Every year I can nearly 200 pounds of meat. I normally can about 60 pounds of meat at a time 3 times each year. The meat I normally can is chicken or pork. I have also canned store-bought hams and wild boar meat that I have hunted. I once canned deer meat, although I’m not a big deer-meat eater.
Other meats that you can can (yes, can can) include fish, beef, ground meat, and even bacon. Bacon takes some additional preparation to can, but you can can it! This doesn’t include canning things like your own chili, soups, stews, and stock. I can about 75 quarts of stock each year. It’s better than store-bought and basically free.
All of the canning above requires a Pressure Canner, not a bath canner. You cannot can meat or meat products in a bath canner. They require pressure canning only. I use an All American pressure canner. It’s the biggest and best, but also the most expensive. I recommend starting out small and only purchasing an expensive canner if you find that you like doing it.
#1 Reason to Can Your Own Meat: Money!
How much does a can of chicken breast or tuna cost? I shop at Walmart where a can of chicken breast costs 15 to 20 cents per ounce. A pint jar of canned chicken is 16 ounces, which means that that amount of store-bought canned meat would cost $2.40 – $3.20. When I can chicken it cost me $1.30 per pint or 8 cents per ounce.
For every pint of meat I can, I also use the bones (and skin) to make a pint of meat stock. Chicken stock at Walmart costs about 10 cents per ounce. Mine is essentially free. It’s just the cost of celery and onion that I add to the bones. Since I can flavor my stock how I want and I use the fatty parts, as well, my meat stock is yummy compared to store-bought, which is often bland. Plus, homemade bone broth has loads of beneficial nutrients.
This week I purchased a 72-pound case of bone-in pork butt from Sam’s Club for $85 and spent another $5 on celery and onions for a total cost of $90. After taking out the bones and using them to make stock I ended up with 64 pints of canned pork and 28 quarts of canned meat stock. At Walmart, this would cost $190 for the meat and $90 for the stock. This represents a saving of $190.
I do this 3 times a year for a total saving of over $500. I like to say every dollar I don’t spend is $1.50 I don’t have to make (due to income taxes, driving to work, etc.) So I consider this a saving of $750 per year. This is from store-bought meat, not meat that I raised myself.
#2 Reason to Can Your Own Meat: Convenience!
How often is it time to cook dinner but there is no meat thawed? It happens to me all the time. The other thing that happens to me regularly is that I thaw meat out and then don’t use it soon enough. Plans change. I hate throwing meat away, but I also don’t want to get sick.
Since canned meat is already cooked it is perfect for making quick “pot recipes.” My favorite is to make rice using the canned meat stock that I have on hand (instead of water), then adding a pint of canned chicken or pork along with some broccoli. If I want to make it fancy I can put it in a casserole dish and pop it in the oven with cheese or bread crumbs on top.
Canned pork or chicken is great for making tacos, enchiladas, and burritos. Canned chicken plus stock, some egg noodles and chopped up veggies is an instant pot of healthy, chicken-noodle soup. You can buy frozen dumplings at the store. Add them to stock and chicken with a little cornstarch to thicken and make chicken and dumplings for a cold, rainy day.
When I look in the fridge and realize I don’t have any meat to cook, I find it very convenient to just walk to the pantry for meat instead of having to get back into the car and go to the store.
#3 Reason to Can Your Own Meat: Emergencies!
The most common emergency most people face is a power outage. I live where hurricanes hit the Gulf Coast. I’m far enough away to avoid the flooding, but the wind often knocks out the power to my homestead. One year, the power to this area was out for 10 days. When that happens, all the meat in the refrigerator is in danger of going bad.
Since I know how to can meat, I can take the thawed meat from the freezer and turn it into canned meat in a power outage. Also, I have dozens of jars of canned meat in my pantry at any given time. This means I don’t need to keep as much meat in the freezer in the first place.
Being able to store meat and other food without electricity is an age-old way of providing for families. Refrigeration is great but if it goes away for a week or two… or longer… having emergency food stored in a more traditional way is a godsend. Meat you can yourself lasts just as long as store-bought. I have eaten meat that I canned 3 years prior. It was just as tasty and healthy as the day it was canned.
I am a prepper. It’s important to me that I’m able to support my family for months on end without electricity or the ability to shop at a store. Most people don’t go to the extremes that I do. Canning is a major way that I preserve both meat and fat for my family in case of an emergency.
#4 Reason to Can Your Own Meat: It’s Fun!
