In 1898, the Spanish–American War began in the aftermath of the explosion of USS Maine in Havana Harbor, Cuba, leading to U.S. intervention in the Cuban War of Independence.
One of the most important results of the war was the liberation of Cuba. In addition, the war brought prominence to larger-than-life figures such as future U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt’s Rough Riders.
However, like many wars, U.S. troops spent a great deal of time avoiding threats to their health that wartime living conditions oftentimes brought on.
One of the most serious dangers for the soldiers came in the form of 337 tons of refrigerated beef and 198,508 tons of canned meat.
According to soldiers, the meat was so unfit to eat that it was giving soldiers dysentery and other illnesses. While exact figures are unknown, some estimates claim the tainted beef contributed to the deaths of as many as 2,500 men.
At the time, the contract for the meat was arranged quickly and at the lowest price by the Secretary of War. In order to keep the contract in the U.S., three big meatpacking corporations in Chicago were selected to fill the order.
However, the meatpacking companies allegedly took advantage of the situation, including the Army’s need for large amounts of cheap beef, by cutting corners and reducing quality on the meat they shipped to the troops.
As a result, most of the product arriving in Cuba was poorly preserved, chemically adulterated, and already spoiled, making it toxic and dangerous to consume.
To make matters worse, the Army was already dealing with thousands of soldiers who were weakened by the epidemics of malaria and yellow fever, which were ravaging the American troops.
Overtime, part of the blame was given to the Cuban climate, which some claimed had caused the canned meat to spoil faster than anticipated.
Another theory was that the Army’s rations had been improperly balanced in favor of meat and that what had really been making the soldiers ill was malnourishment.
In short, the meatpacking companies didn’t face any consequences for their lackluster product and the scandal never led to any major changes.
Now, even if you don’t serve in the military, the reality is that food-borne illness or food poisoning, affects about one in six Americans every year.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that of these cases, there are 128,000 hospitalizations and 3,000 deaths annually.
The thing is, most people’s pantry has canned food in it, including canned meat, because it’s the simplest item to grab to fight off starvation in a disaster scenario.
In addition, canned meat can be purchased cheaply, has a long shelf life and is low maintenance.
With that being said, when it comes to canned meat for food storage, here are the top meats and brands to consider purchasing next time you add to your supply.
Spam. Obviously, Spam is known for its highly processed manufacturing, however it has many qualities that make it perfect for food storage.
For example, it can be prepared many different ways and provides protein that is ready to eat at the pull of a metal ring. Spam is made from pork and ham and each 12 oz can provides 42 grams of protein.
Tyson canned chicken. Chicken is a neutral flavor with high protein content. In other words, it’s the type of food you can eat often without getting tired of it since you can prepare it many different ways.
This is the ideal meat to add protein on top of your beans, rice, or other easy to prepare foods. A 10 oz can provides about 65 grams of protein.
Kirkland canned roast beef. Beef is king in terms of protein and nutrients. Plus, its simple to prepare and versatile because it can be combined with so many different foods such as potatoes or rice.
Beef is easily digestible, has quality nutrients, and about a two-year shelf life. A 12 oz can contains about 60 grams of protein.
StarKist Solid White Tuna. Fish has a whole host of benefits including omega-3 fats. It also has mercury, so make sure you don’t make it your only canned meat.
Fish is important for normal brain and nerve function and for heart health. Plus, canned tuna usually has a shelf life up to 5 years and a 5 oz can contains about 25 grams of protein.
DAK canned ham. Canned ham is full of flavor and protein. It can be consumed either cold or hot and is easily added to other things like eggs, rice and vegetables.
Unlike spam, which contains pieces of different types of meat, DAK is 100% ham with a typical shelf life of 4-5 years. A 16 oz can contains about 72 grams of protein.
At the end of the day, canned meat is one of several ways to build up your food storage. Ideally, you want to build up your canned meat supply with a diverse selection so you never get tired of eating the same thing.
Lastly, always remember to check the expiration dates as most canned meat will last between 2-5 years, so you do want to eat it and rotate through your supply.