Meat is a nutrient dense and bioavailable source of calories, and the protein that meat contains is essential to human health.
However, meat isn’t just about the essential amino acids as it also contains essential fats, vitamins, and minerals. Essential means that you body cannot make them, so you have to consume them in your diet.
It may be surprising to you, but many traditional cultures would get most of their calories from a meat heavy diet.
For example, the Inuit and Maasai even today base their diet around animal products and they are very healthy.
In fact, it is only when they adopt a western diet that they start suffering from the diseases of civilisation like Heart Disease and Diabetes.
Being able to preserve meat is an important part of the plan for someone who wants to have some level of self-sufficiency.
If someone raises their own cattle and when that animal or animals are ready for slaughter, you may need a means of keeping that meat edible.
If it is just a chicken, then you can just eat that in one go, or over a couple of days at the most. However, if you have just slaughtered a cow or a pig, then you will need a means of preserving that meat, so that it does not spoil.
Raising and feeding a cow is an expensive endeavour, you cannot and should not want to waste any of that animal.
Even if you only have a small lot and you only have space for fruit and vegetables, then you may be able to trade for meat.
Or if you have to buy your meat from other farms, then it is usually cost effective to buy in bulk. So, you will still need to know how to store and preserve meat as a good homesteader.
In a similar way to people who own homesteads, you may find yourself with a kill that can be eaten in a day or so like a Rabbit. But you may also have bagged a larger animal like an Elk.
I believe out of respect to the animal you have killed you should eat that animal from nose to tail.
So, you need to butcher and prepare the meat in a whole host of different ways so that you have time to eat it.
A Deer might feed a family for 4 to 6 months, so you need to have ways of storing that meat for a sufficient length of time to enable you to eat it all without the meat going bad.
Being able to keep food stored short, medium, and long-term is a way of protecting you and your family from unexpected and emergency situations. Whether it is natural disasters, pandemics, war, or the government dissolves.
Having a means to feed you and your family is very important. That could just be having 72 hours’ worth of food available in case a snowstorm cuts your home off from civilisation, to being able to live for years off-grid.
Preserved meat is an excellent food to have available for all manner of situations.
It is high in calories which will help you if you just need to survive a few days, but it also plays an important part for preppers who want to plan for longer term circumstances as meat is a great source of essential protein, fats, vitamins, and minerals.
Rice and Beans might be easier to store, but if that’s all you have then you are going to get pretty miserable pretty quickly. Having a source of stored meat allows you to go from just surviving to being able to thrive.
In relation to food, it is something you do to the food to stop it from decomposing and going bad. It can be anything from putting some lettuce in the fridge, to dehydrating your own beans to store them for a number of years.
Fridges and freezers are an amazing invention, I use them, and I am happy to have them.
However, they can tie you down to the national grid. Image the heartbreak if you just bought a whole cow that has been butchered. You fill the freezer with over 300 pounds of meat, then there is a power cut!
So, yes, I do use fridges and freezers that are hooked up to the grid, but I also have gas and solar generators as backup.
On top of this I preserve some of my meat in different ways that do not require any refrigeration and gives me different storage times and options.
A juicy Ribeye is great to have on your BBQ, but it’s not so good in your Bug Out Bag in hot and humid conditions, but some homemade jerky would be a very nice option for my bug out bag.
Basically, the more food storage options you have the better in my opinion.
Let’s have a look at some methods you can use to preserve meat:
With brining all you need is a container like a crock, water, salt, and sugar (optional). The meat needs to remain fully immersed in the liquid at all times, so it should be weighted down.
Whilst refrigeration isn’t needed, the container should be kept in the coldest room possible and be away from direct sunlight.
Canning is an excellent method of preserving meat for the medium and long-term.
There are a lot of easy standard canning methods that are useful for the medium term, but if you want your meat to last for a few years then you will need to invest in a pressure canner.
A pressure canner works by trapping steam in the can with the meat, and this heat from the steam with the fact there is no air getting into the can means all the bacteria is killed and no new bacteria can grow.
A great nutritional option for your prepper bunker as it allows you to make a range of tasty and healthy meals, if the worse happens and you have to rely on your stored food.
Otherwise known as salting or dry curing, which has been around for centuries. It is one of the easiest ways to preserve food and especially meat, so it is an ideal place to start for a beginner homesteader.