I don’t have to raise chickens for eggs. I do it because it’s fun! The same is true for raising rabbits, making my own cheese from my goats’ milk, growing vegetables in my garden, and all my other homestead activities.
At any time I can go to Walmart and buy what I want, but it’s so much more fun to make it myself. It’s the same reason I like to chop firewood and burn it instead of just plugging in an electric heater. I enjoy doing it.
I love the satisfaction I get from seeing the counter covered with stacks of jars of meat and stock I prepared myself. I sleep peacefully after a day of canning my own food.
#5 Reason to Can Your Own Meat: It’s Better!
My canned meat tastes better. Not only does it taste better than store-bought canned meat, it many instances it tastes better than freshly-cooked meat. This is true for many reasons.
First, I can really good meat that has a high-fat content. Chicken breast is meat, but dark-meat thighs and legs are much tastier. I prefer to can the leg and thigh meat of the chicken. That meat is savory and satisfying.
When I can pork, I end up with plenty of fat in the can. The fat floats to the top and cools, so if I want to take the fat out before I use it I can just spoon it out when I open the jar. However, fat is good! The best cuts of steak are marbled with fat. The toughest, driest cuts of beef have little or no fat. Fat is satisfying. In an emergency situation, fat is essential and hard to find. I like knowing that my jars of meat have both the meat and the fat that will make my meal good.
I can infuse the canned meat with flavor. I put salt in with my meat when I can it. I could add a pinch of rosemary or thyme or oregano if I want. I could add a bay leaf or even throw in a jalapeno pepper. I can flavor my meat however I want. The flavor will infuse directly into the meat as it cooks with pressure.
Canned meat is tender. As I said at the beginning of this article, I have canned wild-boar meat. Boar meat can be tough. Canned boar meat, however, is like pulled pork: soft and flavorful. The canning process, with heat around 244 degrees for up to 90 minutes, disintegrates toughness, renders out connective tissue, and just leaves nice flavorful, tender meat.
The stock that I can myself is beyond compare. It’s made with fresh bones, scraps of meat, fat and skin, and fresh vegetables. Again I can add whatever other herbs I want. There’s no comparison. Please, if you can your own stock from scratch, do not strain out the fat. It adds so much flavor, savoriness, and good, useful calories. My canned stock has sediments of pepper and herbs at the bottom and a thin layer of fat at the top. Yummy!
Tips On Canning Meat
- I don’t cook the meat before putting it in the jars. For most meats, you just put them in the jars raw. The meat cooks while it cans! I have seen instructions online that say to cook the meat first. I would never do that except if I want to can ground beef.
- If you don’t own the equipment, then ask around. Your friend, family member, or neighbor may already have everything you need to try canning. That way you don’t have to invest any money other than the jars you will use.
- Canners aren’t used that often, so if you have a group of people who will be canning occasionally then why not share the expense of a really good All American canner?
- Find inexpensive meat for canning. I buy chicken leg quarter for 39 cents to 59 cents per pound. I buy bone-in pork butt by the case from Sam’s Club for $1.18 per pound. The great thing about canning is that you can take advantage of sales and clearances.
- The bigger the better when it comes to a canner (unless you have a glass top stove). It takes hours for your canner to go through a complete cycle of warming up, canning and then cooling down before opening. If you can only can 6 quarts at a time then it will take a long time. My canner holds 14 quarts or 24 pints at a time. I usually can about 56 quarts in a day. It still takes all day! I couldn’t imagine doing it in a small one.
- Be CAREFUL with GLASS TOP STOVES. A big canner full of jars, food, water, etc. can weigh 50 pounds. Putting all of that weight on a small part of a glass top stove can shatter the top.
- Follow the canning directions for your type of meat. The instructions come with the canner or can easily be found online.
- Use a sharpie to write the month and year on the lid of what you can. That way you’ll know later. Canned meat is good for years.
- Pressure canners can also be used to can low acid foods like corn and green beans from your garden.
- You can also cook an entire roast or chicken in a pressure canner in half the time as in the oven, while infusing more flavor.
Above all these reasons to can your own meat, enjoy canning! If you don’t enjoy the process then why do it? You can always buy canned meat at the store if you really want it. I, personally, LOVE canning meat and stock. It makes me feel like a Homesteader, a Prepper, and a Good, Productive Person. When I see a great sale on meat at the store I think, “Yea! I get to can this week!” Plus I love eating the meat that I make. Hopefully, you will as well. Happy Canning!