reduce shelf-life.

Tip: Meat canned in oil has the most calories and nutrition

Warning: Once canned meat is opened, it must be eaten immediately or refrigerated; for this reason, choose cans with a serving size that can be eaten in one meal.

Let’s take a look at a chart of the top 22 canned meats for stockpiling and prepping.

Chart #1 22 Types of Canned Meat For Emergency Storage

Type of MeatFatProteinServing SizeCalories
Tuna in Water .5 g22g3oz100
(Pink Starkist)
(King Oscar)
(Bumble Bee)
(Crown Prince)
(King Oscar)
Crab Meat
(Bumble Bee)
(King Oscar)
Kippered Herring
(Crown Prince)
Roast Beef
Canned Bacon
5g5g3 slices60
Canned Hamburger
Pulled Pork
(Chata in Retort)
Deviled Ham Spread
Flower Pork Liver
Vienna Sausage
Potted Meat
Corned Beef
Nutritional Information Provided by the USDA or the Manufacturer

So you have a stockpile of canned meats, but how do you use it in recipes? Up next, 32 ways to use canned meat from your emergency food stockpile.

How Do You Use Canned Meat?

You can make anything with canned meat that you can with fresh meat.

Think of it as an ingredient in your meals but with one less step.

There are many ways to use canned meats; giving a comprehensive list is impossible. The following are some ideas to get your creative juices flowing.

32 Uses for Canned Meat

The most flexible meats will be Beef, Chicken, and Pork but don’t discount fish and seafood; they provide nutrients that the other meats don’t.

  1. Eat pre-cooked meats cold out of the can
  2. Heat and eat
  3. Mix with Rice and/ or Beans
  4. Mix into cooked pasta
  5. Eat on a cracker or bread
  6. Mix with foraged salads or produce from the garden
  7. Pork, Beef, and Chicken can be used in the same recipes you use for fresh meat
  8. Canned corn beef is a staple in the Bahamas, cooked as a hash over rice, called “fire engine.”
  9. Beef and egg noodles
  10. Chicken and noodles
  11. Mix into Top Ramen
  12. Salmon Patties
  13. Chicken and beef stroganoff
  14. Tacos
  15. Enchiladas
  16. Burritos
  17. Cabbage Rolls
  18. Chicken Pot Pie
  19. Orange Chicken Stir Fry
  20. Beef, Chicken, and Pork Sandwiches
  21. Stir-fry with any available fresh vegetables and eat on white rice
  22. Sardines or kippers on toasted bread
  23. Beef, Chicken, or Pork with stewed dried beans
  24. Spaghetti
  25. Chili
  26. Fajitas
  27. Heat Meat and BBQ sauce and eat on bread or rice
  28. Chicken Salad
  29. Make a gravy with meat and canned mushrooms and pour it over rice
  30. Salmon Spread on Crackers
  31. Meat Chowder
  32. Casseroles, Soups, and Stews
  33. Goulash
  34. Sloppy Joes

Look at the retailers down below for links to recipes by meat type.

Next, let’s take a look at five reasons you may want to avoid canned meat as survival food.

5 Reasons To Avoid Canned Meat As A Survival Food

  1. High Sodium Content: Avoid canned meats if you are sensitive to salt.
  2. Nitrates are often used as a preservative (check your label)
  3. Gravy, juice, or additives are included in the can weight. You’re not getting as much meat as you think.
  4. The use of antibiotics, poor living conditions, and animal feed are suspect in some cases.
  5. Not good for bugging out unless you use a cache system. (hiding food and gear in a predetermined location.) Cans are too heavy to carry on foot.

Tip: If you are willing to pay the price, you can get canned meat considered “healthy.” Brands that are organic, free-range, grass-fed, antibiotic-free, and sodium-free are available.

Let’s take a look at how to store canned meat for maximum shelf-life.

How Should I Store Canned Meats?

  • Store canned meat on a shelf up off of the floor
  • Keep your storage area clean, dry, and cool
  • Store 18″ from the wall so air can circulate
  • Store at or below 75° F and above freezing
  • Rotate your canned meat with FIFO, First In, First Out, a method used by Restaurants. Use the old cans first.

Up next, ten signs a can of meat is inedible.

Rusty Cans

10 Cans of Meat You Should Never Eat

If you are shooting for a shelf-life beyond the “Best Buy” date, you’ll want to inspect your cans before using them to ensure your meat didn’t head south.

Avoid using cans of meat that show any of the following signs:

  1. Leaking or stained
  2. Swollen
  3. Rust
  4. Badly Dented
  5. Cracked
  6. Foul Odors
  7. Missing or loose lids
  8. Meat in the can has a change in color or odor
  9. When in doubt, throw it out
  10. Don’t taste-test meat you are not sure of

So. How long will canned meats last?

How Long will Canned Meat Last?

Canned meat has a “best used by date” of 3 to 15 years, but it can last longer. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, A “Best if Used By (or Before Date) is not a purchase or safety date for canned meats. It indicates peak quality, not that the meat is bad. 

Up next, what effects how long canned meat will last on the shelf.

What Effects Canned Meat Shelf-life?

  • The canning process
  • The type of meat in the can
  • How the can is stored
  • How is the can handled?
  • The condition of the can when opened

According to the United States Department of Agriculture: Food Safety and Inspection Service, there are three Dates that may be on food products:

  1. A “Sell-By” date tells the store how long to display the product for sale. You should buy the product before the date expires.
  2. A “Best if Used By (or Before)” date is recommended for the best flavor or quality. It is not a purchase or safety date and is not required by law.
  3. A “Use-By” date is the last date recommended for using the product at peak quality. The manufacturer of the product has determined the date.

