How Long Does Canned Meat Actually Last?

spam cans on grocery shelf
spam cans on grocery shelf - Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

It's not always possible to eat fresh fruits, vegetables, and meat. Canned foods can come in handy, especially when you're preparing for the possibility of a power outage, a camping trip, or another situation where shelf-stable provisions may be necessary. Canned meats, such as Spam, are incredibly versatile and are popular across different cuisines. They're an inexpensive alternative to fresh meats, and they're able to weather all kinds of conditions without needing refrigeration. With the amount of preservatives and sodium packed into canned meats, you might think that they could last indefinitely on the shelf — and you'd be partially right.

If stored properly in a cool, dry place, the USDA states that canned goods will almost never go bad. However, their quality will decline after a certain amount of time. For canned meats, that sweet spot is about 2 to 5 years. After that, the meat might not taste quite as good anymore, but it still should be edible. However, you should always smell the can first, check for any off appearances, and ensure that the can you're eating from has no dents, bumps, or bulges.

Read more: Canned Soups You Should And Shouldn't Buy

Is Canned Meat Unhealthy?

Canned ham with lid peeled back
Canned ham with lid peeled back - Clubfoto/Getty Images

Canned meat is preserved in a way that allows it to sit on a shelf for an extended period of time, so naturally, there are some preservatives involved to ensure the meat doesn't go bad. Canned foods often get a bad reputation for being "unhealthy," but that's not always the case. While some canned foods do have higher levels of sodium, there are also plenty of "no salt added" or "low sodium" options to choose from if you're watching your salt intake.

Botulism can also be a fear in canned goods, but this is an exceptionally rare illness that only occurs if the food isn't canned properly. Thoroughly checking cans for any imperfections, such as bulging, before eating can help you avoid eating something that may be infected with foodborne bacteria.

Canned meats can easily be incorporated into a healthy diet. Canned fish, such as tuna or salmon, for example, provides an inexpensive way to enjoy the benefits of seafood (such as omega-3s and vitamin B) without having to purchase fresh fish.

Popular Canned Meats

Canned corned beef on cutting board
Canned corned beef on cutting board - Fotek/Getty Images

When you think "canned meat," the first thing to come to mind might be Spam. This popular meat product is a mashup of pork shoulder and ham, processed together to form the pink block many of us are familiar with. The product gained popularity as a war ration and has since remained popular, especially in areas where U.S. soldiers were stationed during wartime, such as Korea and Hawaii.

Though Spam is one of the most popular and easily-recognizable types of canned meat, it's not the only one out there. There are plenty of canned ham products, but other options abound.

From tinned fish and Vienna sausages to canned corned beef and even pork pâté, if it exists, there's likely a canned version of it. You can even get canned whole chicken (though canned chicken meat in chunk form is likely to be much more appetizing).

Read the original article on Daily Meal.