It’s a staple of many preppers emergency food storage. The question? Is this a good thing, or a bad thing. The answer is that very annoying phrase “Well, it depends…”
As it turns out, there are good canned meats and there are bad canned meats. Unfortunately, the bottom of the category doesn’t just stop at bad though, it goes well into “horrific” nutritionally.
Look, we get it. Some people find these types of products tasty comfort food. We are not here to be party poopers, we really aren’t.
This isn’t about being a pair of Debbie Downers, we have actual concerns about people using some of these types of meats as a significant amount of their stores.
If the Stuff Hits The Fan (SHTF), people who want to survive and thrive are going to need to be at the top of their game… and part of doing that is eating good, nutritious food that isn’t damaging your health.
This is no-joke stuff, a massive diet shift to high-salt, high-fat meats can make a mess out of your system at a time when you can’t afford to be at less than your best.
Here’s why, specifically. (Salty hands the keyboard over to spice).
There are three main problems to look out for:
Again, the salt
I know, I write about too much salt in prepper foods a lot. That’s because a large chunk of the prepper community has high blood pressure. When people with high blood pressure get put under stress and switch to an even higher salt diet than usual, they can run into some very serious problems pretty quickly, from hypertensive crises to strokes. Some of these canned meats have a ton of salt … such as the 1.6 g of the stuff, 80% of the recommended daily max, in a single slice of classic Spam … about 5% of one’s daily calories.
Fat …and it’s not the good kind
Fat itself isn’t necessarily a bad thing in prepper foods. It allows them to be very calorie dense, so you need to store and carry less. There are, however, some problems with the fat in many of the canned meats.
1) It’s not fat of the healthy variety. It’s mostly saturated fat. That’s better than trans fats, but not nearly as good for you as the fats found in things like peanut butter. High saturated fats contribute to heart disease. Ok, for a short term diet this isn’t terrible; saturated fat problems usually take a while to develop. But there’s more.
2) There is no cut of actual meat that has as much fat as many of the canned meats, with the exception of particularly fatty bacon … and we’re not talking about canned bacon. The worst of the canned meats are ham derivatives, at least in theory. A good cut of ham is a fairly lean meat; perhaps 20% calories from fat and 80% protein. How do you get more than half the calories from fat, as all the canned meats I looked at do? Classic Spam had more than 70% fat, for goodness sakes. The only way to do that is to toss a whole bunch of fat scraps from other parts of the animal into the processor. A friend of mine who used to work in a meat processor called such products ‘lips and ears’. (Ok, he really didn’t say ears, but this is a G-rated site.) . Some people don’t care, but it doesn’t sound like good food to me. It’s definitely a way to up the risk of disease transmission, as the more animals per can the higher the risk.
3) The down side of calorie dense food is you don’t get to eat much of it. A little more than one can of classic Spam a day would be the full caloric requirement of an adult. Eating just that for a full day wouldn’t be very happy-making for most people (and Oi the salt!)
Nitrites are used to preserve some canned meats
This isn’t true for all of them by any means, so read the labels. Why would one care? Well, some wouldn’t. High nitrite intakes definitely promote stomach cancer, but again that’s a long-term problem and so not terribly important for a short term food supply. However, some people are highly nitrite sensitive and have weird reactions, such as headaches and blood pressure reactions. If one of those folks is in your group, having nothing to feed them but nitrite-rich canned meats would be a bad idea.
Luncheon meat (generic SPAM)
The sad part about the product shown in the pictures above (an Aldi luncheon meat similar to Spam) is that it’s a little better than Spam itself. It’s got the same giant saturated fat (140 of the 180 calories in each slice), but ‘only’ about half as much salt, an 33% of the RDA.
Store brand corned beef
Corned beef is actually nowhere near the bottom of the worst canned meats. It’s ‘only’ about half fat, and ‘only’ half a gram of salt in each serving. It also makes a nice hash with rehydrated potatoes. (Salty’s Note: Spice, in her canned-meat eating days, LOVED corned beef hash)
Store brand canned ham
Real ham is not 60% fat. From reading the label, it’s clear they also added a lot of salt water. That’s an old trick to pump the weight while getting the flavor enhancement from the salt. Poultry sellers do this a lot too, and call it ‘internally basted’ as if it’s a good thing.
A selection of herring flavors in a can.
Canned fish are a better choice than most of the beef and pork products. This one’s kind of high in fat (50%), but that’s from being packed in canola oil — a pretty heart-friendly choice, and preserves flavor without as much salt. Canned tuna and salmon, and sardines if you roll that way, are very strong nutritional choices. Canned poultry is usually good too, especially if you get the lower salt versions.
We did an audio overview of some of the meat products we had just checked out in a grocery store, and here’s a link to what we discovered.
Early on in the history of 3BY Salty & Spice wrote an article on Vienna Sausages, since a good friend of ours has them as a major part of his preps. “Scum weenies”, as I call them, share many of the nutritionally bad traits that a lot of the other mechanically separated fat-laden salt-injected canned meat products have. Here’s a link to this older article.
What do the Brits think of Spam?
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