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Is Spam a Good Survival Food? | What You Should Know

In the event of an emergency, it stands to reason that Spam might be a good survival food. I mean, we all know it’s unhealthy and should be eaten in moderation. However, when you’re fighting for your life in a SHTF moment, who cares about nutrition? All you will be worried about is calories, portability, and shelf-life.

Due to the high concentration of fats and proteins, Spam is a good option for survival food. It is readily available, cheap, and easy to store for long periods of time. However, it should be eaten in moderation long term due to being unhealthy.

Let’s take a closer look at some of the factors to consider that make Spam a great food in terms of a survival situation.

5 containers of Spam on a reflective surface

What Is the Shelf Life of Spam?

If you examine the can of any canned meat product, you will most often see a best-if-used-by date and not an expiration date. This is due to the fact that most canned meat products don’t typically expire. Spam is no exception.

Hormel, the owner of the Spam brand, even had an official statement to that effect.

“The product is always safe to consume as long as the seal has remained intact, unbroken and securely attached. However, the flavor and freshness of the product gradually begin to decline after three years from the manufacturing date.”

If the can is damaged or bloated, you might want to discard it. After the best-by date, spam might lose some flavor and color but will remain edible.

How Do I Know If It Is Spoiled?

  1. The appearance of the can – The top of the can is domed or rounded instead of flat across, which indicates that gases associated with spoilage have been at work. Dented cans warrant some extra caution too.
  2. The smell is bad – if the odor is unpleasant and not what is expected after opening the can, you need to discard it. It’s not worth the risk at this point.
  3. There is mold present – the meat has spoiled if there is mold contamination. It is time to simply discard the contents.
  4. The flavor is wrong – if you taste the Spam and it tastes a bit off, the product may have spoiled.

Related 9 Easy Ways to Make Spam Less Salty.

What Is the Best Spam for Long-Term Storage?

Spam has an indefinite shelf life in terms of expiration. However, this is dependent upon the storage tactics and the integrity of the can, so there are a couple of simple factors to consider for long-term storage.

  1. Many modern canning solutions have easy-to-open cans where you can simply peel back the top to open the can. This is actually something that we want to avoid for long-term storage since they are far more likely to have a break in the seal than a normal can.
  2. Any type of denting or damage that is present on a can is a minor risk that should be avoided when selecting cans of spam for long-term storage. Minor breaches in the can integrity will drastically reduce the shelf life of the product.

Following those two basic guidelines can save you a lot of headaches by preventing spoilage, so you don’t need to rotate or replace the spam portion of your emergency food stockpiles frequently.

Vintage spam cans at a Museum

How to Store Spam Long Term

Spam is like any other canned food product and needs to be stored in a cool, dry place. The main concern is humidity which can damage the can, which will eventually become a problem, especially in storing long term.

With an excess of humidity, it is possible to need to contend with rust on the can, which will reduce the integrity of the can and eventually expose its contents and cause spoilage. As long as you keep it dry, it should last for many years.

There have been reports of people eating Spam cans from 1997 that were still edible, and even some reports of 50-year-old cans that were still edible, although they most likely lost some flavor, color, and nutrition.

Related Where Smart Preppers Store Survival Supplies.

How Much Spam Should I Store for a Year?

If you are a serious prepper and you want to make sure that you are highly prepared for a serious event that will knock out food availability, spam definitely has a place in your emergency stockpile.

Take a look at the nutritional facts below to get an idea of the macronutrient powerhouse of a simple can of Spam.

1 can of Spam (340 grams or 12 ounces) contains:

  • 1044 calories
  • 42 grams of protein
  • 13 grams of carbs
  • 90 grams of fat
  • 4800 mg of sodium
  • 42 % of the daily recommended intake of Zinc
  • 24 % of the daily recommended intake of potassium
  • 18 % of the daily recommended intake of Iron and Copper

Given those nutrients, it would be reasonable to simply store one can per person per day and meet a large number of your basic dietary requirements for as long as your stockpile is planned to last. This would need to be supplemented by other food sources as well.

If you plan to have it be a sole source of nutrition, you can make a simple adjustment to storing two cans per person per day in your stockpile.

Spam lasts practically forever, so it isn’t a bad thing to have some extra Spam in your storage, even if you are not a hardcore prepper. It is actually a simple solution to basic preparedness, and as a bonus, you can easily use it for camping trips and long hikes.

Check out this conversation on Reddit where there was a lively conversation on the topic of Spam as a survival food. A Redittor named savoy66 commented regarding Spam, “It’s calorie dense and shelf stable, so yes, I think it’s survival food.”

They hit the nail on the dead. The more calories and the longer a food will last is key. Spam fits the bill on both of these counts.

How Long Can a Person Survive on Spam Alone?

A young girl eating spam musubi

Spam is very high in fat, protein, and sodium and is generally packed with calories. It has all those important macronutrients and even has some of the vitamins and minerals that your body needs, but it is not a complete food.

Spam is not capable of standing alone nutritionally, but you are not likely to run into issues if you start supplementing with other sources of foods before about 4 weeks, especially if said foods are fruits and vegetables of some variety. It is necessary to include these fruits and vegetables to provide your body with vitamins, minerals, and fiber.

Another factor to consider is the inclusion of preservatives such as sodium nitrite, which is present in all cans of Spam. This ingredient helps to maintain color and blocks bacterial growth that causes spoilage. However, these preservatives also eventually lead to cell damage and can morph into molecules that can cause cancer.

Surviving on spam alone may be possible, but it can deteriorate your health and should be supplemented with other foods as soon as possible.

Final Thoughts

Spam is definitely a top prepper food. It has an indefinite shelf life when properly stored, and it is rich in fat, protein, and sodium.

Its affordability and widespread availability are undeniable, and with over a million cans being consumed on an annual basis, it is obvious that this food is tasty to many people.

Instead of storing Spam, I recommend that you stick to staples like rice and beans. Here is a guide I wrote on storing rice and beans for the long term. Be sure to check it out.

Also, if you are in the market for pre-packaged long-term survival food, I recommend My Patriot Supply. They have some of the best prices and best-tasting food available for those getting prepared.

Related Questions

What exactly is Spam? Spam is a canned meat product made popular in the second world war. Over 1.22 million cans are sold annually, totaling about 915,000 lbs of meat products.

What do the letters in SPAM stand for? Spam is a derivative of the words spiced and ham. During and after WWII, people in the UK sometimes referred to it as Special Processed American Meat as a joke.

Why is spam so popular in Hawaii? Soldiers stationed in Hawaii were given to squads due to the long shelf life and lack of refrigeration required. Eventually, it ended up in the hands of natives and ended up being integrated into their diets throughout the Pacific.

For more, don’t miss Can You Survive on Canned Food? | Which Types to Store.