Major Misconceptions About Canned Meat

We’ve all seen the images of survivalists’ basement food stockpiles. Their stash is loaded with hundreds of canned foods including soups, vegetables, fruits, and meats.

Due to some unfounded myths about canned food, it’s gotten a bad name in some circles. Today I’m going to tell you why that’s unfair.

The truth is, canned food can make for a great addition to your emergency food supply. And when those cans are kept in a cool, dry, and dark place away from pests, they can hold food that stays good beyond their “use by” dates.

Not as nutritious?

So, let’s take a look at a few of the misconceptions many people have about canned food including meat.

One myth is that canned food is not as nutritious as its frozen and fresh counterparts. But the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics tells us that’s just not true.

Assuming the food placed into those cans was at the peak of its nutrition and tastiness, there’s no reason why it can’t stay that way for a number of years. Especially because cans provide a secure home for it.

Fruits and vegetables, for example, are washed and sometimes cut, chopped, or pitted before canning. Lids to the cans are sealed tightly. The can is then heated to kill harmful bacteria, then quickly cooled.

Short shelf life?

Another misconception about canned food is that it only stays good for a short amount of time. And that when the use-by dates are only a few months to a couple of years from the date you purchased them, frequent stockpile rotation is required. 

But according to some food experts, canned food can stay good for much longer periods of time. Yes, eventually its nutritional value will decrease over time. And taste and texture won’t be the exact same as when it was first canned. But it could still be safe to eat.

Assuming the cans are in good shape (no rust, swelling, dents, leaks, etc.), some say canned tomatoes can maintain their quality for 18 months beyond the use-by date.

Other canned items such as meat and vegetables, having low acid content, could stay good for two to five years. 

Use-by date expirations?

It’s important to understand that a use-by date does not mean a person who consumes food from that can will drop dead if they eat it after that date.

It usually just means the manufacturer cannot guarantee the product will be at its tastiest following the use-by date. 

In other words, use-by dates are more about quality than safety. There are other ways to determine if your canned food is still good.

An opposite misconception that some people have about canned food is that it will last forever. Of course, that is not the case. If your canned food is more than a few years past its use-by date, it’s better to toss it out.

Canned meat is long-lasting

Another misconception is that canned meat is dangerous to eat due to the possibility of botulism. 

The truth is that meat will last longer in a can than many other foods due to its low acidic volume.

This is true for all sorts of meats, including poultry and fish. Other low-acidic foods including stews, pasta products, vegetables, and soups (other than tomato soup) also have longer shelf lives.

Canned food with high acidic volume will not last as long. Shelf life is more like 12 to 18 months for tomatoes, juices, pickles, sauerkraut, and fruits.

Storage warnings

So, what is the best way to store canned food including meat so that it will stay as good as possible for as long as possible. 

As previously mentioned, a cool, dry, and dark place is best. Warmth, moisture, and light can all shorten the shelf life of canned food.

In other words, keep canned food away from under a sink, above a stove, or in a damp garage or basement, as well as out of a shed.

Even if a canned food item has been stored in a safe place, take a good look at the can before you open it if it’s been a while since you stored it. Watch for cracks, denting, swelling, or rust. And smell the food once you’ve opened the can.   

Your canning guidelines

Finally, what about foods you can yourself? Will it have as long of a shelf life as canned foods you buy in the store?

Probably not. Unless you own machinery that hermetically seals cans, you’re probably looking at about one year of shelf life. And again, that’s only if you store it properly after it’s canned. 

If you’re canning food, make sure you boil high-acid foods for at least 10 minutes before canning. Increase that to 20 minutes of boiling for low-acid foods.

Either way, once you’ve opened your can and enjoyed some of the food, its refrigerator life is probably no more than three or four days.

No matter what misconceptions you’ve heard about canned food including canned meats, don’t be afraid to make it part of your survival stash.


  • Louann Davis - August 13, 2023

    I really appreciate the information you’ve provided regarding canned items, especially meats. I was raised growing up an Iowa farm girl with huge gardens and orchards. We home canned everything. After I married and moved out of state my husband and I continued gardening and canning our vegetables and fruits. We also home canned our meats when grocery stores ran a great sale. It was wonderful opening up our jars for a delicious fast meal, especially raising 5 active children in sports and working outside the home after a long day. Over the years I asked many how long to keep home canned meats and vegetables after canning and never received a direct answer from friends, family and our County Offices. The overall bottom line is responses were “they keep for years as long as it tastes and isn’t discolored.” Fortunately, we did the same and no one ever became ill. THANKYOU for providing the information. Now we can rest easy!

Leave a comment

*Required Fields