10 Best Canned Meats for Survival & Prepping

Best Canned Meats for Survival & Prepping

Every prepper knows that you need to have an adequate supply of protein rich food on hand for emergencies. But, options like freeze dried and dehydrated meats are pretty expensive. One affordable option is canned meat. The thing is, there are a lot different products to choose from.

So, how do you choose the best canned meats for survival? In this article I’ll be going over the process for choosing canned meats for long term storage. Plus, provide you with a list of the ten best canned meats for prepping.

What is Canned Meat & How is it Preserved

Canned Meats are meats that are prepared in airtight containers, usually tin coated steel cans that prevent any possible influence of contaminants.

The meats are sterilized or pasteurized to kill microorganisms that can cause spoilage.

Most commerical canned meats are sterilized. This process involves heating the meat at temperatures of 250 °F. 

Sterilization occurs when the meat reaches an internal temperature of 213.8 °F.

During sterilization, most micro-organisms are killed and enzymes become inactive. This process causes the meat to have a more or less indefinite shelf life. 

Yes, that’s right, canned meats can be stored for a very long time. Provided it stays sealed.  There is a recorded case where a can of meat was still edible after being stored for 114 years (Drummond and Macara, 1938). 

It’s this long shelf life, plus the high protein content and affordable cost that makes canned meat such a viable option for emergency food supply.

Canned Meat Shelf Life

Now, even though, canned meats can last for almost forever. There are recommendations for how long they should be stored before eating. 

The USDA recommends a storage life of 2 to 5 years for canned meats for best quality. That’s, if  the can remains in good condition and is stored in a cool, dry and clean place.

Manufacturers have various recommendations. These are usually displayed on cans with a “best by” or “open by” dates.

But, the reality is, canned foods usually maintain high quality levels for up to 5 years past best by dates. 

Video on Canned Meat Storage Facts

Is Canned Meat Safe to Eat Without Cooking

Unlike most survival food. Canned meat is precooked. So, its ready to eat right out of the can. Which is perfect for SHTF scenarios.

What to Look For When Buying Canned Meat

When buying canned meat you need to know exactly what to look for. There are some important factors you need to consider.

Let’s go over these factors one by one. 

Sodium Content

Sodium is used as a part of the preservation process for canning meats. So, if you have dietary restrictions. 

You need to read the label and look for the options with the least amount of salt. 


Some canned meats use a curing process that involves the use of nitrates and nitrites. These preservatives can cause an allergic reaction in some people.

Having an allergic reaction is the last thing you would want to face during an emergency.

Extenders and Fillers

Extenders and fillers are another thing you should be on the look out for. Manufactuers often use them to supplement the meat content. 

Extenders are non meat protein sources, such as soy.  While fillers are substances high in carbohydrates, such as gravy and broth.

Even though this helps to reduce the cost. This means that you’re getting less meat for your dollar. 

The less fillers and extenders, the better the quality.

Saturated Fat

Saturated fat greatly increases the possiblity of coronary artery disease. So, try to get canned meat that has the lowest levels of this bad fat.

A great rule of thumb is to try and find products that have less than 3 grams (0.1 oz) per 100 grams (3.5 ozs).

Your heart will thank you for it!

Serving Size

Not all canned meats come with the same portion size. Be sure to check the label before buying. 

For example, 1 serving of SPAM is 2 ounces, while a serving size of Swanson Chicken Breast is 3 ounces.

Check the portion size to make sure you’re getting value for your dollar.

You also neeed to look at the amount of meat you get in each can. If you’re single you may want to get cans with smaller amounts.

Remember, when you open a can during a survival scenario you’ll need to consume it as soon as possible. Chances are you won’t have a way to refrigerate leftovers.

Quality of the Can

Closely inspect cans before purchasing. Never buy cans that are bulging, leaking, rusting or looked banged up.

These defective cans may allow the entry of bacteria, which leads to spoilage, among other things.

Avoid Pop Up Can Lids When Possible

Pop up can lids are not as securely sealed as the good old fashioned cans you have to use a can opener to open. This means that they are more susceptible to spoilage.

How to Store Canned Meat Products

Here are some guidelines you need to follow to get the best possible shelf life out of your canned meats.  You will drastically improve the shelf life if you do the following:

1. Don’t expose the cans to extremely high or low temperatures.

Storing cans in temperatures above 100 °F greatly increases the possibility of spoilage. Cans stored in temperatures of  above 75 °F for extended periods, increases the possiblity of nutrient loss. Ideal temperatures are between 55 and 65 °F.

2. Store cans in cool, dry and dark areas. Avoid areas close to stoves and furnaces, basements, or garages. The best place to store them is in a pantry.

