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

January 31, 2023 4 min read

canned meat shelf life

When your sources of fresh meat run out in the aftermath of a disaster, you can’t afford to stop eating protein. That’s why canned meat is an important item for emergency preparedness plans. 

Keep reading if you have ever wondered, “How long does canned meat last?” We will also share storage tips and ideas for alternative protein sources.


So, How Long Does Canned Meat Last?


how long will canned meat last


Typically, canned meat shelf life is between two and five years; however, the answer has some nuances, depending on the type of canned meat and how it’s being stored. 

The Importance of Canned Meat

It is a misconception that canned meats are less nutritious than fresh meat. Canning meat preserves many, if not all, of the crucial nutrients for an extended period. So long as it’s done correctly, the canning process and storage of canned meat do not affect the meat’s proteins, carbs, vitamins, or fats.

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

Why Does Canned Meat Last So Long?


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 as Clostridium botulinum. The meat is then packaged into a sterilized and airtight can.

Canned meat also lasts a long time because of its low 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.


What About the Dates on Canned Meat?


canned meat labels


All canned meats will come labeled with a “best by” or “use by” date. Believe it or not, these dates are not expiration dates.

  • The “best by” date refers to the recommended time for eating the product for its optimal physical and sensory qualities.
  • The “use-by” date is when the product is at its peak freshness and flavor. 

After these dates, the food quality deteriorates, but the food inside the can is still edible indefinitely. 

Of course, this is not the case if your canned meat shows apparent signs of spoiling, 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. 


Storage Tips to Maximize Canned Meat 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.

The ideal temperature for canned meat is between 50 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Anything hotter than 85 degrees can be potentially harmful to canned meat. To avoid hot temperatures, refrain from storing your canned meat in places that experience extreme temperature fluctuations, like next to the stove, in the attic, or the trunk of your car.

Like other foods in your pantry, it’s important to inspect your canned meat products for spoiling routinely. Check the dates on the products, rotate older cans into your meals, and replace them with fresher ones. 


Alternative Protein Sources for Storage

Canned meat products have become essential in many emergency preparedness plans—and for good reason. As we already stated, canned meat is nutritious and has an impressive shelf-life. 

However, canned meats should be eaten in moderation whenever possible. The bottom line is that highly processed meat also contains high amounts of sodium and preservative chemicals, such as sodium nitrate and sodium nitrite

Unfortunately, sodium nitrate can increase the risk of developing heart disease by damaging your blood vessels. It may also raise your risk of developing diabetes.

Another potential risk with canned meat, specifically canned tuna, is mercury contamination. Mercury is a toxic metal that can have adverse health effects, especially in young kids. Fortunately, you do not have to avoid eating canned tuna altogether. But we do recommend eating canned tuna in moderation.  

Canned meat products can serve as valuable protein sources when fresh meat becomes unavailable. However, due to the potential health outcomes, canned meat should not be the only protein replacement you include in your emergency preparedness plans. 

Freeze-dried meat, powdered eggs, and freeze-dried milk are three essential alternatives that we recommend incorporating 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. 

Freeze-Dried Meat 6 Pack | USDA-Certified From Valley Food Storage

Freeze-Dried Meat 6 Pack | USDA-Certified

Averages 48 Servings Per Kit  This bucket contains a hearty selection of freeze-dried meats, including chicken, sausage, and beef. Freeze-dried protein is always difficult to find, so grab some while you can. ✔︎ Clean Ingredients✔︎ Non-GMO✔︎ Easy To Prepare✔︎ 25-year Shelf Life Nutritional Information


Final Thoughts on 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 learn about our products or to read more helpful articles on our Practical Prepper Blog. And don’t forget to learn how to open a can without a can opener.