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Canned Meat Shelf Life: How Long Does Canned Meat Last?

When fresh meat sources become scarce in the wake of a disaster, protein is not something you can afford to cut out of your diet. That's why canned meat plays a pivotal role in emergency preparedness plans.

If you've ever found yourself musing, "Just how long does canned meat last?" or if you're looking for tips on prolonging canned meat shelf life and ideas for alternative protein sources, keep reading. 

So, How Long Does Canned Meat Last? 

how long will canned meat last


Typically, canned meat shelf life spans between two and five years. However, this timeframe has some complexities, depending on the type of canned meat in question and the conditions of its storage.

The Vital Role of Canned Meat in Your Pantry

Theideathat canned meats are less nourishing than their fresh counterparts is a widespread misunderstanding. In reality, the process of canning meat effectively locks in most, if not all, vital nutrients for extended periods. When done properly, both the canning and storage of canned meat don’t significantly affect the meat’s proteins, carbs, vitamins, or fats.

A variety of canned meat in your emergency preparedness plan can providembalance and versatility, preventing monotony.


When fresh meat is unavailable, canned meat is one obvious replacement because of its essential nutritional value. For example:

  • Chicken is a good source of vitamins B and D, as well as calcium, iron, and zinc.
  • Canned fish contains a huge amount of Omega-3 fatty acids.
  • Ham is a lean source of protein, vitamins, minerals, and amino acids.
  • Beef is packed full of protein, vitamin B12, and zinc.

That’s why you must include canned meat in your emergency preparedness plans. When the butcher no longer has fresh meat available due to supply chain issues or food shortages, you can continue to benefit from various canned meat products.


As you build up your stockpile of canned meat, we recommend shopping for a variety of products. With different canned meat products, you will benefit from a better-balanced diet. A variety of canned meat also helps prevent burnout from repetitive items.

Types of Canned Meat









Vienna Sausage


Unraveling the Secrets Behind the Long Shelf Life of Canned Meat 


canned meat

Canned meat has a remarkable shelf life for two primary reasons. First, the meat is fully cooked and heated to kill any and all microorganisms like bacteria that may be present, such asClostridium botulinum. The meat is then packaged into a sterilized and airtight can.


Canned meat also lasts a long time because of itslow acidity levels. Foods with very low acid levels prevent microbial growth. On the other hand, canned fruits, which have higher acid content, may not last as long.


Dates on Canned Meat: How Long Will Canned Meat Last Past These Dates?


canned meat labels


You'll find all canned meats labeled with a "best by" or "use by" date. However, these dates aren't expiration dates.

  • The "best by" date indicates the time frame within which the product retains its optimal physical and sensory characteristics.
  • The "use by" date is the point at which the product reaches peak freshness and flavor.

Beyond these dates, while the food quality might decline, the food inside the can is still safe to consume indefinitely, barring any noticeable signs of spoilage such as leaks, bulges, rust, or deep dents.. In addition, if the contents of the can have obviously changed in color, consistency, or texture, we recommend not eating whatever is inside. 

Preserving Your Canned Meat: How to Maximize the Shelf Life

canned meat


To maximize the shelf life of your canned meat, we recommend storing your cans in a cool, dry, and dark place. Protecting your canned meat from unnecessary air, moisture, hot temperatures, and light will prevent spoilage.


Periodically checking the conditions of your canned meat products is also essential. Take note of the products' dates, incorporate older cans into your meals, and substitute them with fresher ones.

The optimal temperature range for canned meat is between 50 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Temperatures over 85 degrees can be detrimental to canned meat. Therefore, avoid storing your canned meat in places with extreme temperature fluctuations, such as next to the stove, in the attic, or the trunk of your car.


The Versatility of Protein Sources for Storage

Canned meat products are undoubtedly valuable in any emergency preparedness plan due to their nutritional value and impressive shelf life. However, moderation is key when consuming canned meats, given the high levels of sodium and preservative chemicals, such as sodium nitrate and sodium nitrite. , found in processed meats.

Overconsumption of canned meat can lead to health risks, particularly when consuming canned tuna, which may be contaminated with mercury, a toxic metal. While it's not necessary to entirely forgo canned tuna, we do recommend moderation in consumption, especially for children who are more susceptible to the adverse health effects of mercury.

Apart from canned meats, there are other protein alternatives worth including in your emergency preparedness plans. We highly recommend incorporating Freeze-dried meat, powdered eggs, and freeze-dried milk into your food storage. Each of these products is non-GMO, made with high-quality ingredients, and can last in your food pantry for over 25 years.

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A Closer Look at Canned Meat Shelf Life

Just because the grocery store runs out of meat does not mean you have to be cut off from the protein sources you are used to consuming. With a proper stockpile of various canned meat products, you can continue to benefit from the nutritional value of animal proteins, even after the grocery store or butcher runs out.

Just remember to enjoy your canned meat products in moderation to avoid serious adverse health effects. To do so, supplement your canned meat stockpile with alternative protein sources that are safer and have a longer shelf life, like freeze-dried meat, powdered eggs, and freeze-dried milk. 

Visit our website to explore our products further or to find more insightful articles on our Practical Prepper Blog. Don't forget to also learn how to open a can without a can openerfor a complete preparedness plan.