3. Check on cans every few weeks and rotate stock.  Ensure that you consume items on a first in first out basis. This ensures that the oldest is used first.

Video on the Dos and Don’ts of Storing Canned Goods

Best Canned Meats for Prepping and Emergencies

The most important factors in deciding what foods to store for your  emergency food supply, is the shelf life, taste, nutritional value and the cost. I have looked at all of these factors in deciding on what I believe are the the best canned meats for prepping and survival..

Because of this some of these options are not the ones you would typically find at your grocery store. But instead are canned meats that are intentionally created for long term storage.

That being said, here are my choices.

Best Canned Meat for Long Term Storage: Survival Cave Canned Meats

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Made specifically for survival and prepper needs, Survival Cave Canned Meats come with a whopping 25 year shelf life.

It’s also one of the healthiest canned meats around. It’s Non-GMO, growth hormones, additive and filler free. Their meat products are USDA inspected and sourced from farms that feed their animals only grass and wheat.

It’s also low in sodium, cholesterol and fat. The only ingredients are meat and salt. Which makes them a healthy choice in comparison to regular grocery store canned meats.

Survival Cave offers a variety pack that comes with beef, chicken, turkey and pork. This gives you a lot of variety and bang for your buck.

Best of all, it’s great tasting, high in protein and it get’s rave reviews.

Survival Cave Meats gets our pick for best bulk canned meat as well as the best option for long term food storage.

Serving Size: 3 ounces

Sizing options: 14.5 and 28 oz cans

Servings Per Can: 14.5 oz cans (4.5 servings), 28 oz cans (9 servings)

Ingredients: Meat, Sea Salt

Options: Beef, Ground Beef, Chicken, Turkey and Pork

Canned Beef

Best Canned Beef: Keystone All Natural Beef

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When you think of canned beef, the first thing that comes to mind is corned beef. But, trust me, Keystone is no corned beef!

It’s all natural beef with only a dash of sea salt added and slow cooked in the can to seal in the natural juices. If that sounds good, that’s because it is.

Keystone beef gets the nod for best canned beef because of its great taste, high nutritional value and decent 5 year shelf life.

Serving Size: 3 ounces

Sizing options: 14.5 and 28 oz cans

Servings Per Can: 14.5 oz cans (4.5 servings), 28 oz cans (9 servings)

Ingredients: Beef, Sea Salt

Protein per serving: 11 grams

Best Canned Corned Beef: Libbys Corned Beef

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Corned beef is really easy to prepare, which makes it great for meals on the go. You can eat it cold in a sandwich or add it to a salad, scrambled eggs or sliced potatoes.

Libby’s is the canned corned beef of choice, because it has a very rich flavor. It is pretty high in salt, but that’s the case with all corned beef. But if you’re on a low sodium diet, you should avoid it.

Serving Size: 2 ounces

Sizing options: 12 oz can

Servings Per Can: 6 servings

Ingredients: Beef, Salt, Sugar, Sodium Nitrite

Protein per serving: 13 grams

Canned Fish

Best Canned Tuna: Wild Planet Albacore Wild Tuna

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Tuna is a great source of protein, Vitamin D and Omega 3 Fatty Acids. All important nutrients for cognitive function, which is very important in stressful emergency situations.

Not only is tuna packed with great nutrients, it’s quick and easy to prepare. Put it between two slices of bread and you have a wholesome meal.

Canned Tuna doesn’t do too bad in the long term storage category either. It’s good for between 3 to 5 years.

Wild Planet Albbacore Tuna is my tuna of choice, because it doesn’t have any additives, just tuna and salt. Each serving comes with a whopping 21 grams of protein and 705 mg of Omega 3

Serving Size: 2 ozs

Sizing options: 9 oz can

Servings Per Can: 4.5 servings

Ingredients: Albacore Tuna, Sea Salt

Protein per serving: 13 grams

Best Canned Salmon: Starkist Wild Alaskan Pink Salmon

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Starkist Wild Alaskan Pink Salmon is a great option for prepping. It’s budget friendly, has 20 grams of protein per serving and is loaded with Omega 3s, and Vitamins B and D.

It comes in a 14 .75 oz can which makes it a great option for families.

To top it off Starkist Pink Salmon is MSC certified for sustainable and ethical sourcing practices and each can comes with a 3 year shelf life.

Serving Size: 3 ounces

Sizing options: 14.75 oz can

Servings Per Can: 14.5 oz cans (4.5 servings), 28 oz cans (9 servings)

Ingredients: Pink Salmon, Salt

Protein per serving: 20 grams

Canned Pork

Best Canned Bacon: Yoders Canned Bacon

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Yoders canned bacon had to make the list. Not only is it delicious crispy smoked bacon, but it also has a 10 year shelf life.