Read the entire USDA document concerning Food Product Dating. See the link under resources at the end of this article.

Next up, canned meats preferred by preppers and survivalists.

Keystone #1

Packaged in Lima, Ohio, with two ingredients: Salt and Meat

Keystone Canned Meats

  1. Beef
  2. Chicken
  3. Pork
  4. Turkey
  5. Ground Beef
  6. Beef Broth
  7. Chicken Broth
  8. Turkey Broth

Head over to Keystone.com and check out their recipes

Werling and Sons, Inc #2

Family-owned since 1896, canning meat since 1966. It started as a butcher shop in Burkittsville, OH

Werling and Sons, Inc Canned Meats

  1. Beef
  2. Canned Hamburger Meat
  3. Pork
  4. Pork Sausage Filling
  5. Chicken
  6. Turkey

Werling and Sons Recipes

Spam #3

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you recognize Spam as mystery meat in a can but it isn’t mystery meat at all, It only contains 6 ingredients: Pork with Ham, Salt, Water, Potato Starch, Sugar, and Sodium Nitrite.

Spam has kept more people alive than any other canned meat on the planet, and it first became popular during WWII. In places like the Hawaiian Islands, it’s part of the culture; you can find it in McDonald’s and Burger King sandwiches.

Spam Canned Meats

Some of these flavors are hard to find, depending on where you live.

  • Spam Classic
  • Spam Lite
  • Spam with less sodium
  • Spam with Hormel Bacon
  • Spam Hickory Smoke
  • Hot and Spicy Spam
  • Jalapeno Spam
  • Teriyaki Spam
  • Black Pepper Spam
  • Spam with Portuguese Sausage
  • Spam with Tocino Seasoning (Filipino style sweet pork)
  • Spam Spread

Answer: Spam Fried Rice

Interesting Facts About Spam:

  • 12.8 cans of Spam are eaten every second
  • Spam is sold in 44 countries
  • 100 million pounds of Spam was sent to feed troops during WWII
  • In Southeast Asia, Spam is given as a luxury gift
  • Hawaii eats 7 million cans of Spam per year
  • Residents on the Island of Guam consume an average of 16 cans of Spam per person per year
  • 8 billion cans of Spam have been sold

Information Compliments of Spam.com

Head over to Spam’s website to check out recipes

Lehman’s #4

Lehman’s is a retail and online store that provides tools and food for people living a simpler life. Some canned meat products are branded “Lehman’s, and some are not. In business since 1955 and located in Ohio.

Meat Ingredients: Meat and Salt with no added preservatives or water

Lehman’s Canned Meats

  • Canned Beef-Keystone
  • Canned Chicken-Keystone
  • Canned Turkey-Keystone
  • Canned Pork-Keystone
  • Canned Ground Beef-Keystone
  • Canned Bacon-Lehman’s
  • Turkey Broth-Keystone
  • Chicken Broth-Keystone
  • Beef Broth-Keystone

If you are a survival type, prepper, off-gridder, or homesteader, Lehman’s makes for an interesting browse. Head over and check them out. Lehmans.com

Wertz’s #5

Wertz’s is veteran owned and located in Tiffin, Ohio. Their canned meat is farm-raised without the use of Antibiotics or Hormones, and it’s GMO-free.

“Hello, I’m Don Wertz, and I am the proud owner of Don Wertz Family Farms and Wertz’s Farm Market. My Wertz Family has been raising beef in North West Ohio since 1852. I am the 7th generation of our family and keeping up with the family tradition.”

Wertz’s Canned Meats

  • Home Grown Beef
  • Home Grown Pork

Check out the Wertz Recipes

Kirkland Signature Brand (Costco) #6

You have to have a membership to purchase from Costco. Their canned chicken is super popular among preppers, as is the roast beef. Roast beef is hard to find. Costco also offers other canned meats in bulk, like Libby’s Vienna Sausages, Canned Albacore Tuna, and wild-caught sardines in olive oil. Their stock is always changing, so you will have to check them out to see what they have.

Costco Wholesale Canned Meats

  • Kirkland Signature Premium Chunk Chicken Breast
  • Kirkland Signature Solid White Albacore Tuna
  • Kirkland Signature Wild Alaskan Pink Salmon

Hormel #7

Owns Spam, this will cover Hormel Meats, other than Spam.

Hormel is processed and packaged in Minnesota.

Hormel Canned Meats

  • Smoked Ham
  • Chicken Breast
  • White and Dark Turkey
  • Roast Beef and Gravy
  • Ham Patties
  • Corned Beef
  • Canned Whole Ham
  • Pig feet
  • Pork Hocks
  • Spam

Armour #8

Owned by the Conagra Corporation out of Chicago

Armour Canned Meats

  • Potted Meat
  • Deviled Ham
  • Vienna Sausage
  • Roast Beef With Gravy
  • Corned Beef
  • Treet Lunch Loaf

Libby’s #9

Owned by Libby’s Brand Holding, based in Geneva, Switzerland

Libby’s Canned Meats

  • Corned Beef
  • Vienna Sausage
  • Roast Beef

Bumble Bee #10

Owned by Thai Union Group out of Thailand

Bumble Bee Canned Meats

  • Chub Mackerel
  • Solid White Albacore
  • Red Salmon
  • Oysters
  • Crabmeat
  • Shrimp
  • Sardines


Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank, Shelf Life of Food Bank Products PDF

Ready.gov, Build A Kit, Emergency Preparedness link to .gov site

Unites States Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service, Food Product Dating PDF

Thank’s, for stopping by Ready Squirrel! If you have questions, please leave them in the comments.

Keep on prepping!

Best Regards, Scott

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