Simply put the meat in a container, fill with salt, ensuring the meat is full covered. Then leave it for a couple of days, then hang the meat out to dry.
The meat should be left in a cold room, shed, basement, or bunker during the salting process. For extra protection during the hanging phase, wrap the meat in cheesecloth.
This process works by drawing water out of the meat, and the salt also prevents bacterial growth. Which enables you to hang the meat without any health risks.
Dry cured meat is still widely used in traditional cuisines like German Sausage and Parma ham.
Beef and Pork are great for curing, and it is always best to use the leanest cut as possible as the fat can oxidise and turn rancid if you are not careful.
Also, whilst standard table salt can be used as a base, you must have nitrate and nitrite salts in the mix too otherwise it will not work.
I also try to use the highest quality of salt that I can, it might make it more expensive, but it will taste better. It will also be more nutritious as unrefined rock salt like Redmond Real Salt has a lot of important trace minerals in them.
The additional benefit of curing is that it works on cooked and raw meat, so it really gives you a lot of options with what to do with the meat.
The more options you have the better in my opinion, there is nothing worse than waking up each day and having to have the same mealtime after time. A bit of variety with preserved meat is a great idea.
By taking the water out of the meat, it enables it to last longer without going bad or making you sick.
As with a lot of preserving methods, you are best to use lean meat and cut off any excess fat. Then you need to slice the meat as finely as possible. Red meats like beef are the best options for dehydrating.
Once you have your thinly sliced meat you can dry out the meat. If you live in a hot and dry climate you could simply hang your meat or place it on racks and leave them outside under direct sunlight.
A more modern method is to dry them out in an oven on a very low heat, or to buy a dehydrator.
Personally, I have a solar powered dehydrator, that I leave outside but the meat is covered from the elements.
I use a solar powered machine because I do not want to pay for the electricity, and if for some reason I lose access to the electricity for an extended period of time I still have a way of preserving meat.
One of the oldest forms of preserving meat, it is effective and tasty. You can buy readymade smokers, or easily build your own.
This is not the same method as used when using the smoker for baby back ribs for instance, that method uses heat to cook the food and the smoke is more for flavour.
Smoking food for preservation requires less direct heat, and the smoke does still provide flavour, but its main job is to preserve the food. Smoke is antimicrobial and an antioxidant.
Smoking is probably best known by Smoked Salmon but it also very effective for meat.
Please note it must be smoke from food grade wood ships for example, liquid smoke is only for flavour and has no preserving qualities.
You can buy nicely flavoured wood chips nowadays specifically designed for certain meats. If you are on a tight budget, then make your own wood chip flavour combinations, by mixing the types of wood you use.
When processing your own would chips, make sure you store them correctly so that no mold forms on the wood.
I believe learning how to preserve your own meat is an important tool for any homesteader, survivalist, or prepper.
It is also something I see overlooked by a lot of people. I will see a lot of beginner homesteaders frantically trying to preserve all their fruits and vegetables but then just have their meat in the fridge or freezer like normal folk.
I also know preppers that chow down on a lot of meat every day, and they love nothing more than a flame-grilled steak or burger.
Yet their prepper’s pantry is stuffed full of rice and beans, which I have never seen them eat in day-to-day life.
Whilst I know why they are storing a lot of rice and beans; a good preppers food store should at least try to have some foods that you enjoy eating too.
A survival or emergency situation is stressful enough, don’t make it worse by only storing that food you THINK you should have and not having any food you enjoy.
In a long-term survival situation being able to eat a meal that you enjoy and is satisfying could just be the boost you need to get through the next day. Do not underestimate food tastes and smells for lifting the spirits.
When I am preserving meat, I like to use basic traditional methods that have lasted the test of time, but I also like to use modern technology.
Technology shouldn’t be feared, you should use it to your advantage… just do not become reliant on it and let it tie you down.
I am a big fan of pressure canning, but I have also taken the time to learn traditional methods. This gives me a range of methods that I can use depending on the circumstances and the meat I am using.
If I only knew how to can meat, and my pressure canner broke, but I didn’t have the means to fix it or get a new one, then I might end up wasting a batch of meat or not to be able to preserve meat at all in the future.
Just like a bushcrafter knows how to start fires in multiple ways, you should be able to preserve meat in multiple ways too.