The bacon comes precooked so you can eat it right from the can. Each can comes with around 40 – 50 slices.

Unlike other canned bacon that can’t seem to get the taste and texture right, Yoders hits the nail on the head in both areas. You won’t know the difference between Yoders and regular bacon.

Who says survival food has to be boring and bland?

Serving Size: 14 grams (3 slices of bacon)

Sizing options: 9 oz can

Servings Per Can: 18 servings

Ingredients: Pork, Water, Salt, Sugar, Smoke Flavoring, Sodium Phosphates, Sodium Erythorbate, Sodium Nitrite

Protein per serving: 5 grams

Best Canned Ham: Dak Premium Ham

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This ham wasn’t designed for survival food storage, but it sure does fit the bill. Dak Canned Ham has a minimum shelf life of 5 years.

The can comes with 16 ounces of fully cooked ham. That’s one pound of ready to eat meat. The best thing about Dak Ham is the great taste. It’s good for every day meals as well as for emergency food storage.

And with 9 grams of protein per serving, it will definitely provide the protein you need in a stressful emergency situation.

Serving Size: 2 ozs

Sizing options: 16 oz can

Servings Per Can: 8 servings

Ingredients: Ham cured with water, salt, sugar, sodium phosphates, carrageenan, sodium erythorbate, and sodium nitrate

Protein per serving: 9 grams

Canned Poultry

Best Canned Turkey: Hormel White & Dark Chunk Turkey

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Why is Hormel canned turkey the best? Well for starters it’s high in protein and low in saturated fat. The contrast with white and dark turkey meat makes for a great taste.

It’s a good option for salads, tacos, sandwiches or just as it is.

Serving Size: 2 oz (56 g)

Sizing options: 5 oz can

Servings Per Can: 2.5 servings

Ingredients: White and Dark Turkey, Water, Contains 2% or less of Sea Salt, Modified Food Starch, Sodium Phosphates, Turkey Flavor (Salt, Turkey Broth, Natural Flavors), Flavoring.

Protein per serving: 9 grams

Best Canned Chicken: Mountain House Cooked Diced Canned Chicken

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With a 30 year shelf life, there is no way that I could have left Mountain House Cooked Diced Canned chicken off the list.

Mountain House is all natural with no artificial anything. It comes in a 1 Gallon #10 can with 14 servings of grade A chicken.

Each serving has a whopping 25 grams of protein. It’s easy to prepare. Simply add water and wait 10 minutes.

If you’re in a bind and don’t have time to rehydrate you can still eat straight from the can as it is precooked.

Serving Size: 3/4 cup

Sizing options: 1 Gallon #10 Size Can

Servings Per Can: 14 servings

Ingredients: Chicken

Protein per serving: 25 grams

Mystery Meat

Best Mystery Meat: Spam Classic

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No canned meat list would be complete without good ol’ Spam. It’s not the healthiest option out there, seeing that it’s highly processed ‘mystery meat.’

But it does have a pretty decent shelf life of around 3 to 5 years. Plus, it has high levels of protein, fat and vitamins to sustain you during surival situations.

It’s good to eat hot or cold and it’s on the lower end in terms of cost. It’s also one of hte best tasting canned meats out there.

Serving Size: 2 ozs

Sizing options: 12 oz can

Servings Per Can: 6 servings

Ingredients: Pork with Ham, Salt, Water, Modified Potato Starch, Sugar, Sodium Nitrite.

Protein per serving: 7 grams

How to Can Meat – Home Canning

If you’re more of the do it yourself kind of person then home canning may be a better option for you. Not only is it more affordable than commerical options, but it’s healthier too.

But there are a few drawbacks to home canning. It’s pretty time consuming and may not have as long a shelf life as commercially canned meats. Plus there’s the risk of botulism.

Botulism is a rare but potentially fatal illness that is caused by a bacterium. It can occur when canned meat is not properly sterilized.

But all drawbacks aside, it’s still a good option if you know what you’re doing. So, if you’re up for it, here it goes!

What You’ll Need for Canning Meat

It’s important to note, that a pressure canner is an absolute necessity for canning meat. This is because meats are low acid foods.

All low acid foods need to be canned in a pressure canner to prevent the possibility of botulism. Why not water bath canning?

Well water bath canning doesn’t reach an adequate enough temperature to kill botulism spores.

So the first important step is ensuring you have a good pressure canner.

Now, lets get to the good stuff!

Canning Meat – Step by Step Process

Step 1: Start water boiling in the pressure canner and ensure that all the canning jars are clean and dry.

Step 2: Remove all excess fat, skin, gristle, feathers etc. from meat. Then cube the meat into bit size pieces.

Step 3: Wash or sanitize hands and placed the cubed meat into the canning jars. Fill the jars with the meat and leave 1 inch of breathing space. Add salt for taste if desired (1 tsp per qt jar or 1/2 tsp per pint jar)

Step 4: Boil water in kettle, enough to fill jars to a few inches high. Leaving enough room for the juices that the meat will release.

Step 5: Wipe the rims of the jars to remove end food particles, dried salt or other residue. Also run your finger around the rim, to ensure that none of the jars have any chips or knicks.

Step 6: Add rings and lids to the jars and tighten as firmly as you can with your finger tips.

Step 7: Turn the heat off on your pressure canner then lower the jars on to a rack inside the canner. After loading secure the lid on the canner.

Step 8: Turn the heat back on the pressure canner with the weighted gauge or rocker in place. Allow the pressure to build up until steam is pushing through the valve. Then remove the weighted gauge and allow venting for another 10 minutes.

Step 9: After 10 minutes have passed, add the weighted gauge back to the canner and allow pressure to build up until the gauge reads 10 pounds (for higher elevations use 15 lbs).

Step 10. Once the 10 lb pressure has been achieved, keep the canner at this pressure for another 90 minutes. Once 90 minutes has passed allow the pressure to release naturally. Then remove jars using a canning tool, as jars will be very hot. Allow jars to cool for 24 hours.

You should now have some tasty canned meat that’s good for at least another 5 years. You only need to remove the rings, clean the jars and check that they are properly sealed.

Video showing how to can meat

What Can you Make With Canned Meat?

The beauty of canned meat is that it is very similar to regular meats. So it can be used in much the same way that you cook traditional meat.

One major difference is that canned meats come precooked, so it’s a great choice when you’re strapped for time, or don’t have the conveniences of your kitchen.

But, the best options for cooking with canned meats are recipes that call for slow cooked or shredded meat.

Here are some ways that canned meats can be best used:

  • Breakfast Hash
  • Soup
  • Salads
  • Burritos, Tacos or Quesadillas
  • Omelettes
  • Pasta
  • Pot Pies

Check out the video below for more ideas.

Video on How to Use Canned Meats

Best Canned Meat Recipes for Survival Scenarios

Having stocked up on your canned meats, you’ll need some good recipes to put them to use. Now in a SHTF scenario, you won’t have the creature comforts you’re used to.

So, you’ll need to be able to make some quick and easy meals. That doesn’t mean they don’t have to be tasty. Here are some quick, easy and delicious canned meat recipes.

Best Canned Beef Recipe

Corned Beef Hash

Corned beef hash is an quick and easy option. Just cook up potatoes in a skillet, add some onions, seasonings and corned beef.

Voila, you got a tasty and nutritious meal.

Video with Canned Corned Beef Hash Recipe

Best Canned Chicken Recipe

Enchilada Chicken Skillet Dinner

This one pot meal is super easy to prepare. It uses only canned goods and takes only 30 minutes to prepare.

If you’re a fan of Mexican food like I am, then this will definitely be a treat for you.

Best Canned Pork Recipe

Pulled Pork Chili

Nothing like a good bowl of chili to warm you up. If you really want a super easy tasty meal to prepare, this is the one. It’s ready in 20 minutes and takes only 10 minutes to prep.

Not only is it tasty but the ingredients are all affordable. Try it, I’m sure you’ll enjoy it.

Best Canned Fish Recipe

Quick Salmon Chowder

This is a good one for those cold winter days. This recipe is packed with flavor and nutrition. Done in only 30 minutes, it takes only a few easy steps.

Melt butter and olive oil, add a few strips of Yoders Canned Bacon, garlic, onion, garlic, potatoes, corn, chicken stock and canned salmon. Allow them to simmer. Then add cream, season, and you’re ready to eat.

Final Words

So, there you have it. Canned meat is definitely a great option for prepping and survival. It’s convenient, long lasting, affordable and easy to use. Whether you plan or purchasing canned meats or doing your own canning, you need to incorporate them into your emergency supplies. Remember that emergencies can happen at any time. Don’t be caught unprepared.

So, why wait, start adding some cans to your food storage stash today!

Here are some other articles you may be interested in:

30 Cool Survival Gadgets You Need To Survive Any Emergency

Surge vs Wave Leatherman Multi-tools: Which Is Better?

How to Clean a Multi-Tool – Step by Step Guide

How To User Your Multi-Tool Can Opener – Step By Step Guide

Benjamin Hughes

Benjamin Hughes is a Vietnam Vet who has been camping, hunting, and fishing for most of his life. He enjoys testing out the newest tactical and survival gear and discussing survival in general.

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